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Homeowners expect further renovation delays, as contractors face labour crunch, stringent rules to resume work

SINGAPORE — Customer service officer Siti Nurlina Yunus, 27, had been looking forward to moving into her new home in Buangkok and celebrating Hari Raya Puasa there this coming weekend.

Customer service officer Siti Nurlina Yunus’ flat in Buangkok, which is under renovation.

Customer service officer Siti Nurlina Yunus’ flat in Buangkok, which is under renovation.

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SINGAPORE — Customer service officer Siti Nurlina Yunus, 27, had been looking forward to moving into her new home in Buangkok and celebrating Hari Raya Puasa there this coming weekend. 

Renovation work on her flat began in early March. 

But the circuit breaker, which kicked in on April 7, put a pause on renovations at her new Housing and Development Board flat. The circuit breaker, a term used by the Government to impose tighter safe-distancing rules to stem the spread of the coronavirus, halted all but essential home renovation works that could be finished in a few days. 

Even as the Government announced last week that some construction activities, including renovations, would resume after the circuit breaker ends on June 1, Ms Nurlina believes that works on her flat will not carry on at full speed. 

“I understand that factories might be closed and resources might be lacking,” she told TODAY on Monday (May 18). “I am not surprised that it will lead to some delay.” 

Like other homeowners interviewed by TODAY, Ms Nurlina said that she was still waiting for an update from her renovation contractor.

Contractors said that continued delays are to be expected, as they scramble to meet stringent measures set by the authorities before work may resume. Several are also struggling with a labour crunch, as some of their workers who had returned to Malaysia may not be back in Singapore in time, owing to a movement control order there, which runs until June 9. 

Last Friday, an inter-agency task force here managing the spread of the coronavirus among migrant workers said that some construction activities would resume from June 2, so long as employers ensure that it is safe for their workers. The criteria include putting in place a system that allows employers to track their workers’ health daily and have regular Covid-19 tests for the workers.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who has been handling the country's response to the pandemic, also said that the authorities would consider resuming renovation projects if contractors can ensure the safety of workers, including in the areas of housing, work arrangements and transport.


Five home renovation contractors who were interviewed said that they are keen to resume work quickly and have devised safe-management guidelines to follow.

However, obstacles remain.

Mr Dave Wong, director of interior design company Areana Creation, said: “In this (renovation) line, we have to work with people from so many different industries — electricians, carpenters, plumbers. 

“We might be able to resume work, but they might not.” 

Mr Richard Yea, chief executive officer of interior design firm Design 4 Space, said that most of his skilled workers have returned to Malaysia and may not be back after the circuit breaker is lifted. In the meantime, he will have to fall back on in-house carpenters and tilers to fill the void. 

Mr Ivan Woo, owner of renovation contractor Empire Works, said that the resumption of works would require not only coordination from the various parties involved, but also their cooperation to follow a strict schedule to avoid deploying workers across different projects. 

Rising costs brought on by the stringent measures could also be a challenge in an industry where profit margins are already thin, the contractors said. 

This is set to be exacerbated by the need to roll out measures such as setting up QR (quick response) codes for contact-tracing at every worksite, having only one sub-contractor at a worksite at any time, and doing more work off-site. 

Mr Wong said that these arrangements could raise costs, especially when work needs to be carried out off-site in factories, before moving the materials to the worksites. 

“At this point, we are not sure if suppliers will be charging us additional fees. We will have to see,” he added.

Mr Yea said that some sub-contractors might also have to return to worksites repeatedly if the work is not up to scratch, which will drive up costs and worsen delays.

The contractors gave the assurance that they would not pass any cost increases on to homeowners.

Mr Wong said: “When they signed the contract with us, we told them about the cost upfront… so we would not charge them unless it is for changes in items they requested.”

Likewise, Mr Yea said that his firm would absorb the cost increases, which he expects would be marginal. 


Even though Ms Nurlina may have to wait a while longer before she moves into her new home, she is not terribly upset. 

“I am disappointed that we did not get to move in before Hari Raya, because my husband and I had so many plans to celebrate it in our own home,” she said. 

“But it is a blessing in disguise. Since our renovation got delayed, we got to spend more time with my parents with whom I am now living.”

Other homeowners have found temporary living arrangements as they wait for word on their unfinished flats.

Taxi driver Tony Foo, 36, and his parents were forced to stay put in the flat they sold after renovations for the resale flat they were planning to move into were halted.  

“(Our buyer was) willing to extend our stay until our flat is completed,” he said. They are paying S$1,200 in rent a month.  

"I have received no news, no updates and no dates (of completion). My interior designer said to wait till June 2 for more information." 

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus circuit breaker renovation construction

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