What is the Defect Liability Period of Your New Home?

When your new property is ready for key collection, the developer will provide you with a ‘warranty’ period known as the Defect Liability Period. During this time, the developer will be liable for any defects in your home, so it’s good that you do a thorough inspection of your property before the Defect Liability Period expires. 

This article aims to explain what the Defect Liability Period is all about, what you should inspect, and what you can do in case of disputes. 

 

What Is the Defect Liability Period?

As explained above, the Defect Liability Period is the period of time where the developer will be responsible to replace and fix any defects in your home for free (e.g. stains, cracks, faulty power points).

As such, it’s important that you inspect your home for any damages, defects, poor workmanship, or even missing fixtures/appliances that were not promised in the sale and purchase agreement so that you can report them and get these issues resolved.

It’s also worth noting that you should check for defects before renovating your home. If not, it may be difficult to prove that the damages are indeed defects, and not done by your contractors or the builder. Not only that, but it would also be harder to rectify certain defects after renovation. 

 

How Long Is the Defect Liability Period?

The standard Defect Liability Period for public and private properties is usually a year, and will start when (whichever is earlier):

Since there is an interval between the TOP date and when you collect the keys to your home, the actual time to report any defects may be shorter. 

For HDB properties, HDB also provides extended warranty coverage for these major defects: 

Issue

Warranty period

Ceiling leaks at toilets/kitchen

5 years

Water seepage from external wall

5 years

Spalling concrete

10 years

 

What Is Considered as a Defect?

Though the definition of defect can be technical, the best reference is in your sale and purchase agreement, which will state what your developer is responsible for. Generally, you should ask yourself:

  • If the fixtures and appliances are working
  • Is the workmanship good?
  • Is everything promised in the sale and purchase agreement is included in your home?

Also, remember that it is only considered a defect if it’s caused by the builder, so wear and tear does not count. 

 

What Defects Should You Check For?

Here’s a rough guide on what defects to keep an eye out for:

Walls and ceilings

Inspect the walls and ceilings for any hairline cracks, stains and lines

Floors and tiles

Scratches and chips on the floor tiles, stains as well as uneven floor tiles 

Doors and gates

Check if the doors open and close smoothly, if there are screeching noises and for rust

Windows

Open and close the windows to ensure that this can be done smoothly. Ensure that the locking mechanism is functioning smoothly

Plumbing

Check for stains and leaks on floors, walls, around valves, and fixtures

Electrical outlets/wiring

Inspect if electrical outlets have no mould or cracks; make sure the power points are working

Toilet

No stains, cracks, leaks in the toilet or around the toilet bowl and seat. Also check if the flushing system functions smoothly

Bathroom fixtures

Check for cracks, scratches, leaks or water seepage around basins, taps and showerheads. Test if the water pressure runs smoothly without sputtering

Clothes drying rack

No cracks and defects

For a more comprehensive checklist, you may refer to our defect-checking guide for BTO as well as for executive condos (EC) and private condos

 

How Do You Report Defects?

HDB Flats 

During the one-year Defect Liability Period, HDB will set up a Building Service Centre (BSC) within your estate to help facilitate defects reporting. You can choose to report to the BSC directly and pick a date on the spot for a joint inspection with HDB’s contractor. Aside from that, you may also send your feedback via email or letters, and the BSC will respond within three working days to schedule a joint inspection. 

If the issue is indeed a quality or inherent defect, HDB will rectify the work in 14 days. If more time is needed, HDB will inform you of the expected completion date. 

Once the defects have been repaired, HDB will schedule another joint inspection with you to ensure that the defects have been properly rectified. 

 

Private Properties

For private properties, you can report for defects by filling out a form handled by the developer (though some developers provide an online form). The developer will then have to get back to make an appointment for a joint inspection with you, and rectify any defects within a month. 

If the developer fails to rectify the defects within a month of receiving the notification, you may inform the developer of your intention to engage your own contractor as well as the estimated cost of repairs. If the developer is still unresponsive after 14 days, you can hire your contractor to carry out the work and recover the costs from your developer. 

(According to the Ministry of Development, private developers are responsible for defects and design flaws in ECs as the sale and purchase agreement is signed between the buyer and the developer.) 

 

What Happens If There Are Issues after the Defect Liability Period? 

Some defects will only emerge after a few years — well after the Defect Liability Period. This is known as latent defects which are defined as “defects which are not readily apparent or discoverable.” Examples of latent defects include structural defects, water leakages from rain spells, and under-powered aircon pumps. 

Usually, the developer would be liable for up to 15 years after the completion of the project. You may make a report for such defects, and the developer would lodge an investigation to determine the root cause.

However, there’s no guarantee that the developer will compensate for the cost or take responsibility for the defects (developers, architects or contractors may say that it’s down to wear and tear for example). In such cases, you would have to fork out of your own pockets to fix the issue. 

According to HDB, if the cause of the issue is related to workmanship or engineering/design, such as structural defects like spalling concrete and cracks, then HDB will repair them on a case-by-case basis. However, if the issue is caused by wear and tear or a lack of property maintenance, then you would need to repair it on your own. 

Can You Sue Your Developer for Defects?

According to this Business Times article, buyers have the right to sue “for latent defects up to three years after defects could have reasonably been detected, or a general right of up to six years to sue in contract”. However, it’s not always clear when the rights start and end. Furthermore, pursuing the case in court could cost up to $500,000 and take up to four years to settle. 

A less time-consuming and expensive alternative is mediation, which the Building Construction Authority (BCA) recommends as the first step to resolve disputes/disagreements between yourself and the developer. A neutral third party, known as a mediator will help to offer solutions that are amicable to both parties. 

The three main organisations that provide mediation services are Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC), Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (REDAS), and Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE). You may read this article for more information

 

Other FAQs Related to Defect Liability Period

What is the Defect Liability Period?

The Defect Liability Period is the period of time, usually either from the date of Notice of Vacant Possession or when the developer receives the TOP, where the developer will be responsible to replace and fix any defects in your home for free. The standard period is a year. 

What Happens after the Defect Liability Period?

If there are defects after The Defect Liability Period has expired, your developer will investigate the issue; if it’s caused by a latent defect, such as structural damage, then the developer may compensate, but this is based on a case-by-case basis.

How Long Will the Building Service Centre (BSC) Be in Operation in My Precinct?

The BSC will be at your estate during the duration of the Defect Liability Period, which is usually a year.

 

For more property news, resources and useful content like this article, check out PropertyGuru’s guides section

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This article was written by Victor Kang, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru. When he’s not busy churning out engaging property content* or newsletter copies, he’s busy being a lover of all geeky things. Say hi at: victorkang@propertyguru.com.sg.

*I mean, I’ll try

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