Encouraging amicable mediation and resolution of neighbourly disputes
Response to parliament question on whether more comprehensive guidelines on unacceptable and anti-social behaviour among neighbours are needed, and use of technology to gather evidence for Community Disputes Resolution Tribunal (CDRT)
16 February 2021
Mr Liang Eng Hwa: To ask the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth in view of the increased number of claims filed with the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunal (CDRT) (a) whether there is a need for clearer and more comprehensive guidelines on unacceptable and anti-social behaviour among neighbours; and (b) whether there is a greater scope for the use of technology in gathering evidence that can be brought before the CDRT.
Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law:
- The Community Dispute Resolution Tribunal, or CDRT, saw an increase in the number of claims filed in 2020, compared to 2018 and 2019, with a slight uptick during the circuit breaker period. The top three causes of disputes were excessive noise, littering and surveillance.
Existing guidelines and measures
- Mr Liang asked whether we need clearer and more comprehensive guidelines on unacceptable and anti-social behaviour among neighbours.
- The Community Disputes Resolution Act provides a non-exhaustive list of behaviours that may cause unreasonable interference with a neighbour’s enjoyment of a place of residence. Such acts include causing excessive noise, smell, smoke, and light, littering, creating obstructions, surveillance and trespassing.
- In determining whether certain behaviours are unreasonable, the Tribunal will take reference from the list, and consider social norms and the facts of each case.
- We will continue public education efforts to raise awareness of acceptable social norms, and encourage residents to be gracious to one another. One such effort is HDB’s collaboration with the Singapore Kindness Movement on a public messaging series, called the ‘Then How’ series, to encourage neighbourliness in the new normal. Agencies also use a variety of means such as public messaging, community initiatives, and exhibitions to help residents be aware of actions that may cause nuisance to others (e.g. noise, dripping laundry, obstruction of common corridor).
Technology and evidence
- Mr Liang also asked whether there is greater scope for the use of technology in gathering evidence that can be brought before the CDRT.
- Members may recall that CDRT proceedings are Judge-led, and that the CDRT is not bound by the formal rules of evidence. This means that CDRT Judges have the flexibility and discretion to consider relevant evidence from a broad range of sources. Claimants may support their claims with evidence that has been collected using technology which is readily available. This includes photographs, audio or video recordings that are taken with a smart phone.
- I should remind members that the CDRT should be a last resort. We should continue to encourage the amicable mediation and resolution of such disputes upstream, as early as possible. Neighbours who have disagreements can turn to community intervention by grassroots leaders and community mediation services to help resolve the disagreements if they cannot do so themselves.