Home-renovation industry in disrepair, says watchdog

Home-renovation industry in disrepair, says watchdog

Stacy Shi

The home-renovation industry is prone to problems, including poor service and tricky sales tactics, a study has found.

It was conducted between April 2022 and last month as the Consumer Council received 1,205 complaints in the past seven years involving over HK$276.9 million.

The council found 75 percent of 59 companies offered restructuring without assessing, after the watchdog made inquiries disguised as consumers.

It comes after the structural wall alteration incident in Lohas Park last May, where a viral video showed how a load-bearing wall of a unit had been partially removed, arousing safety concerns. Subsequently, the owner was ordered to repair the wall by the Buildings Department.

Additionally, the study shows that only one-third of renovation firms provided estimates prior to the detailed quotations, with estimates deviating by up to 28 percent.

The council interviewed 505 consumers, 90 percent of whom demanded more details from the firms such as compensation for delay or refund.

”Traders only put down general information, like how much, and sometimes they don’t even write down the completion time. So in this regard, a lot of disputes [arise],” said council vice chair Tony Pang Chor-fu.

Nearly 20 percent of respondents indicated that they had disputes with their renovation companies, among which 61 percent were not satisfied with delays, defective work and failure to rectify defects.

”The underlying reasons for the disputes were attributed to a lack of monitoring authorities and industry guidelines for the industry to follow, as well as the divergence in views between consumers and traders,” Pang said.

As the demand for home renovations is expected to increase, the council advised authorities to provide a standard quotation form, which will serve as a “safety net” for customers.

A clause for a cooling-off period of seven days should also be included, with firms able to charge a reasonable administrative fee before issuing a refund.

The council recommended introducing a government-endorsed accreditation scheme for companies, adequately covering different industry segments.

The watchdog suggested establishing a dispute resolution mechanism and improving consumer education.

”For [realizing] all the recommendations, the most important challenge is that we need all parties to get involved,” Pang said. “We need the government to lead, the consumers and traders to support, and we need professional and statutory bodies to give us backup on professional appliances and details,” Pang said.

Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors chair Lam Ka-fai acknowledged that many consumers have experienced shoddy services, and said the institute is willing to collaborate to protect their rights.

Kenny Tse Chi-kin, the institute’s building surveying division spokesman, said the accreditation scheme can be explored, but surveillance and reviews are also required.

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