By Ariffin Sha
In a blogpost, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, the Minister for National Development (MND), said that laws need to be amended to empower HDB to enter flats to investigate and carry out repairs. Implying that this amendment would allow HDB officers to enter flats without the permission of the flat owner.
“They refuse to allow entry by the HDB to the flat to investigate and carry out repairs. This delays the repair unnecessarily and meanwhile, the lower-floor residents suffer the inconveniences. We need to do more to help our residents who are inconvenienced by their neighbours who refuse to cooperate,” he wrote.
According to Mr Khaw, one of the most common dispute among HDB neighbours is when one encounters leaks in his ceilings. One out of every four of the complaints HDB receives today concern ceiling leakages. In most instances, good cooperation between neighbours will help to fix the leaks. But sometimes, it is not so straight forward and disputes unfortunately can drag on for weeks or even months.
Out of these complaints, close to 30% (2,800 ceiling leak cases) take no less than three months to resolve due to uncooperative neighbours. In some rare cases, the resolution of the ceiling leak problem could even take more than a year.
Mr Khaw finds this very unsatisfactory. "We need to do more to help our residents who are inconvenienced by their neighbours who refuse to cooperate. Minimally, HDB should be given the power to enter the flat for the purpose of carrying out the necessary investigations and repairs. We will need to amend the legislation to empower the HDB to do so."
The online response from citizens to Mr Khaw’s intentions have been largely unwelcoming as many expressed concerned over what seems to be an intrusion of privacy.
Commenting on Channel News Asia's facebook thread, Shuan Foo has articulated why he felt that the proposed laws were disrespectful to the homeowners - that the use of the term "empower" suggests that the owner of the flat has not rights to his/her flat.
Another notable point was raised by Ms Young who was worried about fraudsters who might dupe vulnerable old folks and even young children into letting them enter their flats using fake authorization passes.
Some, like Mr Teo, have even begun to question if they even are the owners of the flats they live in.
Mr Jorge also noted that while the principles behind the legislation may be sound, such actions might in the eyes of many be constituted to an intrusion of privacy, which can be avoided if there was goodwill among neighbours.
One of the schemes currently available to tackle this problem is the Goodwill Repair Assistance scheme which was introduced in 2011 to subsidise repair costs for residents.
Under the scheme, HDB will engage its term contractors to investigate the leakage and carry out the repairs. HDB will bear 50 per cent of the cost with the other half shared equally by the upper and lower floor flat owners. On average, flat owners pay about S$180 for each ceiling leak repair, HDB said, with about 140,000 households benefiting so far.
Some comments have also highlighted the competency of HDB officers attending to these cases.
While there is no details on what these proposed laws yet, other contentious issues regarding the proposed law include whether a warrant would be needed for MND officers or police officers to enter homes, and on what grounds the officers enter a flat without the owner’s express consent.
What are your thoughts on these proposed laws?