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Home Renovation Disputes. Steps To Safeguard Your Finance Now.

By | Finance

Receiving the prized possession of brand new keys to a home, scouting around to appoint the most impeccable contractor or interior designer and securing the funds to start building your home sounds picture-perfect. Yet before you sign the renovation contract, take the time to study it. Better yet, secure your own contract with IRB Law LLP. Homeowners across all forms of brand new BTOs or resale flats, condominiums and landed homes of today have been caught by discrepancies between the promised and final renovation works, with little recourse but to accept delivery below par due to an equivocal contract, some of which as according to reports to the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE), are not contracts but quotations they signed. Based on complaints received, the renovation contractor industry has been in CASE’s top ten ranking list of industries with the highest number of complaints for the past decade. As of 2016, the renovation contractor industry was ranked fourth, with a total of 1,269 complaints lodged with CASE. The top nature of complaint for the industry is failure to honour, meaning that contractual obligations and promises were not fulfilled, followed by substandard services. From January to July 2017, 719 complaints were reported.




(Table: CASE)



The common renovation pitfalls many homeowners run into starts with paying a large deposit, or paying in full upfront to the renovation contractor. Despite contractual obligations, majority run into disputes due to multiple delays or unsatisfactory renovation works. Worst yet are homeowners who encounter renovation contractors that cease operations and become uncontactable after collecting payment.


To protect yourself against avoidable contract disputes, spell out the detailed clauses in your renovation contract from the beginning – explicitly in black and white, down to the fine print. Never rely on a verbal agreement – commit all spoken promises into a written contract. IRB Law LLP sheds light on an explanatory on basic considerations behind selecting the right contractor and an array of dispute resolution options when involved in a home renovation dispute.






Prior To Commencement of Renovation Works; Do A 3-Step Research


  1. Apart from browsing through the ideal interior design of a new home, it is crucial that homeowners choose an accredited contractor. Research on accreditation schemes that ensure the high standards and conduct of their accredited member contractors. To better protect consumers in this industry, Case started a joint accreditation scheme with RCMA last year, which protects consumers’ deposits against business closure through a deposit performance bond. There are currently 30 registered business under the CaseTrust-RCMA joint accreditation scheme. The list of accredited businesses can be found at www.casetrust.org.sg. 


  1. Researching on extras such as the contractor’s track record or requesting to see their works in progress is an added advantage. Besides considering cost as a factor, keep other factors such as quality, time taken and defect liability in mind. For Housing & Development Board (HDB) residents, engage a HDB approved contractor with evidence of such.


  1. Next, ensure you sign a contract with your renovation contractor while carefully reading the terms and understanding your rights and obligations under the contract. It is advisable to request for and keep a copy of the contract with you. Avoid signing the contractor’s proprietary contract as it may be drafted unfairly in favour of the contractor. CASE discourages the practice of renovation contractors asking consumers to pay a substantial advance deposit before the work begins and encourages consumers to use the CASE model agreement that includes fair guidelines for consumers to negotiate terms with contractors. Samples of a payment schedule with key project milestones and deliverables is provided as well. It is downloadable from their website(https://www.case.org.sg/pdf/model_renovation.pdf). 


A Legal Perspective; 7 Must-Haves In Your Renovation Contract


The contract should state detailed terms binding both homeowner and contractor. For certain types of works, it may require approvals or permits from the HDB or the Building & Construction Authority (BCA). The renovation contract governs the obligations of the contractor. Prior to the commencement of the renovation works, your contractor may have made oral promises beyond the scope of the contract. Keep in mind that oral promises are rarely enforceable. Thus, request that the contractor commit the oral promise to writing.In any case, contractors or their representatives cannot make false claims, oral or written, to mislead or misrepresent their client. If they do so, it may entitle the client to a cause of action. The following are important contractual terms. 


  1. Payment – payment should be made progressively; do not make full payment upfront;
  2. Commencement and completion dates and schedules;
  3. Liquidated damages – if the contractor breaches the contract and the homeowner suffers losses, a liquidated damages clause accelerates the claim process without requiring the homeowner to prove and value his losses;
  4. Variations – without a variation clause, the homeowner may not have the power to require the contractor to alter the works, and the contractor may charge a higher price or delay completion;
  5. Warranties  – as to workmanship and the quality of materials;
  6. Rectification of defects – obliging the contractor to rectify or defects before handover;
  7. Dispute resolution – a mediation clause can oblige both parties to refer the matter to CASE or other neutral parties in the event of dispute.


