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Get your home-related legal questions answered by legal expert Fong Wei Li from Kel LLC.
Q: I have a neighbour who likes to talk loudly and use vulgarities at night. I can hear him clearly because our balconies are next to each other. I'm concerned that my children will pick up the undesirable terms. I've asked him to keep it down but he insists it is his right to speak as he wishes as long as he is within his own home. What can I do?
A: Hi, Andy. As a first approach, you may consider filing a police report against your neighbour so that the police can intervene in the matter through community policing efforts. If the police does not take action, file a case with the Community Mediation Centre (CMC) (https://www.mlaw.gov.sg/content/cmc/en.html). CMC will then invite you and your neighbour to a formal mediation, where you and your neighbour, with the help of a trained mediator, can explore ways to resolve the dispute.
Now if mediation does not work, or if your neighbour refuses to participate in mediation, you should consider filing a complaint at the State Court’s Community Justice and Tribunals Division. A relatively new law – the Community Disputes Resolution Act (CDRA) – empowers a State Court judge to issue orders and sanctions against neighbours who behave unreasonably (making excessive noise, littering, clogging up common walkways etc).
When you file a complaint under the CDRA, you must be prepared to fill in a court form describing the nature of your neighbour’s unreasonable behaviour and how it is affecting you and your family. You must also support your complaint with evidence (in this case, sound recordings of your neighbour shouting profanities). If the court accepts your complaint, it will invite your neighbour to attend court and to present his side of the story. The presiding judge may also compel parties to attend counselling or court-facilitated mediation. If these do not work, the court will convene a final hearing, where a judge will assess evidence from parties, and make a decision on whether or not your neighbour was behaving unreasonably. If so, the court may order him to keep his volume down in future. If, going forward, your neighbour breaches this order, you may make a further application to the court, and the court may sentence your errant neighbour to a fine. In serious cases, the court may even make an order directing that your neighbour move out of his residence.
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Wei Li practises litigation and arbitration at KEL LLC – a boutique Singapore law firm specialising in civil and commercial law. He acts for corporate and individual clients in managing and resolving disputes across a wide range of issues and industries. Wei Li has a particular interest and expertise in Internet and social-media law. He provides strategic counsel and representation to businesses and high-profile individuals in a spectrum of media-related issues such as reputation management, appropriate-use policies, privacy and digital marketing. In addition to his practice as a lawyer, Wei Li teaches as an adjunct faculty at the Singapore Management University’s School of Law. For more information, visit http://kel.asia/
Disclaimer: This article provides a general guide to the subject matter and should not be treated as professional legal advice. If you require specific legal advice, you are encouraged to consult a qualified legal professional to obtain the same.