To more effectively address disputes between neighbors, public officials and other personnel acting on behalf of government agencies may soon be empowered to intervene in serious cases.
These officers may investigate cases and carry out enforcement actions, including entering a home to stop a nuisance in progress or impound the cause of the nuisance, even without the consent of the legal owner or occupant.
These powers, as well as the mandatory mediation between neighbors, are part of the proposed improvements to the Community Dispute Management Framework (CDMF) for public consultation from Thursday (May 11) to May 31.
The CDMF, established in 2014, stipulates how disputes between neighbors should be resolved, with an emphasis on encouraging amicable resolution at the community level.
Current measures include introducing quiet hours to encourage considerate behavior, encouraging residents to undergo mediation at the Community Mediation Center (CMC), and building mediation skills among grassroots leaders to informally mediate disputes.
Under the current framework, residents can turn to the Community Dispute Resolution Courts (CDRT), a specialized court that hears such disputes, as a last resort for serious cases.
Over the years, the authorities have implemented a number of measures to address disputes between neighbors. These include the creation of a Neighborhood Noise Community Advisory Panel in April 2022 to study the noise problem in the neighborhood and make recommendations for managing the problem.
According to the Ministry of National Development (MND), the Housing and Development Board (HDB) received around 2,300 feedback cases on average per month last year.
This number is lower compared to 2020 and 2021, when the numbers averaged 2,500 and 3,200 cases per month, respectively, but it is still higher than the pre-pandemic numbers. In 2019, there were 400 cases per month.
An inter-agency committee of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, the Ministry of Law and the MND said on Wednesday that the proposed improvements to the CDMF seek to encourage pro-social behaviour, facilitate amicable resolution and resolve disputes between neighbors at an early stage. as far as possible.
The proposed enhancements would allow for more targeted and effective intervention in serious neighborhood disputes, such as cases where riots are sustained and intentionally created to harass others.
This involves empowering public officials and staff acting on behalf of government agencies to investigate nuisance cases and take enforcement action.
The government proposes that such personnel could require the parties involved to indicate their details and provide statements. They may also install monitoring devices such as noise sensors in common areas of public or private residences with the consent of the legal owner or occupant or managing agent of the common areas, or with the permission of the CDRT.
These officers or personnel, which may include officials of the Municipal Services Office, may also issue a nuisance warning, issue mandatory mediation notices, enter a place of residence to stop a nuisance in progress, or seize the object that causes the nuisance with or without the consent of the owner or legal occupant.
In cases where the molester is suspected of having a contributing mental health problem, these personnel may apply to the CDRT for an order requiring the person to undergo formal psychiatric evaluation or treatment.
The authorities also propose mandatory mediation, which can be for residents who refused voluntary mediation or for those who breached the terms of the conciliation agreement.
The above figures show that the proportion of voluntary mediation requests that actually proceed to mediation is less than 30 percent.
According to the Ministry of Justice, there were 1,851 cases registered with the CMC in 2020, 2,060 in 2021, and 1,546 last year.
Although a low proportion of voluntary mediation requests proceed to mediation, the resolution rate of mediation cases is high. Between 79% and 85% of cases were successfully mediated between 2020 and 2022.
The ministry said that noise, unacceptable behavior and obstructions or misuse of common corridors were the three main causes of disputes between neighbors mediated last year.
Disputed neighbors will also be able to record mediated settlement agreements as a CDRT order, which means that a breach of the recorded settlement agreement will be treated as a breach of the CDRT order and will result in further orders and penalties.
Based on the proposed enhancements, the CDRT process will also be updated to provide faster and more effective relief for affected residents who reach that stage.
These could include the CDRT issuing temporary orders or mandatory treatment orders for those with contributing mental health problems.
The CDRT may also award an aggrieved party costs to compensate them for the time, labor, and expense involved in the process.
Currently, the CDRT can require a landlord to submit a performance bond at the special direction stage. A special instruction is issued when the CDRT determines that its initial order was not followed. If the CDRT imposes such a requirement on the landlord, the landlord may terminate the lease without liability.
Under the proposal, the lever will be available earlier in the process. A neighbor may serve the landlord with a notice requiring the landlord to take steps to make sure the tenant stops the nuisance. If the tenant does not stop, the neighbor can file a CDRT complaint against the tenant and seek an order for the landlord to post a performance bond and make sure the tenant complies with the CDRT order.
Public officials or dedicated personnel may also file a request for the CDRT to assume jurisdiction over a dispute, in the event that the parties do not wish to file a claim.
The public will be able to share their views on the proposal at go.gov.sg/feedbackcdmf. The comments received will be reviewed by the authorities and improvements will be made to the proposals.