During Course Of Renovation Works; 3 Ways To Supervise Proper Work By The Renovation Contractor


  1. Make progress payments only and after satisfactory completion of the job agreed upon
  2. Monitor renovation works vigilantly by having a camera ready to have snapshots of unsatisfactory works or having a witness to as company during inspections. This will avoid mishaps or misgivings beyond the defect liability period when proof will be difficult.  
  3. If progress of work is substandard, raise concerns early and recognize when to give up on the current contractor before engaging a new one in place. 


FAQ By Homeowners : What Happens If I Want To Replace My Current Renovation Contractor Halfway Through The Works? 


Read the contract to determine if the contractor has breached the relevant contractual terms. To save time and costs, any discontentment should first be communicated to the contractor or the liable party, extending the party a chance to rectify the defect and reach an amicable resolution. Come to a mutual compromise as to termination and payment. Subsequently, you should inform the new contractor of your requirements, apply for a new HDB permit if applicable, and change your house keys if necessary. Take note that the contractor may not be liable if the defective materials are supplied by third party suppliers sourced by you. If the defective works are subcontracted, the main contract between you and the contractor will likely have laid responsibility upon the main contractor for the acts of the subcontractor.


Home Renovation Dispute Resolutions; 4 Solutions For Homeowners


  1. Lodge A Complaint With Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE)

Lodge a complaint with CASE if your matter is a consumer-to-business dispute. CASE can either correspond with the contractor on your behalf, or draft a letter to the contractor addressing your concerns. To enlist the help of CASE, click here.


  1. Mediation at CASE or a neutral board

CASE provides an affordable mediation scheme for the benefit of consumers. If mediation is successful, a binding settlement agreement can be reached and signed by both parties. If the contractor reneges and breaches the settlement terms, you will have a cause of action against the contractor. Be wary of acceding to mediation by certain trade associations. If these trade associations are dependent on their members for funding, their mediation panels have to be examined carefully to determine whether they are fair and unbiased.


  1. Lodge A Claim at the Small Claims Tribunal

You can lodge a claim at the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) if the cause of action (the date when the renovation contract was breached or the date when renovation was to be completed but was delayed or completed in a defective manner, to name a few examples) was not more than a year ago, and that you are claiming for a sum up to S$10,000, or up to S$20,000 if the contractor consents to a SCT hearing. If your claim exceeds the prescribed limit, you may want to consider lowering your claim amount. If you do so, you cannot claim for the remainder sum thereafter. To determine the size of your claim, you can check with another contractor to find out how much it would cost to rectify the defect.


  1. Obtaining legal advice or commencing litigation

The relevant renovation contract may contain mandatory mediation or arbitration clauses. If so, civil action may not be available until mediation or arbitration have been undertaken, depending on the precise terms. In any case, if you have exhausted all other options, and the quantum or type of your claim falls outside of the SCT’s jurisdiction, you should consult a lawyer to obtain legal advice, and determine whether litigation is an appropriate solution to your matter.



Loss Of Future Earnings – Quantifying Damages For Claimants In Singapore

By | Finance

A record S$8.65 million is believed to be the largest payout in a personal injury claim in Singapore. In December 2016, the case heard by the High Court resulted in the payout of damages to Ms Siew Pick Chiang, a 42-year-old woman who suffered serious post-traumatic stress disorder which saw her hospitalised up to 19 times over seven years after being struck by a bundle of overhead cables while cycling on a pavement along Pasir Ris Drive 8 on Oct 15, 2009. The cyclist launched the lawsuit against Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co Ltd in September 2012, seeking to claim more than S$26 million for medical expenses, hiring caregivers to care for herself and her son, loss of earnings, and miscellaneous expenditure such as taxi fares. Ms Siew, who ran a business providing pre- and post-natal services with her mother before the accident, was also awarded S$1.08 million for loss of future earnings and S$4.8 million for anticipated future expenses.


