What is the Defects Liability Period for Your Singapore Home?

Last updated on November 30, 2020

construction worker looking at document in house

It goes without saying that as a prospective owner of a new HDB flat or private property (such as a condominium unit or landed property), you will want your new home to be in tip-top condition when you move in.

You may be assured to hear that there is a safeguard in place for homebuyers like you – the Defects Liability Period (DLP).

This article will explain:

What is the Defects Liability Period in Singapore?

The DLP refers to the period of time where the developer remains responsible for any defects in the units, the project and common property.

Thus, if you report any defects to the developer during this period of time, the developer will arrange for the necessary repairs or rectification works at its own cost and expense.

How Long is the Defects Liability Period?

Subject to the terms and conditions of your property sale and purchase agreement, the standard DLP for both HDB flats and private developments is 1 year. It will start running from:

  • The date of actual delivery of vacant possession of the property to you – such as the date where you collect the keys to your new flat; OR
  • The 15th day after you receive the Temporary Occupancy Permit (TOP),

whichever is earlier. Note that after receiving the TOP, it may take months before you get your keys. Thus, you will have a shorter time period to actually enter your new home, and inspect and flag out any defect(s).

What is Considered a “Defect”? 

The sale and purchase agreement should state what constitutes a “defect” that the developer will be responsible for.

Typically, a “defect” is defined as any fault arising from either:

  • Defective workmanship or materials; or
  • The unit, housing project or common property not having been built in accordance to specification in the sale and purchase agreement.

This is a rather technical definition, but the idea is that the defect(s) must have arisen from the construction process, as opposed to, for instance, wear and tear.

Checking For and Identifying Defects 

You might also be wondering what sort of things you should be looking out for after collecting your keys and entering your new home.

Here is a non-exhaustive checklist of some common areas and things you should inspect for defects:

Defect(s) to flag out
Walls and ceilings
  • Stains, scratches, cracks or marks
  • Uneven surface
  • Water seepage
Flooring
  • Discolouration, scratches
  • Gaps, misalignment
  • Uneven, jagged and/or rough surface(s)
Doors and windows
  • Difficulties in opening, closing, locking and unlocking
  • Improper installation
  • Scratches, cracks, rusting
Plumbing
  • Leaking water taps
  • Unblocked drainage holes
  • Faulty flushing system
  • Cracks
  • Faulty taps, shower head and/or water heater
Electrical
  • Faulty power points
  • Faulty lights, fans and/or air-conditioning

Reporting and Fixing Defects

If you do notice certain defects, what’s next?

For HDB flats

For HDB properties, you may report the defect(s) by submitting a rectification request, either:

  1. Online at the HDB website; or
  2. Physically at the temporary Building Service Centre

Following that, you can expect a joint inspection to be arranged by the Building Service Centre. During this joint inspection, the reported defect(s) will be verified, and a contractor(s) will be assigned to deal with the defect(s).

After the defect(s) have been rectified, another inspection will be arranged for you to check that the defect(s) have been properly fixed.

For private properties 

For new condominium units or landed properties, you may report the defect(s) by submitting a form obtained from the developer.

After receiving the form, the developer should get back to you and rectify the defect(s) within 1 month.

If the developer does not take action, you may inform your developer about your intention to engage a contractor to fix the defect(s) and, where possible, provide an estimation of such costs.

If the developer still refuses to fix the defect(s) in the next 14 days, you may then proceed to engage your contractor to rectify the defects, and follow-up to claim the costs back from the developer.

On this note, it is strongly advisable for you to take photographs and detailed notes of the defect(s) as proof of the defect(s), and keep the receipts of the contract work as evidence of your claim.

Don’t start renovation works until all defects have been rectified

Whether your new home is an HDB flat or private property, one rule remains – do not commence any renovation works until all defects have been identified and rectified.

If you were to start renovating your place, it becomes difficult to ascertain if the defect(s) was/were caused by the building contractor or your renovation contractor. This would complicate matters as parties could be unwilling to accept responsibility for the defect(s).

Furthermore, renovation works are generally time-consuming and it is also unpredictable when renovation works would be completed.

Bearing in mind that the DLP is only 1 year, it is not ideal to renovate your place before identifying and rectifying all defects, and run the risk of crossing the DLP. This is because once the DLP expires, the developer will not be obliged to rectify the defects.

What Happens If the Defects Liability Period has Expired?

Once the DLP has passed, you will be responsible for the condition of your property. Thus, should there be any issues, you will have to engage your own contractor and bear the cost of the repairs.

Latent defects liability period

However, there is one exception to how developers are not liable for defects discovered after the DLP – latent defects. Latent defects refer to defects which are not readily apparent or discoverable, emerging only after some time. An example would be structural defects, such as internal cracks in the pillars.

For such defect(s), the developer will be legally liable for them for 15 years from the time of completion of the project. This is regardless of whether the property is an HDB flat or private property.

Nonetheless, this does not necessarily mean that the developer will have to bear the costs and responsibility of fixing the defect. While you may lodge a report for what you think is a latent defect, note that the defect will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

If it is established that the defect is not a latent defect and the developer is therefore not responsible for it, you will have to get the defect fixed on your own.

Resolving Disputes Over Property Defects in Singapore

In the unfortunate situation where you run into disagreements with your developer/HDB over a defect in your house, there are generally a few ways to resolve the dispute.

For example, you could consider mediation, which brings parties together to reach a mutual agreement. Alternatively, other avenues such as neutral evaluation or litigation are available as well.

Nonetheless, the question remains as to how you should go about choosing the most appropriate course of action. Factors such as the cost of dispute resolution, the extent of the defect(s) and the cost of rectifying the defect(s) ought to be taken into account before deciding whether or not it is worth pursuing the matter.

Keeping in mind these considerations, you may wish to engage a lawyer to take you through the possible options suitable for your dispute. Furthermore, he/she may also represent you in the dispute resolution process to ensure that your case is properly presented.

If you happen to spot defects in your new home, do not despair since there are ways to get them fixed. Do, however, ensure that you get the defects rectified within the stipulated timeframe.

Beyond the DLP, the developer will not be responsible for any defect(s). Should you require legal advice on disputes over property defects, feel free to reach out to one of our litigation lawyers.

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