As you open the door to your brand new DBSS flat, the scent of fresh flowers hits you. You look through the window and see a dazzling meteor shower rain down from the sky. You take a deep breath and step into your new paradise.
Ha. Yeah right. In real life, many Singaporean couples have opened the door to their new DBSS units only to find that its not what they thought it would be.
HDB’s DBSS (Design and Build Scheme) allows private developers to build flats to be sold under the banner of HDB. They generally cost more than regular HDB flats, but many people go for them because they’re supposed to be more luxurious.
However, in the past few months there’ve been a ton of complaints from DBSS purchasers. Here are the most common.
I’m not sure whether they’re making their pipes out of toilet paper rolls these days, but it seems like there’ve been tons of complaints of flooding lately, the worst reported case being that of the Punggol flat that was covered in crap. Some purchasers of units at the Trivelis in Clementi have also complained about flooding in the common corridors after rain and water seeping into the units, which sounds to us like lousy design. The crappy thing about flooding is that it can also ruin any renovation work that’s been undertaken on the flat.
When viewing the completed flat, you really want to check for puddles of water / water stains in unusual places ie corners, behind shelvings, in between floor laminates
DBSS flats are supposed to look a little more glamorous than the average BTO flat. But it seems they’re a lot like goods on Taobao. They look nice in the pictures, but when you see the finished product you realise they used the cheapest quality and shoddiest workmanship they could find. Buyers have complained about rust on their dish racks, glass panels threatening to shatter and scratched floor tiles.
Be prepared that the materials used may not be of the highest quality, they may look decent but not last very long. Buyers need to be prepared for this.
You would think that a private developer would be able to give slightly better design than BTO flats would, right? After all, that’s precisely what people are paying a premium for. However, it seems that some of these private developers have hired designers who are seriously lacking in common sense. From bedrooms with awkwardly placed doors, shower stalls that can’t keep the water inside, kitchen cabinets that, uh, can’t handle the heat and kitchen areas with dimensions too small to accommodate a standard-sized oven, the gaffes are getting more and more ridiculous.
Buyers should not be complacent about layouts and dimensions, less you be surprised by how the new bed you bought basically cannot fit in the room unless you forgo certain other things…. Like DOORS or wardrobes. Its not just about whether you can squeeze it all in but whether its ergonomic and functional in the long run.
Not as described
So you’ve seen the showflat, and it looked pretty. But when you move into your new place, it looks like a lousy imitation. One purchaser at the Trivelis complained that his flat came complete with garishly visible sanitary pipes and water heater, none of which appeared in the pictures. While not quite on the level of the condo purchasers who were befuddled as to where their infinity pool was when they moved into their units, it still sucks when you realise you got suckered by a pretty brochure.
But then this is something that every buyer needs to be aware of. The brochure is a photoshopped work of art that is not reflective of how things are in reality, most if the time. Water down your expectation from the brochure and you’ll start to be able to see things more objectively.
Think about lighting and daylight and how it plays a part. When selecting a unit, visualize how installed lighting could help and where the daylight comes in from for most of the day.
What to do?
We bet you didn’t read the sale and purchase agreement you signed because it was so thick and boring. But if you had, you would have realised that there’s a one year defects liability period, which means that the developer is obliged to rectify any defects you might find within one year.
One year starting from when, you might ask? This is where things get tricky. The one year begins from the day you receive the Notice of Vacation Possession (ie. The letter telling you you can come collect your keys). This applies even if you were overseas or otherwise busy and could only collect your keys months weeks or months later. So clearly, the earlier you move in the better, as some defects take time before you discover them.
Instead of trying to contact the developer on your own, you might want to get the lawyer who’s handling the purchase for you to do so on your behalf. So long as it doesn’t escalate into a big dispute, your lawyer may do this at no extra charge. Be prepared to email your lawyer lots of pictures and a detailed description of the defects.
The developer is ignoring me. What do I do?
The defects are supposed to be rectified within one month from the day the developer is notified. If one month has passed, you can actually just notify the developer that you’re going to repair the defect yourself, tell them the estimated cost and then give them 14 days to decide if they want to get their asses moving or not. If they don’t respond, you can technically get your own workmen to rectify the defect and then ask to be reimbursed by the developer.
Again, if you have a lawyer handling the purchase you might be able to get him or her to write a few fierce letters free of charge, so don’t be afraid to ask.