Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals (CDRT): How to File a Claim

Last updated on September 21, 2022

neighbours quarrelling outside their doors

Is your neighbour still blasting music in the wee hours of the morning? Has your neighbour been littering at your doorstep?

While disputes between neighbours are not uncommon, you may feel extremely frustrated especially when your neighbour has gone overboard or is recalcitrant. Fret not! To seek recourse, you may consider filing a claim at the Community Dispute Resolution Tribunals (CDRT).

This article will cover:

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What is the Community Dispute Resolution Tribunals (CDRT)?

The CDRT is a specialised court that hears cases involving neighbour disputes. Individuals whose neighbours have unreasonably interfered with the enjoyment or use of their homes may seek recourse at the CDRT.

However, filing a claim under the CDRT should be a last resort. You are encouraged to attempt other self-help options, including community mediation, first. Otherwise, the judge may order both you and your neighbour to attend mediation at the Community Mediation Centre (CMC) without hearing the case.

What is the Eligibility Criteria to File a Claim at the Community Dispute Resolution Tribunals (CDRT)?

To be eligible to file a claim:

  • Your claim must be against a neighbour living in the same building as you, or within a 100-metre radius from your home
  • Your neighbour must have unreasonably interfered with the enjoyment or use of your home
  • You must not have started proceedings on the same matter in any other court

Some examples of interference include:

  • Causing excessive noise, smell, smoke, light or vibration
  • Littering at or in the vicinity of your home
  • Obstructing your home
  • Interfering with your movable property
  • Conducting surveillance on you or your home, where the surveillance is done at or in the vicinity of your home
  • Trespassing on your home
  • Allowing their pet to trespass on your home, to cause excessive noise or smell, or to defecate or urinate at or in the vicinity of your home

You must file your claim within 2 years of the event that has created your cause of action. A cause of action is a legally recognised wrong that gives rise to a claim enforceable by the court.  For example, your cause of action could be the creation of excessive noise by your neighbour.

Do also take note that under the CDRT, if you are claiming for a sum of money, you can claim only up to $20,000.

How Can You File a Claim at the Community Dispute Resolution Tribunals (CDRT)?

To file a claim at the CDRT, you will have to do so online through the Community Justice and Tribunals System (CJTS) website. You are required to: 

  • Complete a pre-filing assessment to determine your eligibility
  • Provide your neighbour’s full name and address
  • Provide evidence in support of matters that you will be raising in your neighbour dispute claim
    • Evidence may be in written form, photographs, CCTV footage, audio and video recordings, police reports and so on. For more information on how to prepare and submit your evidence, you may refer to the Singapore Courts’ website.
  • Furnish other supporting documents
  • State the remedies you are seeking, meaning, what you wish to achieve from making a claim and what you want your neighbour to do (see below for the orders the CDRT can make).

You will also have to pay $150 in filing fees.

What Happens After You’ve Filed Your Claim at the Community Dispute Resolution Tribunals (CDRT)?

After you have filed the application in the CJTS, a Notice of Pre-Trial Conference will be generated and issued to you and your neighbour. Both of you will be required to attend a Pre-Trial Conference (PTC) on a specified date and time. A PTC is a meeting conducted by the CDRT officer known as a registrar, together with all parties involved in the case, to resolve disputes amicably.

You will then have to serve one set of the claim and one set of the supporting evidence on your neighbour within 14 days of filing your claim. After you have done so, you must file a declaration of service in the CJTS with proof of service. Some examples of what can count as proof of service include:

  • A Singpost registered post slip, or
  • A form signed by your neighbour to acknowledge that he/she has received the relevant documents.

Your neighbour may opt to settle the dispute using the e-Negotiation service on the CJTS without having to go to court. You and your neighbour can then negotiate between yourselves. If you and your neighbour are unable to come to a settlement via e-Negotiation, both of you will have to attend the PTC. Attendance is compulsory.

If you fail to attend the PTC, the court may continue proceedings and dismiss your claim. On the other hand, if it is your neighbour who fails to attend, then the court may make a default order against your neighbour that’s in your favour.

At the PTC, the tribunal judge may order either you or your neighbour to attend counselling sessions. The judge may also require both of you to attend mediation sessions. You or your neighbour may choose to do so online by using the service e-Mediation on the CJTS, where a court-appointed mediator will help you both in settling the dispute.

If you and your neighbour manage to settle the dispute successfully through e-Negotiation or e-Mediation, you will not have to go to court. You may then withdraw your claim or apply for a consent order online through the CJTS as well. A consent order is a court order that confirms the agreement between the parties, and is legally binding.

If the dispute still has not been resolved even after attending the counselling or mediation sessions, the case will be fixed for a hearing. A Notice of Hearing will be issued to you and your neighbour to attend the hearing. The hearing will take place at the CDRT on a specified date and time. Like the PTC, attendance at the hearing is compulsory.

Can a Lawyer Represent You For Community Dispute Resolution Tribunals Matters (CDRT)?

