How to Obtain an Exclusion Order Against a Neighbour in Singapore
An exclusion order is an instrument used only as a last resort to compel your neighbour to leave their home. The duration of which may depend depending on the court’s ruling.
This instrument is governed by the Community Disputes Resolution Act (CDRA). The CDRA is aimed at addressing disputes at the community level and deals with the “tort of interference with enjoyment or use of place of residence”. Simply put, this is when a civil wrong arises because your neighbour’s actions or inactions prevent you from living in your home peacefully.
In January 2020, an individual who endured 2 years’ worth of hammering sounds and loud music from an inconsiderate neighbour was finally able to resolve the dispute when the court issued a 1-month exclusion order to his neighbour.
The article below outlines the process that can lead to the court granting an exclusion order. It will explain:
- What needs to be fulfilled before you can apply for an exclusion order
- When you can apply for an exclusion order
- What to do if your neighbour does not comply with the exclusion order
What Needs to be Fulfilled Before You Can Apply for an Exclusion Order?
1. The person(s) you apply for an exclusion order against must be your neighbour
The CDRA defines your neighbour as someone who lives:
- In the same building as you; or
- Within 100 metres of your place of residence
“Within 100 metres” can mean your neighbour who lives in the next block or down the street from your place of residence. It does not include people who live in the same residence as you. So, you cannot file an exclusion order against your roommate for example.
2. Your neighbour must have done, or not done, something to disturb your right to enjoy your home such as:
- Causing excessive noise, smell, smoke, light or vibration
- Littering at or near your home
- Obstructing your home by placing something at or near your home, such as leaning their bicycle against your door
- Interfering with you or your movable property at or near your home, such as moving your flowerpots
- Putting you or your home on surveillance by installing, for example, a CCTV camera at or near your home
- Trespassing on your property
- Allowing their pet to trespass onto your property
- Allowing their pet to cause excessive noise/smell, or to defecate/urinate at or near your home
We all have varying degrees of tolerance. Whether your neighbour’s actions will be viewed by the court as unreasonable will depend on the extent and severity of their actions as well as the amount of evidence you are able to gather to support your claim.
There are of course cases where a neighbour’s actions might be so blatantly wrong that you may not encounter much difficulty in proving your claim.
For example, in 2017, a family was harassed by a neighbour who kept splashing a substance reeking of urine across their door and along their corridor. The neighbour was eventually arrested, found to have dementia and sentenced to 6 months’ probation.
Excessive noise is defined as noise by any instrument or other means in such a manner as to cause or be likely to cause annoyance or inconvenience to the occupier of any premises in the vicinity.
As a guide, the Housing & Development Board (HDB) has stated that quiet hours should be observed from 10.30 PM to 7.00 AM. This means that excessive noise falling within these hours may be a basis for an exclusion order. With that said, this does not mean that a person is free to make as much noise as they like outside these hours.
When You Can Apply for an Exclusion Order
An exclusion order is considered a last resort for a reason. This is because with the order, you are forcing your neighbour out of their own home for the duration of the order. They may not have the funds to stay at a hotel or have support from family and friends to stay with temporarily.
Hence in addition to fulfilling the criteria stated above, you must also have completed the following steps before applying for an exclusion order:
Step 1: Try to resolve the issue with your neighbour before approaching the court
You can read more in our other article about how to resolve neighbour disputes in Singapore.
Step 2: If the approach in Step 1 proves unsuccessful, you can file a claim with the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunal
Guidance on how to go about this process can be found at the State Courts’ website.
The judge may make one or more of the following orders if satisfied on a balance of probabilities that your neighbour has behaved unreasonably, and that it is just and equitable to do so:
- An order for damages (capped at $20,000);
- An order granting an injunction;
- An order for specific performance;
- An order that your neighbour provides an apology;
- Any other order to supplement and give effect to other orders made.
A “balance of probabilities” is a standard of proof used in civil cases. The court will weigh up the evidence on both sides and decide which version of the story is most probably true.
The court will also consider all the following factors in deciding if it is just and equitable to make the order(s):
- The impact of the order on the neighbour you are complaining against, anyone else living in that household or any other person;
- The ordinary instance of daily living that can be expected to be tolerated by reasonable persons living in Singapore;
- Any other matters as the court deems fit.
There is a filing fee that must be paid to the court upon making an application and it costs $150.
Step 3: If your neighbour does not follow the court order from Step 2
You can apply to the court for a Special Direction that your neighbour must comply with the Step 2 order.
The court must be satisfied that your neighbour has no reasonable excuse to disobey the Step 2 order. If it is, it will make a Special Direction to compel your neighbour to obey.
On top of that, the court may order your neighbour to enter into a bond to ensure that your neighbour complies this time. If your neighbour fails to comply with this Special Direction, they will be guilty of an offence. On conviction, they will be liable to a fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment of up to 3 months, or both.
Filing an application for a Special Direction will cost $100.
What if your neighbour continues to not comply with the special direction?
