Singapore

Condo management sparks row by telling residents they can't smoke on their balconies

Residents of Upper Thomson Road condo angry after management tells them not to smoke in their balcony

A dispute is brewing at a condominium in Upper Thomson Road over whether residents can smoke on their own balconies.

The management agent of the Meadows @ Peirce recently sent out a circular telling residents they should not smoke in their balconies and window areas, in addition to common areas where smoking is prohibited by the National Environment Agency (NEA).

It cites a clause from the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act (BMSMA) that prohibits owners from doing anything that can be a nuisance to others.

The move triggered arguments on the residents' Facebook group over whether the management has a say in activities in private property.

GONE TOO FAR

Mr Ivan Wang is one resident who believes it had gone too far.

He said a lot of people think the management has overstepped its boundaries.

"But as usual, there are people who just feel like controlling what other people want to do," said Mr Wang, who is in his 30s and works in export sales.

"The definition of what is considered a nuisance is not clearly stated," he added.

Only when repeated reminders fail should they employ more hardball tactics. Ms Karen Law Krygsman, 46, a credit manager

Ms Karen Law Krygsman, 46, a credit manager, said: "Residents are blindsided as they have no idea of the context of the advisory.

"The management should send a friendly reminder to residents as a first solution. Only when repeated reminders fail should they employ more hardball tactics.Using the clause was heavy-handed and should not have been invoked so soon."

Some agreed with encouraging residents to not smoke in open-air areas but said homes were a different matter.

Ms Karen Chan, 45, who works in IT, said: "At the end of the day, the balcony is still someone's private property."

When The Straits Times called the management, a representative said the circular was meant to urge residents to be more considerate and a reminder of NEA guidelines on where smoking is forbidden.

The incident has touched on an issue that is growing heated as Singapore moves towards being a smoke-free nation.

This year, dozens wrote to ST on the issue of neighbours smoking in surrounding Housing Board flats.

NEA guidelines do not prohibit smoking in private residences.

Lawyers said condominium management committees may not be able to enforce rules based on the clause cited by the management of Meadows @ Pierce.

Mr Francis Goh, partner of law firm Eversheds Harry Elias, said there are no criminal penalties for breaches of the clause under the BMSMA, but the management has the option of creating a by-law.

It can then apply to court for an order to restrain the breach of the by-law and seek appropriate penalties for those who do so.
This was confirmed by BCA.

This can be done through a vote at a general meeting.
Every by-law made by the management is binding on its subsidiary proprietors, lessees and occupiers, said BCA.

But BCA said the management should seek legal advice to ensure the by-law is in line with the provisions of the BMSMA.

Residents of HDB flats are free to smoke on their balconies. Balconies in HDB flats are residents’ private property and are therefore not included in NEA’s list of non-smoking areas.

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