When you choose to live in a Housing Development Board (HDB) flat, you are making the subconscious decision to live with many strangers as neighbours. It is part of the old HDB’s initiative in continuing community growth after Singaporeans were moved from their kampongs and cramped living conditions into HDB flats. That community spirit was crucial to the on-going development of Singapore as a young nation as it was being populated with people from varied nationalities and beliefs.
Fast forward to the present and while that kampong spirit may have dwindled in some communities, the measures put in place by HDB to secure a relatively harmonious living condition in the flats continue to be in effect. Over the many generations, these rules have helped shape and reinforce the safe living conditions enjoyed by Singaporeans of different races and cultures.
However, with the influx of foreigners who are taking up Singapore Permanent Residency status, these rules have never been more important.
Moving to a different country is scary and this can get rather overwhelming for the New Citizen who after securing his HDB flat, suddenly finds himself confused with all the Do’s & Don’ts.
The rules put forth by HDB, fortunately, are basic considerations everyone should observe when living in any sort of settlement.
Failing to comply with any of these rules can and most probably will get you in trouble with HDB so it is best to pay careful attention to them.
• Do not urinate in the lifts: You would think this is common sense, but obviously it’s happened enough times for HDB to enforce this ruling. Lifts are public property and it is used by the hundreds of people who live in a single flat. Urinating in the lift is not only inconsiderate but disgusting. There are security cameras in place in most lifts now so it will be easy for HDB to catch perpetrators. There are no exemptions to this rule so even if your child has to go, make sure he waits until you are home.
• Keep common areas free of obstruction: Common areas include lift landings, corridors, staircase landings and any other area where human traffic is constant. This is especially important if you are moving big and bulky objects from the void deck up into your apartment. Do not stack all your items at the lift landing where you end up blocking other people from walking or taking the lift. Also, do not display large and obstructive items along the corridors. Very big potted plants with overgrown weeds are considered obstructions as well as a hazard as they may be breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other undesirables.
• Wet laundry: HDB does not allow you to hang wet laundry on the bamboo poles or dripping mops outside the house. After clothes are washed, make sure they stop dripping before you hang them out to dry. Dripping water causes an inconvenience to people walking through the flats. It is also a safety hazard as people may slip and fall. You may also ruin the clothes of your neighbours living on the floors below you.
• Garbage: Old flats are equipped with a rubbish chute while residents of new flats have a shared chute usually near the lifts on their respective floors. It is required for you to bag all rubbish before you throw it down no matter the type of flat you’re in. Also, do not throw burning items down the chute as this will become a fire hazard.
• Noise: Keep your noise levels down. Noise is derived from but not limited to a house party, television, radio or even faulty air-conditioning. Most neighbours are tolerant of some noise, if it’s an occasional party or a gathering during festivals but if the noise levels are an everyday occurrence, your neighbours are at liberty to lodge a formal complaint to HDB if you refuse to turn it down. Be considerate and lower your volume especially in the evenings. If you are carrying out renovations, you have to abide by HDB’s rules found here.
• Vandalism: This is illegal everywhere in Singapore. Vandalism includes graffiti, destruction of public property and any unauthorized ‘changes’ made to government property. This offence is punishable by fines, imprisonment or both.
• Do not throw objects from your flat: Any object thrown from a height high enough can become a lethal weapon. As the amount of human traffic is high around HDB flats, do not throw anything out the windows or you might hit someone and injure them fatally.
• Pets: Ensure your pets do not disturb your neighbours. If it is a dog, make sure it does not bark too often. Muzzle it if necessary, especially at night. If your pet has to be caged, keep the cage indoors and not outside your apartment. This is especially important for bird cages. If you are walking your pet, keep it on a leash and when it does its business, it is your responsibility (also legally obligated) to clean it up.
• Dangerous displays: Keep your plants off window ledges, balconies, parapets of common corridors and anywhere else where it may be easy for them to get knocked off. Do not attach laundry brackets to the parapet or hang potted plants above the parapet. Plants can be neatly displayed along the corridor on the floor but should not obstruct the walkway. Bamboo poles are to be properly placed in the appropriate location, usually out the kitchen window. Do not attach them in a criss-cross manner.
It is unfortunate that HDB had to enforce these rulings over time as it is the responsibility of the resident to make sure that he/she is not an inconvenience to his neighbours, not HDB’s.
However, HDB is the overall landlord and while they would prefer not to mediate, they will if the situation escalates.
But practicing good etiquette should not be a result of rules and regulation. It is the responsibility of every person, regardless of whom you share living areas with.