18 February 2022 Posted in Parliamentary speeches and responses
Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang (Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC)
To ask the Minister for Law (a) whether proceedings can be brought under section 4 of the Community Disputes Resolution Act 2015 for cases of smoking near balconies or windows in homes when the secondhand smoke interferes with a neighbour’s enjoyment of his property; and (b) if so, what kind of evidence will need to be presented in order to show such interference.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, my Ministry has previously provided the Member with statistics relating to claims brought in the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunal (the “CDRT”) for unreasonable interference caused by excessive smoke, which includes second-hand smoke. The Member will therefore be aware that claims can be brought under section 4 of the Community Disputes Resolution Act 2015 (the “CDRA”) for cases of smoking near balconies or windows in homes when the second-hand smoke interferes with a neighbour’s enjoyment of his or her property.
- Section 4(1) of the CDRA states that a resident must not, by an act or omission, cause unreasonable interference with another neighbour’s enjoyment or use of place of residence. Section 4(2)(a) states that the interference may include an act of causing excessive smell and smoke.
- As a Court of Law, the CDRT requires a claimant to present sufficient evidence to show that the respondent caused excessive smoke and smell to such an extent that it causes unreasonable interference. That is the threshold and the test. Bare allegations are insufficient.
- Any evidence that points towards the source of interference, the type of interference, or its intensity and surrounding circumstances, would therefore be relevant. Some examples include letters or contemporaneous messages which are exchanged between the neighbours, which may point to or suggest the source of the second-hand smoke, written records that set out the specific dates and times of the acts in question and also show an established pattern of smoking, and, if possible, photographs or video-recordings which capture the particular resident in the act of smoking.
- In addition, the Member would also be familiar with the approach of the Community Dispute Management Framework (“CDMF”), which is to encourage neighbours involved in disputes to always first attempt direct, friendly discussions between neighbours, or mediation, and only file a claim with the CDRT as a measure of last resort. This approach emphasises communication and the building of relationships, in particular, between neighbours, and recognises that a legalistic, litigious approach is not usually the best or most efficient way to resolve disputes in the community and it is certainly not the first port of call. This approach gives parties a better chance at reaching mutually acceptable solutions, in a fast and amicable manner, without escalating the dispute through the process of evidence-gathering or trading allegations, as the case might be.
- As separately conveyed to this House, an inter-agency committee led by MCCY is reviewing the CDMF and is studying a range of proposals. These include promoting neighbourliness as a way to reduce the likelihood of disputes arising in the first instance, and also increasing the awareness and accessibility on the use of community mediation as the primary way to resolve disputes between neighbours. Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Last updated on 18 February 2022