Before we can properly discuss civil penalty rates for unauthorised work in Singapore, it is important to introduce the 2 government bodies, URA and BCA that govern building works.
URA stands for the Urban Redevelopment Authority. URA evaluates and grants planning approvals for developments through their development control, urban design and conservation guidelines. These guidelines facilitate orderly development and ensure that developments are regulated and in sync with the Singapore’s broader urban design plans.
BCA stands for the Building Construction Authority. BCA heads the regulation of the built environment sector through developing a building guidelines, safety controls, green and sustainable strategies. In addition, BCA also spearheads new initiatives and game-changing technologies to lead the transformation of the built environment and plays a greater role in promoting the sector's niche expertise overseas.
What are the civil penalties for unauthorised works in Singapore
Building works that do not require building plan submission to BCA are termed “insignificant building works”.
Conversely there are also building works that will require an approval from BCA.
Homeowners who are interested in renovating their homes should learn how to make that distinction because carrying out building works without an approval from BCA is an offence under Section 20 of the Building Control Act. Those found to have contravened Section 20 of the Building Control Act may incur a fine of up to $200,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or both.
The revised civil penalty rates for unauthorised works / use for non-conservation developments can vary from 1x to 12x of the processing fee according to URA’s Table 1 – 3-tier band civil penalty.
For cases where URA is of the view that deception is involved, a higher civil penalty of up to 25x the processing fees or S$150,000 (whichever is lower) will be imposed.
How unauthorised works can lead to serious consequences
On 09 Nov 2021, construction firm Samwoh Corp was charged in a district court over alleged unauthorised works that led to a flood in Pasir Ris on 20 Aug 2021.
A drain, which was purportedly altered by the firm, is said to be one of the causes for knee-high water to inundate a 200m section of the traffic junction of Tampines Avenue 10 and Pasir Ris Drive 12.
It is also accused of causing obstruction to the flow of the storm water drainage system by erecting scaffolds to construct a new drain.
Thirteen vehicles were partially submerged and several motorists required help to evacuate from their vehicles. At least one person was taken to hospital.
The incident also caused a traffic congestion that lasted two hours.
For houses in Singapore, the consequence of unauthorized works will that there may be issues obtaining completion – Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) and Final Completion (CSC). When such works are discovered during site inspections, there may be requirements for them to be removed and regulated, Hence, there will be additional unexpected costs and delays which can derail plans for the home owner.
Navigating the building works landscape in Singapore is no mean feat.
As a bare minimum, one is required to understand:
i. The definition of ‘additions and alterations’ or ‘building works’ (as viewed in the eyes of the authorities)
ii. When conservation permission is required
iii. When URA and BCA are involved
iv. The necessary submissions carried out by a professional Architect
v. The Authority fees like application fees and development charges
A registered Singapore architect(RA) like ADX Architects would be the most appropriate party to consult if you have any questions about all types of building works in Singapore. ADX Architects are trained professionals that can advise you regarding the various laws governing authorised works (the Planning Act, the Building Control Act, caveats, MCST by-laws, etc.), the distinction and relationship between URA and BCA and how to plan and execute your building works that saves you valuable time and money and headache.
The Planning Act: https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/PA1998?ProvIds=P1V-
The Building Control Act: https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/BCA1989
Revised Civil Penalty Rates For Unauthorised Works / Use For Non-Conservation Developments: https://www.ura.gov.sg/Corporate/Guidelines/Development-Control/Planning-Permission/Folder/DC-Charge-Rates/penalty-rates
Penalty for carrying out building works without an approval from BCA:
Construction firm charged in court:
Additions and Alterations (as defined by URA): https://www.ura.gov.sg/Corporate/Guidelines/Conservation/Additions-Alterations