Seeking to follow in her footsteps as of November 2017 is 31 year-old Mr Jay Mitchell, an Australian national who had severe head trauma following a traffic accident in Orchard Road arguing that he had a 100 per cent chance of following the footsteps of his father and brother, who were pilots with Tiger Airways, which has now merged with Scoot. While on holiday in Singapore on Aug 5, 2011, he was hit by a car as he was crossing the road opposite the Hilton Hotel. He then underwent surgery in which part of his skull was removed. Mr Smith sued the driver, Mr Abdul Rahim Mohd Akhbar, and the car owner, Resorts World Sentosa, who accepted 70 per cent liability on July 15, 2016, with the sum payable to be assessed.


Most of the items to his claim such as pain and suffering, medical expenses and pre-trial loss of earnings have been settled at mediation and Mr Smith has received $231,841 so far. Based on what he would have earned in the future at 100 per cent liability, Mr Smith sought $6.629 million plus $100,000 for loss of earning capacity, the disadvantage he would suffer in the labour market. 


In view of Mr Smith and Ms Siew’s cases, what are the available options for a claimant similarly seeking damages? In any personal injury case, ranging from a traffic to a workplace accident, or one caused by the negligent act of another party, two main categories of damages may be pointed out to the injured party – special damages and general damages.


What Are Special Damages? Are They Quantifiable For Claims? 

Special damages are easily quantifiable as receipts of expenses that have been incurred as a result of the personal injury suffered would assist the court in reaching a settlement amount during legal proceedings. Special damages compensate the injured party for any economic losses that he or she has suffered as a result of the accident or negligent act. Such claims may include costs incurred for medical and hospitalisation bills, loss of income when the injured party is unable to work, and repair or replacement of damaged property. 


What Are General Damages? Are They 

As compared to special damages, general damages are not easily quantifiable. Accurately assessing the amount of general damages payable to a claimant is challenging due to 

claims for non-economic losses suffered to the claimant, the most common of which is pain and suffering. In such circumstances, pain and suffering is not solely confined to the physical pain or discomfort that the injured individual suffers, but also includes mental suffering or psychiatric disorders that came with it – such as emotional distress or anxiety attacks which the claimant may suffer post-accident or injury. 


IRB Law discourses the approach that is generally undertaken to quantifying general damages in Singapore.




Quantifying General Damages in Singapore

A reference book entitled Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases published by The State Courts of Singapore, together with the Singapore Academy of Law, is exercised by lawyers in advising their clients on the estimated amount of damages that can be expected from a wide range of injuries, such as psychiatric disorders.


An example of a case in Singapore when these guidelines were applied by the Court is Chang Mui Hoon v Lim Bee Leng. The parties were involved in a road traffic accident and the claimant sought general damages in respect of a whiplash injury to her neck, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) and depression, as well as for future medical expenses and loss of earning capacity. She also sought special damages for medical expenses, maid expenses, transport expenses and pre-trial loss of income. 


In this case, the Court referred to the Guidelines in order to assess the quantum of for the claimant’s alleged psychiatric injuries. The Guidelines list out various factors that can aid a court when assessing the amount of damages payable for the stated injury.


For example, in a claim for damages for general psychiatric injury, some of the factors a Court can take into consideration include: –


The person’s ability to cope with life and work in general as compared to his or her pre-trauma state;

The effect on the person’s relationships with family, friends and those with whom he or she comes into contact with;

Whether the person is suicidal as a result of his or her psychiatric condition;

Whether medical help has been sought;

The extent to which treatment would be successful;

The extent to which medication affects the person’s work and social life;

Whether the person adheres faithfully to counselling sessions and takes his or her medication;

The risk of relapse in the future; and

The chances of full recovery in the future.

It is also important to note that the quantum of damages payable for such injuries correspond according to their level of severity. For example, according to the Guidelines, where the injury is deemed to be relatively minor in nature, the amount of damages will typically range from between S$1,000 to $3,000.


