How to Make Your Neighbours (And HDB Officials) Love You in 12 Easy Ways

Maelyn Lagman

Maelyn Lagman

Finding a home can be difficult, and moving in may be more exhausting than you think, but nothing is worse than realising you’ve spent half of your life savings on a new home only to live next to a neighbour who slams their gate daily, fills the corridor with bulky bicycles or caged birds, or disposes of literally anything out their window, posing as a safety hazard for the rest of the block.

If that sounds like a nightmare to you, then you should make sure you’re not that kind of neighbour either.

You don’t have to clean your whole block twice a month like this middle-aged woman in Tampines. All you have to do is abide by HDB’s rules so you can keep your neighbours safe and avoid run-ins with the authorities.

Here are the 12 rules you should follow if you’re living in an HDB flat

#1: Do not obstruct the corridor with your personal belongings

That includes potted plants, bicycles, bird cages or what have you. Not only will clutter block the area’s accessibility, but it will also make it look aesthetically displeasing.

Cluttered corridors can be a fire hazard. | Source: AsiaOne

If you own a corner unit, you shouldn’t treat the generous space outside your house as your personal storage room. That means, keep your spare bicycle wheels and cleaning supplies inside.

Don’t get carried away with the space and start setting up your own cafe nook there, either. It is not your balcony; other people will still need to access it to get to a staircase or a lift. So those chairs and tables will have to stay in your kitchen.

Speaking of staircases, it should be clear of stuff too. Leaving anything there may hinder search and rescue attempts by authorities, and block you and your neighbours’ escape routes, in case of fire or other emergencies.

#2: Do not smoke in the corridor, stairwell or void deck

Despite the large warning labels on cigarette packaging, there’s no stopping those who want to smoke from smoking. And you know what, fair enough. You do you, as they say. Just don’t smoke in the corridor where the smoke can travel into your neighbour’s living room where their baby could be sleeping.

Smoking in HDB corridors and void decks is illegal.

You’re not allowed to smoke in the stairwell or void deck, either.

Aside from these places, you should be good.

#3: Do not walk around your flat in the nude with your windows wide open for all to see you

Singapore may be progressive about certain things, but not public nudity. That means, you have the liberty to be as au naturale as you want inside your home, but not when other people can see you.

Invest in some curtains instead and remember to draw them before stepping out of your clothes or towel. If you’re caught walking around nude in your flat and flashing your neighbours, you can be arrested and fined at least $2,000 under Section 27A of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.

#4: Do not keep a cat in your HDB flat

Sadly, you’re still not allowed to keep a cat in your flat. Though Nee Soon GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng tried really hard to get it reviewed by Parliament.

An excerpt of Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng’s Facebook post on why cats should be allowed in HDB. | Source: Facebook

According to HDB, cats are not allowed in flats because “they are generally difficult to contain” and “tend to shed fur and defecate or urinate in public areas when allowed to roam indiscriminately”. Oh, and they “make caterwauling sounds”, which can inconvenience your neighbours. (Not that dogs don’t shed fur or bark, but that’s beside the point.)

On the other hand, dogs are allowed to be kept in HDB flats. But only one. And only of a certain kind.

#5: Do not keep more than one dog, and only if they’re of a breed approved by HDB

You are allowed to keep only one dog in your flat, and it must be one of the 62 breeds that HDB listed here.

Here are the 62 HDB-approved dog breeds

AffenpinscherAustralian Silky TerrierAustralian Terrier
Bichon FriseBohemian TerrierBolognese
Brussels Griffon (Griffon Bruxaellois)Bichon HavaneseBorder Terrier
Boston Terrier
(a) Lightweight
(b) Middleweight
Cairn TerrierCavalier King Charles Spaniel
ChihuahuaChinese Crested DogChinese Imperial Chin
Chinese Temple Dog (Classic and Miniature)Coton de tulearCzech Terrier
Dachshund (Light and Miniature)Dandie Dinmont TerrierEnglish Toy Spaniel
Griffon BelgeGerman Hunting TerrierGriffon Brabancon
Hairless DogItalian GreyhoundJack Russell Terrier
Japanese Spaniel (Chin)Japanese SpitzLhasa Apso
Little Lion DogLakeland TerrierMaltese
Manchester TerrierMiniature PinscherMiniature Schnauzer
Norfolk TerrierNorwich TerrierPapillon
PekinesePomeranianPoodle
PugPoodle (Miniature)Schipperkee
Scottish TerrierSealyham TerrierShetland Sheep dog
Shih TzuSilky TerrierSmall Continental Spaniel
Small English TerrierSmall SpitzSmooth Fox Terrier
Toy Fox TerrierToy TerrierTibetan Spaniel
Volpino ItalianoWest Highland TerrierWire-Haired Fox Terrier
Welsh TerrierYorkshire Terrier

Your pet dog must also be licensed by the NParks Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS).