It is only in the unfortunate event that your neighbour still fails to follow the Special Direction mentioned in Step 3 above, that you can then apply for an Exclusion Order for your neighbour to be excluded from his or her place of residence.
Three factors must be present for your application to succeed:
- Your application must pass the balance of probabilities test mentioned earlier
- It must be just and equitable to allow for your application to be granted, based on the same considerations mentioned earlier
- Your neighbour must not have had any reasonable excuse for failing to comply with the Special Direction
You may apply for the Exclusion Order online using the Community Justice and Tribunals System (CJTS).
You will need to choose a court date and time to attend the Pre-Trial Conference for your matter. A Pre-Trial Conference is an event that occurs before the final hearing of your matter in order to sort out any administrative matters, and for the judge to provide orders on how the matter should progress.
The judge can make the following orders during a Pre-Trial Conference:
- Order the Applicant and Respondent to attend mediation
- Order the Applicant and/or Respondent to attend counselling
- Schedule another Pre-Trial Conference
- Fix the case for a hearing
After applying for the Exclusion Order, you must serve your filed application and supporting evidence on your neighbour within 14 calendar days. This is so that your neighbour is aware of your application, aware of their need to attend court and is given a chance to prepare a Reply if they choose to.
Evidence you can submit to support your application include:
- Relevant photographs and video recordings
- Letters or notes exchanged between you and your neighbour
- Letters inviting your neighbour to attend mediation on previous occasions
- Previous mediation settlement agreements
- Medical reports
- Police reports
A sample timeline for this process is as follows:
- You file your application online on 1 October 2020
- You must serve 1 set of the Application for Exclusion Order and 1 set of the supporting evidence within 14 calendar days i.e. by 15 October 2020
- You must file a Declaration of Service online on the CJTS within 8 days of serving your application on your neighbour. For example, if you served the documents on your neighbour on 15 October 2020, you must file the Declaration of Service by 23 October 2020
- If your neighbour chooses to file a Reply, your neighbour must do so online on the CJTS 14 calendar days after being served with your application. If served with your application on 15 October 2020, your neighbour must file their Reply by 29 October 2020. Your neighbour must also serve their Reply on you by 29 October 2020
This exchange of documents should therefore take no more than 4 weeks. Further guidance on the timeline for your application and additional steps can be found on the State Courts website.
Filing your application for an Exclusion Order will cost you $100. Each court order made by the judge also comes with its own court fee at $30 per order made.
What to Do If Your Neighbour Does Not Comply With the Exclusion Order
Enforce the exclusion order by making a police report
If your neighbour refuses to leave their residence after having an exclusion order made against them, and has no reasonable excuse for not doing so, they may be guilty of an offence. In this situation, you can enforce the order by lodging a police report to facilitate police investigations into the breach.
If your neighbour is found guilty of breaching the exclusion order, they will be liable on conviction to a fine up to $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term up to 3 months, or both.
For every day that your neighbour continues to breach the exclusion order, they will also continue to be fined up to than $1,000 per day but not exceeding $10,000 in total. Where a court convicts any person of an offence for failing to comply with an exclusion order, the court also has the power to make a community order against that person.
There are different types of community orders that can be made such as:
- A community service order: Where the offender will need to perform unpaid community work under the supervision of a community work officer
- A short detention order: Where the offender will be detained in prison for up to 14 days
- A mandatory treatment order: Where the offender will be required to undergo psychiatric treatment for up to 36 months.
File a Magistrate’s Complaint
An alternative to filing a police report to enforce the Exclusion Order would be to file a Magistrate’s Complaint against your neighbour. A Magistrate’s Complaint is when criminal proceedings are brought by a private individual such as yourself. This is different from other criminal proceedings because those are brought by the State against the individual.
The difference between lodging a police report and filing a Magistrate’s Complaint lies in the process and outcome for each route.
Lodging a police report is a track that leads straight to police investigations whereas with a Magistrate’s Complaint, the court may look at other options such as further mediation (apart from directing the police to investigate the matter further).
An overview of the procedure for filing a Magistrate’s Complaint can be found in our other article.
To prevent a lengthy and tiring process, your first port of call should always be to try to communicate with your neighbour to resolve the issue in a calm and pleasant manner. Their actions may be causing you stress, but this approach can result in a more peaceful and quicker settlement.
Be aware that some neighbours might be vulnerable individuals suffering from mental health issues and are not maliciously trying to disturb your peace. In such cases, you should approach them or their caretakers in a sensitive manner.
As a general rule, for applications mentioned above and for your application for an exclusion order, you are barred from engaging a lawyer to represent you and must present your own case.
You will be allowed legal representation only if all the parties to the proceedings agree to having a lawyer represent you. In addition to this you must also seek permission from the CDRT before engaging a lawyer to represent you.
While representing yourself is clearly the more cost-efficient method, consulting a lawyer can help you better understand the strength of your claim and provide guidance on your next steps.
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