Renovation noise complaints increase amid work from home trend

Tim Beer27 Nov 2020

NEA received 286 complaints on renovation noise among landed housing residents from 2 June to 31 October, up 60% from the 178 complaints received over the same period last year.

With more people working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, complaints on renovation noise have also increased given the backlog of projects to be completed following the circuit breaker, reported Channel News Asia (CNA).

The National Environment Agency (NEA) received 286 complaints on renovation noise among landed housing residents from 2 June to 31 October, up 60% from the 178 complaints received over the same period last year.

“About 10% of the complaints involved renovation sites where noise levels exceeded the limits. NEA took enforcement action against the contractors responsible for these sites,” said NEA as quoted by CNA.

However, overall complaints on construction noise, which includes renovation noise, dropped to 3,682 during the same period from 4,170 previously.

The agency attributed this to the “lower number of active construction sites in the initial months after exiting the COVID-19 circuit breaker on 2 June” 

Recommended article: An HDB Owner’s Guide to HDB Renovation Permits and Guidelines

Meanwhile, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) was unable to give representative figures regarding complaints on renovation noise at public housing estates.

“As feedback providers may contact HDB more than once to give feedback on the same case, the total number of feedback received is not representative of the actual number of cases on the ground. Hence, it would not be meaningful to provide such figures,” it told CNA.

Nonetheless, HDB shared that it had ramped up efforts to reduce disamenities due to renovation works by reminding contractors and flat owners of various good practices and requirements.

These include providing neighbouring units written notice of noisy work like hacking, at least three days prior to start of such work.

As for condominiums, complaints on renovation noise are handled by the developments’ respective managing agents.

Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association Assistant Secretary Michael Ong has shared some insights on how to handle renovation noise from neighbours.

According to him, the general advice is to get out of the house during the duration of renovation works.

Recommended article: 5 Tips for Soundproofing Your Home From Noisy Neighbours for Better Work Productivity

But if going out is not possible, then there are still other alternatives.

“If the unit being renovated is opposite your apartment, open your windows but close the doors. If the unit being renovated is above or below yours, open the windows and the doors. If not, you will contain the vibrations inside the house,” said Ong as quoted by CNA. 

He also suggested using noise-cancelling earphones or ear plugs if needed.

In the event the noise is too much to bear, neighbours can request – within reason – to temporarily halt renovation works.

“You must be mindful that work must still go on, but if you say: ‘Can you stop for one day? My kid is having a big exam today.’ We will try to stop,” said Ong.

“But the maximum is three days, any request beyond that I don’t think our clients would entertain,” he explained, citing the need to keep up with project timelines.

For those having their house renovated, Ong recommends speaking personally to their new or existing neighbours – beyond merely sending them written notice of the works. 

See also: HDB noisy neighbours: How to file a complaint and stop them for good

“A couple of my clients bring cookies for their neighbours as a gesture of goodwill so they’ll be happier. Then even when the renovation starts, they can bear with it,” he said. 

Given Singapore’s dense, urban housing environment, Ong added that it is important to have a spirit of neighbourliness as well as understanding “that these situations are inevitable”.

“The key is both parties must be reasonable,” he said.

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