Other pets you can keep are fish, hamsters and birds.

#6: Do not throw your trash outside your window

It may seem more convenient to dispose of your trash out your window, but it’s not the cleanliest nor the safest way to do so.

Whether it’s smaller items such as a candy wrapper, tissue or noodles, or bigger ones such as books or bags of clothes, it is unsafe. It’s also littering, which is bad for the environment, and most importantly, illegal.

Speaking of throwing trash…

#7: Bag your trash before disposing of it in the rubbish chute

Put your trash in a bag before chucking them in the rubbish chute.

You can easily find rubbish chutes in HDB flats and blocks. If you live in an older flat, you’ll find a rubbish chute inside your home, and if you live in a newer flat, it will be near your floor’s lift. So why throw something out the window when trash disposal is already made so convenient?

That said, do put your trash in a bag before chucking them in there, even if it’s just your parcel package. But don’t put too much at one time or it will all be stuck there and you’ll have a whole other problem on your hands.

Remember: Do better!

#8: Do not hang dripping-wet laundry outside

Laundry hanging on bamboo poles is pretty much the picture of HDB living. It’s part of the HDB lifestyle and everyone does it. That’s not the issue.

Source: HDB

The issue is if you hang your laundry to dry outside and it is dripping wet. You should drain any excess water from your clothes before hanging them to dry so you don’t get the drying clothes on the floor below yours wet too.

#9: Keep things quiet from 10.30 p.m. to 7 a.m.

We get it: When you’re belting out Aerosmith’s I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing on karaoke with your BFFs, you may not feel time passing. But you really should because once the clock strikes 10.30 p.m., you have to keep things down. Be conscious of those around you and avoid playing music too loudly or holding social gatherings late into the night, like playing card games and drinking on a stairwell.

HDB residents playing card games at a Yishun HDB stairwell in the wee hours of the night until early morning. | Source: Mothership

Renovation works are also not allowed to occur between 10.30 p.m. and 7 a.m.

HDB has received 3,200 noise-related complaints a month in 2021, up from around 400 a month in 2019. Let’s all work together to bring that number down and be mindful of each other’s needs, i.e. rest, sleep, peace.

#10: Do not list your home for rent on Airbnb

If you don’t know this yet, now you do: short-term rentals are illegal. That means putting up your flat for rent to tourists on Airbnb is also a no-go.

The minimum rental period is 6 months for HDB flats (3 months for private housing) and they cannot be rented out to tourists. Read this quick guide on regulations for renting a property in Singapore.

#11: Do not use your flat as an office for your big-scale business

If you’re a freelance artist, photographer or writer, you are allowed to work from home. This is according to HDB’s Home-Based Small Scale Business Scheme.

If you bake or sew for a living, do hairdressing, or if you’re a nail technician and offer mani-pedi services, you’re also allowed to run your business at home.

You do not need to seek approval from HDB for the above-mentioned small-scale businesses.

Small home-based businesses are allowed to be operated in HDB flats, like manicure and pedicure services.

What’s not allowed, however, is businesses that involve the hiring of workers as third parties and non-resident employees are not allowed to work in the flat. A home-based business must be operated by the flat owner, though, or a registered occupant or tenant (with the owner’s consent, of course).

Massage services are not allowed in HDB flats as well. (If you want a massage at home, just get your family or friends and cook them up a meal as payment.)

Speaking of services…

#12: Do not have more than 3 tuition students at a time in your flat

Tuition centres exist for a reason, one of them being so you won’t have to set up one at home. So if you provide tuition services, you should only be teaching three students at a time to reduce the noise coming from the kids you’re teaching. Because we all know, studying or not, children can make a lot of noise.


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