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MHA to study amending law to make it easier to establish renovation fraud

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will look into amending the law to make it easier to establish fraud in cases involving errant renovation contractors.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said on Monday (July 4) that renovation fraud generally involves contractors inducing victims to make payment for promised renovation works, which are either partially completed, or not carried out at all.

"In most of these cases, the contractors become uncontactable after collecting payment, or provide excuses to explain why they are unable to complete the promised works," he added in a written reply to parliamentary questions.

He noted that in some cases, there could be genuine business distress and the contractor may not have been able to do the work, citing how some contractors found themselves unable to fulfil their contracts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"In each case, the question is whether there was fraudulent intent. Some cases may involve fraudulent intent but it may be very difficult to prove that in court," he said.

Contractors who deceive victims into placing deposits for renovation works without intending to carry them out can be charged for cheating offences under the Penal Code.

Mr Shanmugam, responding to Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok), said between 2019 and 2021, the police investigated 100 cases involving errant renovation contractors. So far, 72 per cent of these cases have been prosecuted in court.

He added that recovery of funds can be difficult as the culprit may no longer have the money.

He said home owners can consider engaging contractors with a good track record, such as those recognised under the joint accreditation between the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and the Singapore Renovation Contractors.

Case reported that the construction industry saw 1,300 complaints last year, up from 869 in 2020. Close to one in two of the complaints was about projects not completed on time and unsatisfactory workmanship.

The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore published a guide on fair trading practices for the renovation industry in May.

It covers five main areas, including transparent pricing of services without any hidden costs and that consumers and contractors should have a mutually agreed timeline on the renovation work.

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