General Principles in Quantifying Damages


At present, the use of guidelines continues to play an important role in assisting the courts in their assessment of damages for pain and suffering. It must be remembered that an award for damages, whether general or special, is not intended to be punitive, but compensatory in nature, and the final award of damages that is reached has to be one that is reasonable in the circumstances. Singapore’s current approach also avoids the problems faced in other jurisdictions, like in the USA, where the quantum of damages awarded for pain and suffering is often an arbitrary one that is largely left to the discretion of a jury. 







How To Claim?


You may start a claim by first writing a letter to the person or organisation you want to seek the claim from. If both parties can reach a settlement, the process is straightforward. 


However, in the case of a disagreement, you will need a lawyer’s help. You can commence an action in court by having a lawyer issue a summons asking for the specific reliefs.


If the defendant does not dispute the summons, then the process is simple. The lawyer will enter interlocutory judgement against the defendant with damages to be assessed or quantified at a separate hearing. This is like an interim judgment as you do not know the quantum of damages awarded yet.


On the other hand, if the other side contest the action, then both parties will go to court for trial. At the end of it, the judge will decide and award damages.


What If The Claim Is Against You?


Depending on whether you are negligent, you can chose to defend yourself. Alternatively,  you may do so with a lawyer or your insurance company can defend in your name. This is common with car accidents. Basically, the only way to defend yourself is to prove that you are not negligent, and the claimant is at fault. In grey areas, the case could swing either way.


How We Can Help


At I.R.B. Law LLP, our knowledgeable and understanding lawyers are more than willing to work through claiming for personal injury. Having experienced lawyers fight your case only makes sense. We aim to provide quality services at affordable prices, so you can place all your focus on getting the best outcome for your case without worrying about your wallet. Contact us at hello@irblaw.com.sg or +65 6589 8915 when you are ready to discuss your case. The information contained in this article is provided for general information only and may not reflect current status about applicable law, cases, settlements or judgements. Nothing contained on this website or article is intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be construed as I.R.B Law LLP agreeing to provide legal services to you. You acknowledge and agree that your use of this website shall not create a lawyer-client relationship with I.R.B Law LLP.

A Direct Prediction For Your Finances By 2025

By | Finance

The term Fourth Industrial Revolution may sound familiar – but what exactly is it? And how directly will it impact the human resources industry in 2025? In the case you have not heard of it – let an infographic from the World Economic Forum define how the industrial revolution has progressively transformed the global workplace. 



Photo: World Economic Forum


The first Industrial Revolution was defined by the founding of steam and water. Electricity for mass-production progressively introduced the world to the second Industrial Revolution. The third was drastically epitomized with the digitalization of everything – from the internet to various communication technologies. The fourth Industrial Revolution is a hypothesis of how the real world would integrate with the technological world – and more specifically; how such a new wave of technology will revolutionize the way we work – or if human work for that matter, is needed in the coming decade.


Virtual reality has catapulted the consumption and interaction of information to higher levels never imagined. From 3D printing tools to nano-bots futuristically injected into blood streams to cure illnesses as well as medicinal equipment like IBM Watson utilized for a doctor’s diagnosis – even medical scientist Sir Mark Walport’s statement of how previous job disruption has affected those in manufacturing and has not troubled professionals is about to change. Predominantly in his own area of medicine. Professor Andrew Moore, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University substantiates this with one fact – 50% of patent applications are now checked by machines. “You are safer being a plumber than a management consultant.”, he continues. The bold prediction of how the doctors will lose footing in the medical industry only feeds more global anxiety on questions directly related to human resources. How will technology transform people management? Will the future of HR be no HR – according to Mike Ettling, President of SAP SuccessFactors – the global provider of cloud-based human capital management (HCM) software?

HREasily combines the complex facts and findings into one straightforward framework to make the future of HR a reality. We combine the findings of top HR leaders who envisioned the 2025 HR profession through CHREATE (The global Consortium to Reimagine HR, Employment Alternatives, Talent, and the Enterprise) with the observations of the report, HR Leader’s Playbook: Digital Transformation. 


This combination includes five forces shaping the future of work and organizations, and six necessary roles in which the CEOs and Board members interviewed, believed as relevant to virtually every organization. In addition, there are three modus operandi a HR professional can be guided by as we go along. 


