Singaporeans who live in fear of their neighbors from hell now have some form of respite – this comes in the form of the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals (CDRT), the brainchild of outgoing Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong.

Starting today, CDRT will have the power to haul to court any neighbors who are exceedingly noisy or hard to live with if mediation fails to resolve the issues.

The tribunals were formed to take on recalcitrant offenders who are generate excessive noise, smell, smoke, light, vibration, littering or interfere in some ways with their neighbor’s living in their residence.

Costs for the proceedings in these tribunals will be lower than other courts so that more people will have access to them. Filing an application at the CDRT will cost $150, whereas an application at a District Court will cost $190. CDRT’s total cost is estimated to be $200, compared to the $510 at a District Court. There will be no lawyers involved in the process as all proceedings will be judge-led.

Previously, neighbors would turn to the Community Mediation Centre (CMC) if they could not resolve disputes either on their own or with the help of grassroots leaders. But the CMC cannot issue legal orders, and there is little the authorities can do if the neighbours do not want to make up.

The CDRT, however, can issue a special directive to the offending party to comply with the court order. Breaching that directive could lead to the party being fined up to $5,000 or jailed for up to three months for a first offence. The tribunals can also order neighbours to go for compulsory mediation.

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