In 2022, HDB received about 27,600 noise complaints, more than five times the 4,800 cases it received in 2019 (i.e. pre-COVID). The sharp increase in residential disturbance has escalated to the government: on 2 March 2023, the Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim Ann announced that a new unit is expected to be set up to assist in settling severe and lengthy disputes between neighbours about noise issues. This is expected to be done by the end of 2023.
Neighbour Noise Complaint: Should You Lodge a Complaint?
If you’ve encountered neighbours who are constantly noisy after 11pm, chances are reaching out to the HDB hotline to complain won’t bring any resolution to your noise problem.
There is an HDB feedback form on their site, but that’s more for sharing how you feel about HDB’s services, not your neighbours. HDB is a housing developer and neighbourly disputes are not within their purview.
So if you can’t complain about noise pollution at HDB, what should you do? Can you call the police for noise-related ‘offences’?
Watch Our Video on Neighbour Noise Complaint
Neighbour Noise Complaint: How Do You Deal With It?
|Action||Our rating out of five|
|Call the police||4/5|
|Contact your grassroots leaders (GRLs)||2/5|
|Apply for mediation||3.5/5|
|Take the dispute to court (Community Disputes Resolution Tribunal, or CDRT)||4.5/5|
However, success may vary depending on the nature of the disturbance and the offender’s psychological condition. For instance, a party of rowdy teenagers or tenants can be easily stopped, but dealing with a vengeful and/or deranged neighbour may be a little more difficult.
1. Call the Police
Most HDB owners’ reflexes might be to give the police a ring. This is what the victim in the Bukit Panjang case initially did too.
Upon calling 999 and providing them with information such as the source of the disturbance, the police will usually show up within 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the location of your home. The police will ask for your name, your unit number, and contact details on the call, but what they will do when they arrive is to find the perpetrator and seek to resolve the issue. So, the complainant typically does not need to reveal his/her identity.
In certain cases, you may need to make a police report. The police might advise you to file a Magistrate’s Complaint, which can be done online if the neighbour’s act is considered to be acting against the law (e.g. causing harassment, alarm, or distress).
Pros of Calling the Police
In Singapore, most people wouldn’t risk the wrath of the police. Hence, calling the police usually solves the loud neighbour problem. The key thing to note here is not to alert the offending neighbour by threatening to call the police so that the police can catch the perpetrator in the act, which will provide evidence in your favour should escalation be necessary.
Cons of Calling the Police
Firstly, a neighbourly disturbance is a non-arrestable offence, which means no arrests will be made and you’ll need to file a Magistrate’s Complaint should you wish to press charges (please read the rest of the article for other possible remedies first). A drawback of calling the police is also provoking even more hostility if the offending neighbour is deranged, but this should not stop you from dialling 999.
2. Contact Your Grassroots Leaders (GRLs)
Every block of flats has a grassroots leader assigned to assist residents with complaints. The GRLs will act as a mediator between the complainant and the alleged perpetrator.
Pros of Contacting Your GRLs
If noise pollution is a recurring issue, it is worth approaching a GRL for help. A grassroots leader can act as a neutral third party to facilitate informal mediation between the both of you, making it easier to solve with a neighbour you may no longer be on talking terms with.
Cons of Contacting Your GRLs
Although GRLs are typically kind and helpful, they have no legal powers. A GRL may not have the influence necessary to improve the situation. Most likely, the offending neighbour would only stop if asked by a GRL if he/she is unaware of causing the disturbance or is willing and able to accommodate the request.
3. Apply for Mediation
Conducted by the Community Mediation Centre (CMC), mediation is commonly the next step in resolving the issue. Mediation involves a trained neutral third party called a mediator, who will facilitate a conversation between you and the noisy neighbours regarding the noise complaint.
Here’s how it works: During mediation, you and your neighbour get the chance to share their side of the story. This can be done with both of you in the same room or separately in private sessions. The mediator will guide both parties towards a solution that will be acceptable to both.
Once a mutually acceptable solution has been decided upon, both parties will sign a written agreement agreeing to abide by the solution.
Moreover, mediation between neighbours may be mandatory according to Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong.
Pros of Applying for Mediation
Mediation is cheap. There is only a one-time $5 administrative fee, regardless of the number of mediation sessions. The fee will be paid for by the applicant (i.e. you), whereas the respondent (i.e. the noisy neighbour) does not need to pay.
Cons of Applying for Mediation
The signed agreement is not legally binding. Noisy neighbours may choose to ignore the signed agreement and go back to his/her old ways. He/she could even choose not to attend the mediation. These actions of non-compliance, however, may be used as evidence against them if the case escalates.
Register for Mediation at the CMC
1. Via enquiry line
You may call CMC’s enquiry line at 1800-CALL-LAW (1800-2255-529) from Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays), 8.30am to 5.00pm.
2. Online via SingPass
You can also register using your SingPass account.
3. Referral by an Agency (Such as by the Police)
The police can make a mediation referral to the CMC.
4. Take the Matter to Court
HDB and the authorities emphasise that taking the matter to court should be a last resort, but sometimes this could be the only way to force a noisy neighbour to quieten down if mediation has failed to yield a solution. Although, the judge may order that the parties undergo mediation first before hearing the case.
Disputes between neighbours that are brought to court take place at the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunal (CDRT), a specialised court that hears claims involving an “interference with enjoyment or use of place of residence” by a “neighbour”. The CDRT was the one that issued the Exclusion Order for the malicious noisy neighbour in the Bukit Panjang Case.
What this also means is that not all cases entitle you to escalate the case to the CDRT. The guidelines below, from Singaporelegaladvice.com, can help you determine if your case can be brought to the CDRT:
Who Is Considered My ‘Neighbour’?
- Individuals in places of residence only (no businesses or workplaces);
- Lives in the same building as you OR lives within a 100-metre radius of your home; and
- Not living in the same place of residence as you
What Are Some Examples of ‘Interference’?
- Causing excessive noise, smell, smoke, light or vibration
- Littering at or in the vicinity of your home
- Obstructing your home
- Interfering with your movable property
- Conducting surveillance on you or your home (such as installing CCTV cameras), where the surveillance is done at or in the vicinity of your home
- Trespassing on your home
- Allowing their pet to trespass on your home, to cause excessive noise or smell, or to defecate or urinate at or in the vicinity of your home
Neighbour Noise Complaint: How to File a Claim at the CDRT
If your complaint against your inconsiderate neighbour does not fall within the above, you may file a Magistrate’s Complaint after making a police report.
Claims to the CDRT must be made online via the Community Justice and Tribunals System (CJTS). You’ll need to prepare supporting documents such as police reports, mediation agreements and media (e.g. photos and videos) supporting your claim.
Pros of Filing a Claim at the CDRT
The court’s judgment is legally binding. If the noisy neighbour flouts it, he/she might be held in breach of a court order (if one is issued) and be charged in the criminal court for the offence.
Cons of Filing a Claim at the CDRT
Going to the CDRT is much more expensive than mediation, but it is still cheaper than hiring a lawyer to sue your noisy neighbour. Here are some examples of the fees as cited by the State Courts of Singapore, correct as of the time of this article’s writing:
|Steps to file a claim at CDRT||Fee in SGD|
|Filing the claim at the CDRT||$150|
|Filing the notice of appeal to the High Court||$600|
In addition, the loud neighbour may also choose to appeal the CDRT’s judgment, prolonging your noise pollution situation, while taking more cash out of your wallet (at least before the court orders the neighbour to pay your fees).
Therefore, if you’re filing a legal claim as a last resort, you’ll need patience for due process (e.g. admin work and investigation) and some spare change.
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