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Almost 70% of neighbour disputes heard by tribunals involve ‘excessive noise’

SINGAPORE — One man refused to stop spitting on his neighbours’ gate and car every day, while another sought to prove that the residents of the unit directly above his had made “excessive” noise by running heavily and stomping.

Almost 70% of neighbour disputes heard by tribunals involve ‘excessive noise’

Resolving Community Disputes seminar on Sept 23, 2016. Photo: Robin Choo/TODAY

SINGAPORE — One man refused to stop spitting on his neighbours’ gate and car every day, while another sought to prove that the residents of the unit directly above his had made “excessive” noise by running heavily and stomping.

These are among the 79 neighbourly disputes that the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals (CDRT) at the State Courts has heard since it started operations in October last year. 

The CDRT hears cases involving spats between neighbours — legally defined as individuals living either in the same building or within 100m of each other — when other efforts, such as community mediation, have been exhausted. 

According to figures provided by the State Courts from Oct 1 last year to July 31 this year, the CDRT has handled 934 enquiries, of which 79 cases resulted in claims filed for the case to be heard before the tribunal. 

Of these, close to 70 per cent of the cases had “causing excessive noise” as one of the complaints. Other common causes of disputes include littering and “interfering with moveable property”, with each representing about one-quarter of the cases. Some cases involved more than one type of complaint.   

Thirteen of the cases led to orders being issued by the tribunal, while 34 withdrew or did not pursue their claims further. Failure to comply with such orders is considered contempt of court. 

In the case of the spitting neighbour, he was caught in the act on cameras installed by his neighbours, a couple who live in a flat along the same common corridor. Apart from spitting, he would also clap his hands loudly whenever the couple left the main door of their flat open, and make comments and stare at them when they walked along the common corridor. 

After hearing the case, the tribunal issued an order forbidding the man from spitting at the couple’s main gate or any other part of their flat, interfering with any items belonging to them that are placed at or outside their flat, and clapping or behaving in any way at or near their flat “with the intention of irritating or provoking the Plaintiff or his wife”, among other things. 

In the other case of the man who accused his neighbour of making excessive noise”, his claim was dismissed by the tribunal as he had failed to prove that the noises he had been hearing in his flat came from his neighbour’s flat. There was also no evidence to suggest that the noises were “excessive” and caused “unreasonable interference” to the man’s use of his flat. 

Meanwhile, the State Courts also shared fresh figures on related filings under the Protection from Harassment Act, which came into force in November 2014. As of Nov 15, 2014 to July 31 this year, there were 208 applications for protection orders. These were for intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress; or causing harassment, alarm or distress. There were also 133 applications for unlawful stalking. 

Speaking at the State Courts’ first seminar, Resolving Community Disputes, on Friday (Sept 23), Presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon said: “Both pieces of legislation are fundamental pillars in Singapore’s framework to strengthen social cohesion and defuse tension within the community.” 

“Many government and community agencies have been doing much good work over the years to help members of our community resolve their disputes,” he added.

The seminar was attended by 300 participants from government agencies such as the Ministry of Law and the Singapore Police Force, and community partners such as the Inter-Religious Organisation Singapore and volunteer mediators from the State Courts.

OTHER CASES THE COMMITTEE HANDLED

A man complained that the smell of incense from joss-sticks burning outside his next-door neighbour’s corner flat was entering his home. The two joss-stick holders were placed farther away from the complainant’s flat. Twice a day when the joss-sticks were lit, they finished burning in about 10 minutes each time. The tribunal dismissed the neighbour’s claim because he had not proven that his neighbour had caused an excessive smell that interfered unreasonably with the use or enjoyment of his home.

The tribunal issued a protection order that prohibits a man from approaching and loitering at the homes of a woman and her mother, and using threatening and abusive words against them and the woman’s sister. The woman had complained that she felt sexually harassed by him. He would patronise the drinks stall she ran with her mother and sister, trail her home, and look at her “from top to bottom”. He also used vulgarities and rude hand signs in front of her stall. As part of the resolution, the woman had to reimburse him S$200 in medical fees for hitting and hurting him one time with a stick of sugarcane.

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