Shhh... or get taped


A new company helps Singaporeans plagued by noisy neighbours - by recording the culprits

It is an issue that bugs many in high-rise Singapore: having to put up with noisy neighbours.

In some instances, the situation even turns into a nasty spat.

Helping to make peace between warring neighbours is what Noise Busters hopes to do.

The business, started in January this year by freelance sound engineer C. Aswaran, uses professional sound-recording equipment to record the noise made by the culprits.

Mr Aswaran, 33, who lives in a four-room Housing Board flat, had put up with his noisy neighbours living upstairs for five months last year.

He recalls: "Every time I confronted them about the sounds of dragging furniture and thumping noise that went on late into the night, they would deny making the noise and we would be back to square one. It was very frustrating."


One day, he had had enough and set up his noise-recording equipment in his home and recorded the noise from upstairs over a few nights. He even created a detailed analysis of the sound levels in decibels to present to his neighbours.

Thankfully for him, they were apologetic when they heard the recordings and admitted that they did not realise how much a small noise in their home could be amplified for their neighbours below.

When Mr Aswaran posted his experience on Facebook and began getting requests for help from strangers, he realised many people had the same problem.

An HDB spokesman tells Life that more than 96,000 complaints have been made about inconsiderate behaviour in the past three years, with noise nuisance being one of the most frequent causes of disputes between neighbours.

A new Community Disputes Resolution Bill was passed in March this year, introducing trained civilian community wardens who will help settle the more than 70,000 noise disputes that are received each year by various agencies including HDB and the police. Cases of serious grievances will be referred to Community Mediation Centres.

Realising there could be a demand for his sound-recording services, Mr Aswaran decided to start a full-fledged business. He now charges upwards of $135 for a recording session in a client's home that can span three to eight hours.

The recordings and analysis of sound levels, he says, can be presented as evidence to neighbours or during mediation and tend to hold more water as they are obtained by an unbiased third party.

To date, he and his three colleagues have completed five of the nine cases they have taken on.

One of his clients, accountant Angela Lau, 30, says the recordings helped amicably resolve the noise disputes between her and the neighbours living above her.

She had previously talked to them on more than 10 occasions about the loud thumping sounds coming from their flat between 10pm and midnight, but they could not resolve the matter.

"After Mr Aswaran gave me the recordings that were done over a nine-hour period, I was able to speak to the family with clear evidence and clear up misconceptions they had that I was exaggerating the sound levels," she says.

"For me, $300 was a small price to pay to finally get some peace and quiet at night."

Two other HDB residents who are currently dealing with their own cases of belligerent and noisy neighbours say they would consider hiring Noise Busters.

Mr Seet Sing Wee, 23, who is unemployed and lives with his parents in a three-room flat in Bukit Batok, says: "My next-door neighbours sing karaoke for six hours at a time but because they do it in the day, the police say we don't have much of a case.

"Hopefully, getting concrete third-party evidence about how distressing the noise can be can help strengthen our case when we bring it up during mediation or in court."

Mr Seet says his family went for a round of mediation with his neighbours last August, but were not able to settle the issue. In June, he filed a magistrate's complaint. The case is still pending.

For real estate agent Judy Tan, 50, dealing with difficult neighbours is both physically and emotionally exhausting.

She says her neighbour next door often bangs her cabinets shut repeatedly and talks loudly in the corridor whenever she leaves her door open.

"I have to keep my door closed all the time to keep out the noise, which is sad given how small most HDB homes already are," she says.

"I'd be happy to pay for Noise Busters if need be, especially if it means I can finally live comfortably within the confines of my own home."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 16, 2015, with the headline 'Shhh... or get taped'. Print Edition | Subscribe