In a densely populated city like Singapore where more than three-quarters of the population lives in high-rise buildings, friction between neighbours can occasionally arise. Coupled with the fast-paced environment, it can heighten our sensitivity towards noises, smells and what we perceive to be an inconsiderate use of common spaces. These tensions can easily cause bitter relations between neighbours especially in cases where both parties are unwilling to talk through the issues and resolve them.
The best way to achieve a harmonious living environment is to encourage the “kampong spirit” among Singaporeans as it is often said, “you can change friends but not neighbours”. However, if you have exhausted all methods, there are certain legislation that would protect you against “uncooperative neighbours”.
How can Communication help?
First and foremost, put yourself in your neighbour shoes and consider why he/she is acting in such a manner. As simple as it sounds, communication is key.
If you face difficulties in engaging your neighbour, you could contact your grassroots leaders for help. You may get in touch with your grassroots leader through the nearest community club (CC).
Will Mediation in Singapore help?
The second step, if the first should fail, is to resort to mediation. This can be done at a Community Mediation Centre, which has a panel of trained volunteer mediators. The mediator will not provide the solutions or decide for the parties. It brings a neutral third party into the picture to help identify issues in disputes and comes out with a mutually acceptable agreement.
This can be done either by registering your case online or call the hotline at 1800—2255-529. Throughout the years, the CMC has consistently maintained an overall settlement rate of about 75 per cent.
Benefits of Meditation
1. Quickest Method
A typical mediation session lasts about 2 hours.
The person requesting for mediation is only required to pay $5 administrative fee once, regardless of the number of mediation sessions.
3. Private & Confidential
It provides the opportunity to mend relationships privately without unwanted publicity or embarrassment.
Legislations in place to resolve disputes
1. Community Disputes Resolution Act
The Community Dispute Resolution Act 2015 (“CDRA”) was passed on 13th March 2015 and came into operation on 1st October 2015. The CDRA created a new statutory tort which prevents the interference with the enjoyment or use of places of residence. The underlying principle is that no person should cause unreasonable interference with his neighbour’s enjoyment or use of that neighbour’s place of residence.
With the passing of the Act, it establishes the Community Dispute Resolution Tribunals (“CDRT”) as part of the State Courts to hear cases involving disputes between neighbours after all efforts including community mediation have been exhausted. CDRTs should only be a last resort. It would mean that applicants would have either attempted working a solution out with their neighbour and/or attempted mediation with the help of grassroots leaders and/or through community mediation centres.
Furthermore, the CDRTs are specialised courts that will only hear claims between neighbours over issues related to the enjoyment or use of places of residences. The CDRTS is located at the State Courts located at 1 Havelock Square, Singapore 059724.
The statutory tort is represented under Section 4(1) of the CDRA:
“An individual who resides in a place of residence… must not, by his or her act or omission, directly or indirectly, and whether intentionally, recklessly or negligently, cause unreasonable interference with his or her neighbour’s enjoyment or use of the place of residence that the neighbour resides in.”Section 4(2) provides a non-exhaustive list of acts or omissions that may cause such interference.
Filing of the tribunal order:
|1. Proximity of distance||2. Unreasonable interference or act of nuisance to you||3. Necessary Evidence|
|Ensure that the neighbour either lives in the same building as you, or lives within a 100-metre radius of your residence||Ensure the neighbour is causing unreasonable interference or act of nuisance to you as represented in Section 4(2)||Ensure that you have the necessary evidence to justify the claim. Examples include:
CDRTs have powers to enforce orders after hearing the cases in their tribunal. The orders would include:
- Ancillary Orders
- Specific Performance
Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act (Criminal)
If your neighbour’s offence is found to be more intrusive or violating, the other option would be to call the police. In a recent case reported last month, a 44-year old woman was arrested for disorderly behaviour due to her “insulting acts” towards her neighbour. The “disorderly behaviour” consisted of her throwing rubbish at her neighbour’s doorstep, knocking at the door in the middle of the night and sending “senseless and disgusting messages”.
Disorder behaviour is punishable under section 20 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act. The threshold is rather low whereby a person commits an offence of disorderly behaviour when he or she exhibits annoying or insulting behaviour in any public place, place of public amusement or resort, or in or nearby any court, public office, police station or place of worship. For a first-time offender, this offence is punishable with a maximum sentence of six months’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $2000 or both.