Lawyers are not to represent you (or your neighbour) in court for CDRT. This is unless all parties have agreed that legal representation is allowed. However this arrangement is still subject to the court’s approval.

What Orders Can the Community Dispute Resolution Tribunals (CDRT) Make?

If the CDRT finds in your favour, the CDRT can make a variety of court orders against your neighbour, depending on what is necessary for your case. The CDRT may order:

  • Damages: Your neighbour will be ordered to pay you a sum of money (but not more than $20,000)
  • Injunction: Your neighbour will be ordered to stop doing something (e.g. stop littering)
  • Specific performance: Your neighbour will be ordered to do something (e.g. remove bulky items from the corridor)
  • Apology: Your neighbour will be ordered to apologise to you
  • Or any other order to give effect to the above orders

In deciding whether it is just and equitable to make a particular order, the CDRT will consider the impact of the order on your neighbour, those living with your neighbour and those who may reasonably be affected by the order.

The CDRT will also consider what reasonable persons living in Singapore can tolerate as ordinary instances in their daily lives, as well as any other matters that the CDRT deems fit.

What Can You Do If Your Neighbour Does Not Abide by the Community Dispute Resolution Tribunals’ (CDRT) Orders?

Apply for a special direction

A CDRT order is just like any other court order and has to be complied with. If your neighbour does not abide by the CDRT’s orders, you may consider applying for a special direction against him/her. If you choose to do so, you will have to pay $100 in filing fees.

Under the special direction, your neighbour will be required to comply with the order that has been made against him/her within a specified time. Failing to do so without reasonable excuse may result in a fine of up to $5,000, up to 3 months’ imprisonment or both.

In the case of a continuing offence, he/she may face an additional fine of up to S$1,000 for every day or part of the day during which the offence continues after conviction, capped at $10,000.

For more information on how to apply for a special direction, you may refer to the Singapore Courts’ website. 

In one particular neighbour dispute, a 42-year-old stall assistant had a court order obtained against her for creating excessive noise. She was ordered to pay $1,833 in damages in monthly instalments of $300 to her neighbour and put rubber stoppers on her furniture to prevent them from creating excessive noise when they were being shifted around. The stall assistant paid the first instalment and defaulted on the rest, and a special direction was made against her in March 2017.

She then made two tranches of payment. However, there was still an outstanding sum of $933 left unpaid in January 2021. She also failed to put rubber stoppers on her furniture. The stall assistant was in breach of the special direction for at least 4 years. Consequently, she was fined $1,000.

Apply for a third-party to enter into a compliance bond

If you choose to apply for a special direction, you may at the same time apply for a third-party to enter into a compliance bond. You will have to pay an additional $100 in filing fees.

Under the compliance bond, the third-party will have to ensure that your neighbour complies with the special direction. The application for a third-party to enter into the compliance bond will have to be served on him/her. He/she will then have to attend a PTC and a hearing (if applicable) before the CDRT will decide whether to order him/her to enter the bond.

If the third-party is required to enter into the bond, the CDRT may also impose conditions or give directions to him/her to ensure that your neighbour will comply with the special direction. If the third-party fails to comply with the court order to enter into the bond, he/she may be fined up to $2,000.

If your neighbour does not comply with the special direction, the third-party will have to provide sufficient explanation on why their bond should not be forfeited. If sufficient evidence is provided, their bond may not be forfeited in full.

For more information on how to apply for a third-party to enter into a compliance bond, you may refer to the Singapore Courts’ website.

Apply for an exclusion order 

If your neighbour still does not comply with the special direction, you may consider applying for an exclusion order against him/her. To do so, you will have to pay another $100 in filing fees.

An exclusion order made by the CDRT will cause your neighbour to be excluded from his/her home for a period of time. Just like previous orders that the CDRT can make, the CDRT will consider the impact of the exclusion order on your neighbour, those living with your neighbour and those who may reasonably be affected by the order, when deciding if it will be just and equitable to issue the exclusion order.

The CDRT will also consider what reasonable persons living in Singapore can tolerate as ordinary instances in their daily lives, as well as any other matters that the CDRT deems fit.

If your neighbour fails to comply with the exclusion order without any reasonable excuse, he/she may face a fine of up to $5,000, up to 3 months’ imprisonment or both. In the case of a continuing offence, he/she may face an additional fine of up to S$1,000 for every day or part of the day during which the offence continues after conviction, capped at $10,000.

For more information, you may wish to refer to our article on how to apply for an exclusion order. 

While the CDRT is able to make orders which are enforceable against your neighbour to settle the dispute, you should file a claim under the CDRT only as a last resort when all other self-help options, such as mediation, have been exhausted.

It is also recommended that you consult a lawyer if you are unable to successfully deal with an errant neighbour on your own. Although the lawyer may not be able to represent you in the event that you file a claim under the CDRT, the lawyer can still advise you on your rights and other possible courses of action.

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