Noisy neighbours: 7 tips on how to handle them

Whether they live above, below or beside us, we may encounter noisy neighbours at some point in our lives, especially when we’re staying at home more often. 

Most of us have probably had some experience with unreasonable ones, like those who refuse to keep the volume down while singing karaoke, or stomp around their apartment wearing what sounds like giant clogs.

While we can hope to be blessed with friendly neighbours (or at the very least, indifferent ones), we need to be prepared for the possibility of encountering the more nasty ones.

Woman singing karaoke
It’s worse if your neighbour can’t sing well.

Whether you’re living in an HDB flat, condo or landed, here are a few tips that will come in handy if you find yourself facing a not-so-pleasant neighbour.

Be friendly

As the saying goes: you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

If you can establish a good relationship with your neighbours early on, they’ll probably be more willing to let things slide and not get on your case as much.

“I had a neighbour who quarrelled with pretty much everyone in my block — except for me,” says Catherine, a longtime HDB resident in Hougang. “I’m big on baking, so I always share my extra baked goods with my neighbours, and I think that helped me stay in his good books!”

If you’re going to have a party or renovation, consider letting your neighbours know beforehand with a promise to try to keep the volume down. They’re much less likely to complain if they’re prepared for the noise.

There’s also a higher chance that your neighbours will reciprocate the kind gesture, including reducing the noise level on their end.

Reach out to the noisy neighbours

Sometimes it helps to check in with your neighbour and hear them out first to resolve the issue. Try to understand the reason behind the noise level. They might even be unaware that it’s disturbing others.

Giving your neighbour a chance to explain can help prevent the disagreement from escalating to a full-on dispute.

Once your neighbour is done with their side of the story, calmly explain why you’re distressed by the noise.

Understandably, this is easier said than done. But it’s worth a shot. Everyone feels better after a good vent, and the same goes for you and your noisy neighbours. 

Keep your cool and rely on logic, not emotion

If you find that you’re dealing with someone who’s being unreasonable, the worst thing you can do is lose your composure. Keep your wits about you and counter your neighbour’s points calmly with logical arguments.

Bringing emotion into the argument and getting worked up about the situation will cloud your ability to respond effectively to your neighbour, not to mention it’ll also stoke further animosity.

Seek help from a grassroots leader

If you aren’t having any luck resolving the noise issue with your neighbour one-on-one, consider approaching your grassroots leader for help.

It often helps to have a neutral, third-party involved to provide an unbiased opinion in a tough, emotionally-charged situation.

You can contact your grassroots leader through your nearest Community Club (CC).

Go for mediation

Alternatively, you can opt for mediation at the Community Mediation Centre (CMC). During a mediation session, a trained mediator will be present to help facilitate the conversation between you and your neighbour, in the hopes of trying to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

The mediator is not there to provide the solutions or force ultimatums on either party. The aim is for both sides to come to a solution together.

Do note that the CMC is a voluntary mediation session, and each party has to agree to attend. The CMC has no power to compel either party to come to the table, or abide by the solutions discussed and agreed upon during the session.

Should you choose to go for mediation, you’ll need to pay a one-time administrative fee of $5. This is regardless of the number of mediation sessions you’re going to. And your neighbour won’t need to pay for it. 

Mediation is definitely cheaper and less draining than going to court. But if it doesn’t help solve the noise issue, a last resort would be to take your noisy neighbour to court. 

Take your noisy neighbours to a tribunal

The Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals (CDRT) aims to help neighbours resolve difficult disputes after they’ve exhausted the community mediation option.

Although it’s not a must to go through mediation before filing a claim, doing so is highly encouraged. This is because the CDRT may order both parties to go for mediation before hearing the case.

Before you jump into filing a claim at the CDRT, take note that doing so will severely escalate the dispute between yourself and your neighbour as it brings the court processes into the fray.

At the same time, ensure if your dispute is within the jurisdiction of the CDRT. You can only file a claim with the CDRT if your neighbour: 

  • Lives in the same building as you, or
  • Lives within a 100-metre radius of your home, and 
  • Is not living in the same place of residence as you
Person drilling
Your neighbour shouldn’t be drilling between 10.30 pm and 7 am.

In addition, the CDRT only handles certain types of interferences, such as: 

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

As with all court causes, bringing your noisy neighbour to court isn’t cheap. The filing fees alone can cost you at least $150, which excludes the court hearing fees. 

Given the high cost, lengthy process and potential of ruining your relationship with your neighbour, we recommend that you go for all informal avenues of resolution before going to court.  

Call the police and file a complaint if you need to

While it’s best to resolve disputes amicably (without resorting to the courts or authorities), you should not stand for any type of harassment.

If you feel harassed by your noisy neighbours, you should call the police and keep your distance from them as far as possible. The police will then come to get some details of the situation, including the identities of the parties involved. 

On the other hand, noisy disturbances are considered a non-arrestable offence. Instead of making any arrests, the police may advise you to file a Magistrate’s Complaint if you wish to press charges against your neighbours. 

If you found this article helpful, recommends Neighbour disputes and rows: what happens when things get heated and Loan shark harassment: 4 tell-tale signs when viewing HDB flats

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