S’pore contractor removes pipes, window, doors & toilet bowls when client refuses to pay full fees

They were each handed a fine of S$1,400 by the court for trespassing.

Winnie Li | February 20, 2024, 10:08 AM



A father-and-son pair who worked as renovation contractors decided to enter their client's flat and remove the fixtures they had installed, including doors and toilet bowls, after their client unilaterally terminated the contract without paying the full fees.

They were owed at least S$14,640 and were entitled to the fixtures according to a contract.

The duo, surnamed Liu (transliteration from Mandarin), were each handed a fine of S$1,400 by a court after they pleaded guilty to one count of criminal trespass on Feb. 15, 2024, reported Shin Min Daily News.

What happened

Court documents revealed that the father-and-son pair was hired by a couple in their 30s, in April 2022 to help the latter renovate their HDB flat around Yew Tee.

At the time, the unit was already leased out to four tenants.

According to the agreement, the renovation would cost S$51,000, and the couple was required to pay S$15,000, or less than 30 per cent of the total cost, upfront.

The couple would pay the remaining amount over an instalment period of 45 months, which translates to paying S$800 per month.

The agreement also stipulated that the renovation must be completed by June 2022, and all fixtures supplied by the contractor, including the door and toilet bowl, would belong to the contractor until all fees were paid.

Husband wanted to terminate contract in June 2022

However, after a disagreement broke out between the father-and-son pair and the couple over renovation style, the husband told the duo that he would like to terminate the contract at around 10pm on Jun. 17, 2022.

At the time, at least S$29,900 worth of renovation work had already been completed.

This means the couple would still owe the father-and-son pair at least S$14,640, according to the prosecution.

As the father-and-son pair felt it would be difficult to recover this owed amount after the agreement was terminated, they decided to enter the couple's unit and remove some of the fixtures they had previously helped install.

Husband alerted police after fixtures went missing

On Jun. 20, 2022, the father-son pair entered the couple's flat at around 2pm and removed a water pipe, three doors, two toilet bowls, and a bathroom window panel.

At the time, none of the tenants were at home.

After the father-and-son pair brought the fixtures back to their office, the son texted the couple, demanding them to pay the amount owed.

When the husband arrived at the unit and found out that the fixtures had gone missing, he alerted the police and notified his wife.

Father regretted agreeing to let couple pay in instalments

While the father-and-son pair had pleaded guilty and accepted the fine, they told Shin Min that they had asked their lawyer to chase the couple for the remaining renovation fees.

Looking back, the elder Liu said he regretted allowing the couple to pay their renovation fees in instalments after feeling sorry for their supposed financial predicament.

According to the 69-year-old, when the husband approached him about renovating the unit, the former kept telling him about the financial challenges the couple was facing, including the fact that the wife was expecting soon and that the flat was their first home.

"I felt life wasn't easy for him, so I agreed to let them pay a relatively low down payment and pay the rest in instalments," recounted the elder Liu.

Couple allegedly refused to pay renovation fees owed

Likewise, the younger Liu also wondered whether the couple requested to pay their renovation fees in instalments on purpose and added that the couple had tried to re-negotiate their fees a month after the renovation started.

He said they also asked them for "free gifts", but he and his father didn't agree as they already allowed them to pay in instalments.

According to the younger Liu, the couple did not provide any reason for terminating the contract and also told him and his father that they would not be paying the renovation fees owed.

When the younger Liu requested a meet-up to discuss the matter, the husband also allegedly refused.

Elder Liu felt being taken advantage of

To prevent encountering similar situations again, the younger Liu said he and his father would consider changing how they collect payments.

Previously, throughout his 40-year career as a renovation contractor, the elder Liu would only collect the final payment after completing the renovation works.

"I never thought I would be taken advantage of for offering this gesture of goodwill this time around," the elder Liu lamented.

During sentencing, the district judge said that even though they were owed money, the Lius should have gone through proper channels and not taken things into their own hands.

Top images via Shin Min Daily News