Woman who stopped paying TC charges in 2017 convicted, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Woman who stopped paying TC charges in 2017 convicted

A Housing Board resident who stopped paying service and conservancy charges because she was unhappy with Nee Soon Town Council found herself in court over unpaid bills amounting to $565.50.

Chan Geok Eng failed to pay town council fees from March 2017 to July 2018.

Despite getting letters of demand, she stopped paying the charges because the town council did not carry out her wishes to dispose of shoes and potted plants that her neighbours had placed along the common corridor.

To date, Chan owes the town council $3,040.70, according to a court judgment regarding her conviction that was published on March 16.

Under the Town Councils Act, the owner or tenant of a flat who fails to pay charges or interest owed to the town council within 14 days from the date a written demand is served on him can be fined up to $1,000.

Chan, who was self-represented, was found guilty of the offence following a trial.

In the judgment, District Judge Wong Li Tein noted that the failure to pay town council charges was a strict liability offence.

This means Chan would be found guilty of the offence as long as the prosecution could show that she refused to pay the charges. Her state of mind at the time of the offence need not be proved.

Judge Wong said it was not open to Chan to choose to pay only if she felt that the town council had served her up to her personal expectations.

The judge said the fees are levied on everyone living in the area equally because they go towards the maintenance and improvement of common property, which Chan had been using.

“If residents may refuse to pay conservancy and service charges based on their own assessment of whether the town council has served their personal interests satisfactorily, it will create problems which affect the community as a whole,” said Judge Wong.

Chan lives in a flat along the common corridor. Her neighbours moved into the adjacent corner unit in 2017. The neighbours placed a shoe cabinet under the windowsill of Chan’s unit. Across the window, a few potted plants were placed on custom shelves.

After Chan lodged a complaint, officers from the town council inspected the flats but did not remove the neighbour’s items because a safety allowance of at least 1.2m was maintained.

The town council’s assistant general manager, Mr Eddie Ng, testified during the trial that because no fire safety regulations had been contravened, the town council was unable to take any action against the neighbours.

Mr Ng added that Chan wanted the town council to “fine those idiots who littered (around) my corridor entrance for the past five years”.

Chan said her previous five sets of neighbours did not place their things outside her unit. She alleged that after her complaint, the neighbours threw dirty tissue paper into her unit. She called the police, but no action was taken against them.

She later heard grassroots committee members speaking to her neighbours, which made her upset because she did not know why they were getting involved in the dispute.

Chan also complained to Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, who was then Minister for National Development.

She claimed that because she often took the stairs, her neighbours started blocking the way with their bicycles or urinated there.

She told the court that she started complaining about “every small thing” to the Housing Board after that, as she wanted the “harassment” to stop.

Chan complained that the neighbours were breeding mosquitoes and that they played mahjong every weekend until the early hours, making a lot of noise.

The National Environment Agency did not detect mosquito breeding in the neighbours’ plant pots.

In response to The Straits Times’ queries, the town council said in a statement: “This case was not undertaken lightly, and was brought to court as a last resort.”

The town council said it had communicated with Chan over eight times in two years regarding the non-payment of the charges, and had also offered her an instalment plan. 

Its community liaison team, which links residents up with agencies that can provide financial or employment aid, tried to help Chan, but to no avail, said the town council.

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