Under Construction – For Ten Years

To paraphrase the great Beatle’s song, all you need is………a chance for people to vent their frustration?

I was assigned a construction case involving a well-known developer and one of their homeowners. On the day of mediation, the developer sent their legal counsels, maintenance manager, maintenance supervisor, and a few other staffs to attend the mediation; like a small section of army, I must add. On the other hand, the house owner was alone, a middle-aged madam home maker. There were thick files and document from both parties, and I later learnt that the dispute was on the defects of the house bought by the lady; the case has been ongoing for over ten years.

The case appeared to be insurmountable, as it was a typical David versus Goliath scenario. On top of that, the poison between the parties has been brewing on and on for over ten years. One would need all the help from the All Mighty just to solve the case.  In the back of my mind, rather unforgivably, I was all prepared for the final negative outcome.

During the opening statement, I invited the madam to start. As expected, I was shown photos after photos, letters after letters of detail records of complains, threats, sufferings, and all other unpleasantness for her stayed over the years. The developer, on the other hand, calmly showed records of works done and records of rectifications. Loud accusations and defenses soon followed.

After a short while of letting the parties vent their frustrations, I called for private sessions.  At that time, I was rather puzzled by the whole case. It was as if the two parties were stuck in a time-space loop: according to the records, the alleged major defects were settled years ago. Yet the parties were still haggling over the same issue; in particular, the madam homeowner.

As such, one would not be surprised that during the private session, the madam homeowner again brought up the same issue and kept repeating them. It suddenly dons on me that the developer, as usual, did not acknowledge their fault on the matter. Henceforth, while listening to the madam repeating her stories, with much care and indirectness, I complemented the madam for being able to uncover the source of the defects and acknowledged her pain and suffering on the matter. Yet, at the same time, I reminded her that the issue has been long settled.

It seemed that having someone acknowledging her pain and suffering and having someone recognizing her effort in uncovering the sources of the defects were all that she needed. During the private sessions, the madam finally calmed down and started focusing on the real issues at hand.

With that, the case was easily settled with relatively small sums of monies. The madam homeowner was satisfied, and the developer, on the other hand, was over the moon. As for myself, I gave myself a pat on the back for being able to settle a ten-year-old case.

So, all you need is … … some inspirations?

Article contributed by:
Mr Yong Eng Wah
Partner, Resolvers Pte Ltd
SCMC Mediator


The Singapore Construction Mediation Centre Pte Ltd (SCMC) was set up by SCAL in 2019 to provide mediation exclusively to resolve construction disputes for SCAL members. SCMC Mediation is beneficial to companies in term of avoiding project disruption, eliminating lengthy and costly court proceedings and it seeks to resolve the problem in a way that will preserve relationships. The discussions between parties during a mediation session will remain private and confidential. In addition, SCMC is supported by a panel of experienced and qualified mediators with extensive background in construction and experience in mediating construction disputes. For any enquiries on mediation under SCMC, please email us at enquiry@scmc.com.sg or visit our website at https://www.scal.com.sg/scmc .