If you read our ‘Handling Neighbour Disputes‘ article, you’d know that the Housing Development Board (HDB) provides several avenues for mediation should a dispute escalate beyond your control.
These measures are used to ensure that the relative harmony enjoyed by all whom share the HDB block as their living space is maintained.
It is however, the responsibility of the flat owners to maintain that peace and not HDBs’. Yet, there have been cases where HDB was approached to mediate over inconsequential issues.
To put things in perspective, here are some complaints you should not bother HDB with. In fact, we’ll throw in a few suggestions on how to resolve the situation yourself.
Singapore is a racially tolerant society with a multitude of races and cultures living together. Each culture has its own characteristics and preferences, such as music and types of food. If you for some reason are affected by the aroma of the food your neighbour cooks each day, please understand that to live in a HDB flat, let alone Singapore, you have silently agreed to respect the cultural differences of those around you. Complaining to HDB about the kind of music played or how the smell of food bothers you is not only an abuse of the system but racially insensitive. If you really cannot tolerate it, shut your doors and windows. You cannot, legally or otherwise, tell your neighbour what to listen to or what to cook.
Alternatively, if you have a problem with loud noises (music, TV, piano) coming from your neighbours, speak to them about it and come to a mutual understanding. HDB has rules pertaining to noise levels but a simple and polite conversation with your neighbour can resolve the situation quickly.
If you have a problem with the neighbour above you showering at odd hours, get over it. Some may work the late night shift and can only return home when you’re fast asleep. Besides, when they decide to take a bath is none of your concern.
If your neighbour’s dog barks so much that it becomes difficult for you to sleep or work, let him know. Do not automatically assume that your neighbour is ignorant of the fact. It is possible he may not have noticed because he is used to the noise and not because he’s being deliberately uncivil.
If you are bothered by the house parties your neighbour has, politely let him know. While there is no law determining the number of parties one can have in a month, it may be possible for your neighbour to let you know in advance the date of his party so you can make plans to do something out of the house. He can also agree to tone down the noise levels or you can shut your door to dull the sounds. Only if your neighbour refuses to cooperate should you approach HDB.
If your neighbour clutters up the walkway, please speak to him about it before you involve HDB. Only if he refuses to remove the clutter should you then consider writing a formal complaint to HDB.
HDB has stressed numerous times for tenants to handle all issues that are not life threatening on their own. Having them intervene in issues stated above is not only an abuse of that system but a testament to your inability to be an accommodating and gracious neighbour.
Respecting your neighbours and their habits is the first rule of living in a HDB flat. The second rule is tolerating any and all of their racial/cultural characteristics. This involves food, TV programmes, music and even the occasional religious prayer sessions.
Any other issues which fall outside of that classification you should take steps to resolve amicably with your neighbour first.
Remember that only in the most serious and unmanageable of situations should you involve HDB.
Written by: Christopher Chitty