All is well when you initially move into a new home, except for a small number of defects to be rectified during the vacant possession process. The nightmare often starts when cracks, leakages and defects start showing up only after the defect liability period (DLP). What are your rights as a homebuyer pertaining to home defects and how do we detect latent defects caused by poor workmanship from the contractor?
In the context of a residential strata development, “latent” (as opposed to “patent”) defects can manifest any time after the end of DLP. Common types of latent defects that appear soon after the DLP are water leakage, cracks, paint failure, debonding of tiles and etc. In the longer term, the types of latent defects may be concrete spalling, ground settlement and leaks from embedded and/or boxed-up utility pipes, etc.
Although the defect liability clause is present in the Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA), many first-time homebuyers are usually surprised to find out later that they bear the responsibility to inspect their new homes and report defects, if any.
Being a non-technical person and not in the construction industry, more often than not, the purchaser may not know what are considered defects and how to check for such defects in the building construction, utilities or finishes. While some of the defects are easily identified, others may be hidden from view and some other defects may be in common areas.
Hence, it is always advisable to engage an expert such as a certified building inspector who truly knows the ins and outs of what constitutes defects as they see them on a daily basis so that it is not too late to get these defects rectified later on. Money spent to identify these defects are important although the value generated from them cannot be seen until in the later years.
Also, it is advisable to engage a responsible and registered property manager who can also go on the ground to inspect and potential defects. A responsible property management firm will not only manage and maintain a property, but instead, will go the extra mile of keeping track of the common area defects and inform the developer so the problems could be rectified at the early stage.
Many may not be aware that a property manager can be appointed right from the delivery of vacant possession, but on the developer’s initiative, and few are willing to do that. But as awareness is raised, it is hoped that more homebuyers would learn the importance of seeking such responsible developers.
Meanwhile, the imposition of a time limit to file legal action is to prevent injustice to defendants as they might have lost the evidence to disprove a stale claim over time. In addition, persons with good causes for action are expected to pursue them with reasonable diligence.
Six years to commence legal action
Many may not be aware that they generally have a six years’ period to commence legal action to enforce their rights if they suffer from any physical or financial injury. This is stipulated under Section 6(1)(a) of the Limitation Act 1953.
Do you also know that Clause 14 of the Housing Development Act (HDA) specifies that building materials and workmanship are to conform to the description stipulated in the SPA and that said parcel or housing unit and all the common facilities and properties shall be constructed in a good and workmanlike manner in accordance with the description set out in the Fourth Schedule. The building plans should also have been approved by the appropriate local authorities as per the Second Schedule.
Clause 30 of the HDA on DLP on the other hand, stipulates that any defect, shrinkage or other faults in the housing unit or the common property which becomes apparent (patent defects) within 24 months after the date of vacant possession shall be repaired and made good by the property developer, within 30 days receiving a written notice from the Purchaser. This 24-month period is known as the DLP.
Ignorance is not bliss for strata property owners, and one must regularly be updated and be in the know so that you do end up bearing the brunt of the mistakes made by others.
[Image source: Photo by Monstera from Pexels]
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