Five Forces That Will Shape Workplace 2025


Social & Organizational Readjustments



With less employment-based and more project-based relationships, this force will increase democratization of work, transform organizational forms such as the traditional hierarchy in favour of more power-balanced organization. Talent will participate with organizations increasingly based on similar interests and purpose instead of merely economic exchange. Organizational responses will include social collaborations as essential elements of product and service development. Business practices and culture will reflect shared purpose and mission along with shared leadership. Talent sourcing and engagement processes range from diverse work arrangements such as part-time, full-time, freelance, outsourcing, talent exchanges with affiliated organizations, and engagement based increasingly on a purpose-driven mission.




An Highly Connected World Globally 



Increasingly affordable mobile devices, virtual collaborations and new media will facilitate global and real-time communications that increase ideation and product development. Market strategies will use rapid prototyping with intensive user feedback. Businesses and their operations will be globally transparent, with extremely fast product development and release cycles, immediate feedback and relationships based on trust. Work will be sourced from anywhere at any time, by workers organized in the cloud, and networks of freelancers or free agents.  Work will be engineered through newly defined talent management systems that support a distributed and global workforce, high-trust cultures and purpose-built networks, empowered with large data.



All-Encompassing Global Talent Market 



Work will be seamlessly delegated around the globe with 24/7 operations enabled by new corporate and social policies. Maximum longevity will allow mature talent to stay in workforce longer.  Major talent majorities will include females and non-whites. Organizations increasingly divide work into projects, tasks and micro-tasks directed to the best talent within and outside the organization through diverse work relationships. Leadership and engagement will evolve to meet differentiated cultural preferences in policies, practices, work designs, pay and benefits.  Purpose-driven organizations will excel in attracting, engaging and motivating workers from many sources.


Six New Workplace Leadership Roles:

In 2013, The CHREATE teams envisioned that these changes will require organizational capabilities embodied in six new roles. These roles may be embedded in an HR profession of 2025, reflecting boundaries beyond traditional HR of today:


The Organizational Engineer 

An expert in facilitating virtual teams, nurturing leadership wherever it exists, and talent transitions. He or she has expertise in task optimization. Has the knowledge resource on principles such as responsiveness, networking, power and trust.


The Virtual Culture Architect 

Adept at principles of values, norms, and beliefs, articulated virtually and personally, he or she is a culture expert, ambassador and brand builder. Connecting current and potential workers’ purpose to the organization’s mission and goals is the purpose.




The Global Talent Scout, Mentor and Coach 

He or she masters new talent platforms and optimizes the relationships between workers, work and the organization, utilising the best platform (e.g., freelancer, contractor, regular employee, etc.). More than a talent contract manager, this person serves as a career and even life coach.



The Data, Talent & Technology Integrator 

It is after all, the fourth Industrial Revolution. This person serves the gap and provides expertise at finding meaning in big data and algorithms, and how to design work that optimally combines technology, automation and humans.


The Social Policy & Community Activist 

He or she creates synergy between goals that include economic returns, social purpose, ethics, sustainability, and worker well-being.  He or she influences beyond the organization, shaping policies, regulations and laws that support the new world of work, through community engagement.


1 Simple Modus Operandi To Survive The Future Of HR

The fourth Industrial Revolution has revolutionised the workplace of today. The advent of artificial intelligence, A.I, and robotics has increased the rate of change. HR professionals, both as individuals and as organizations, must develop adaptability as a core skill progress in the new world of technological transformation.




Main challenges of the fourth Industrial Revolution include a widening skills gap. Academic programs may fail to teach the programming languages needed to power the next generation of software and hardware products. To avoid the consequences of a workforce with obsolete skills, companies must train new and experienced employees alike, as new technologies quickly replace existing skill sets. The entire concept of “Human Resources” must be reinvented. It is time for the future of HR to listen to more human needs: flexibility of a work-life balance, global mobility, belonging, learning. Technological advancements aside, people want to make an impact. It is up to the future of HR to build systems that allow them to grow and express their talent.



In the fourth Industrial Revolution, scientists are not required to focus on data and A.I. alone – but the human mind in order to enable people to be key drivers of innovation. Only then can the world start thinking about how we will interact with evolving A.I. and technologies. Without transforming the concept of HR into “people first,” humans risk becoming robots themselves.