Greater deterrence is needed to prevent littering from residential flats
Singapore, 9 January 2023 – From the proposed implementation date of 1 July 2023, where in any proceedings it is proved that littering acts have been committed from a residential flat, the registered owners (or tenants of the unit, where the whole residential flat is leased), will be presumed to have committed the offence. The presumption can be rebutted by the owner/tenant by proving that he/she was not present in the flat at the time of the offence, by proving that he/she could not have been the offender or by providing the identity of a person reasonably believed to be the offender, to NEA within 14 days of being required to do so.
Presumption clause for littering from residential flats
2 Under the current Environmental Public Health Act 1987 (EPHA), there is an existing offence of littering under section 17(1) of EPHA, which covers littering from residential flats. Currently, flat owners are only required to provide information on the identity of every occupier of the flat at the time of the offence. Enacting the presumption clause will strengthen existing legislation by placing greater onus on owners and tenants to prevent such acts.
3 The presumption applies only where it is proved in any proceedings that the littering act has been committed from residential flats. NEA will ensure that the law is applied judiciously. Care will be exercised in investigating cases committed by young children, the elderly, and vulnerable groups. (Refer to Annex for Q&As on NEA’s enforcement approach.)
Existing efforts to curb littering from residential flats
4 Littering from residential flats is a serious offence, as it poses a danger to the public, dirties the environment, and threatens our public hygiene. From 2019 to 2021, NEA investigated an average of 29,700 high-rise littering feedback instances annually, which is an increase of about 77 per cent compared to the average of 16,800 high-rise littering feedback instances annually from 2016 to 2018. Over the same time period, NEA deployed an average of 2,400 cameras annually and conducted about 1,500 enforcement actions annually against persons caught for high-rise littering.
No. of tickets issued for high-rise littering
Total Number of High-rise Littering Enforcement Actions Taken
5 While we have laws to deter littering, including high-rise littering, NEA also strives to shape community norms to deter littering from residential flats. Since 2020, NEA has been placing standees displaying information on ongoing surveillance or localised statistics on offenders caught at HDB blocks with persistent high-rise littering feedback, to deter such acts. Town Councils also display posters jointly produced with the Municipal Services Office at HDB blocks, highlighting the environmental and social consequences of littering.
6 However, success in curbing high-rise littering has been incremental, despite the increase in camera deployment in recent years. Littering from residential flats may continue to rise with more flats, which are taller and denser, being built across the island. Greater deterrence is achieved by placing greater onus on flat owners and tenants.
7 Under EPHA, any individual who commits a littering offence is liable on conviction to a court fine of up to $2,000 for a first conviction, $4,000 for a second conviction and $10,000 for the third and subsequent convictions. The court may also impose a Corrective Work Order (CWO), requiring offenders to clean public areas for up to 12 hours. NEA will continue with its educational and enforcement efforts, to encourage members of the public to exercise social graciousness and take personal ownership in keeping Singapore clean.
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NEA’s Enforcement Approach on Littering from Residential Flats
1. Why is there a need for new regulations on littering from residential flats when there are existing laws? Should NEA focus on public education instead of new laws?
Littering from residential flats has been a persistent public health issue. NEA has been working closely with stakeholders such as Town Councils and Grassroots, on public education for littering from residential flats. Camera deployments are used at persistent littering hotspots, when multiple rounds of education and house visits have failed to address the littering issue. NEA complements camera deployments with the use of informational standees, to enhance deterrence and remind residents not to commit littering offences. Fines imposed by the Court are at $700 to 800 per offence, and most littering offenders face multiple charges.
Feedback has increased sharply from 2019 to 2021, with an average of 29,700 instances annually, compared to an average of 16,800 annually from 2016 to 2018. Hence, firmer action has to be taken to deter people from committing littering from residential flats.
2. What strategies has NEA employed to improve the littering situation from residential flats?
Beyond working with stakeholders on educating residents on littering, NEA has enhanced its interventions to better tackle littering and resolve cases expeditiously. These include substantially increasing the number of surveillance camera deployments, and streamlining investigation processes for swifter enforcement action against offenders. Data analytics has allowed NEA to identify littering hotspots to ensure more dynamic deployment of cameras, shortening the average waiting period for camera deployment by two weeks.
3. What if NEA enforces against the wrong person?
The presumption applies only where it is proved in any proceedings that littering from a residential flat has been committed. During investigations, NEA will ask the owner or tenant questions, including whether he/she was present in the residential flat when the offence was committed. Even if the owner or tenant provides information on the identity of the offender, this does not automatically mean that the named person can be prosecuted for the littering offence. Similarly to with current processes, NEA will investigate further on the veracity of the information provided.
4. What if the owners indicate that one of the rooms was rented out?
In such cases, the owner(s) will be the presumed offender. The presumption can be rebutted by the owner/tenant by proving that he/she was not present in the flat at the time of the offence, by proving that he/she could not have been the offender, or by providing the identity of a person reasonably believed to be the offender to NEA within 14 days of being required to do so. Depending on the information provided, NEA will conduct further investigations to ascertain the identity of the offender.
5. Will the new legislation be applicable to homeowners/tenants who are elderly or mentally/physically disabled?
NEA will be sensitive and enforce judiciously against offenders from such groups. NEA has in place an existing enforcement framework for the elderly and physically/mentally disabled offenders. The offender or his/her family members/relatives may write to NEA and provide relevant supporting documents. NEA will then fully review and consider the relevant circumstances of each case before taking any appropriate action against the owner(s)/tenant(s), which may include the issuance of a warning.
6. Who will NEA enforce against if there are multiple owners?
Every registered residential flat owner or tenant (where the whole residential flat is leased) will be subjected to the presumption clause, when a littering act is proven to have been committed from their flat. All flat owner(s)/tenant(s) should bear equal responsibility for preventing littering offences from their flats. They will be given the opportunity and time to prove that they did not commit the offence during investigation of the offence.
7. What is the response time given to the owner/tenant to provide information to NEA? What if the owner/tenant had genuinely missed NEA’s letter? Will they still be enforced against for the littering act or can they appeal?
Similarly, with letters issued for other offences, the owner/tenant will be given 14 days to respond. In the case of littering, they are given this time to rebut the presumption, by proving that he/she was not present in the flat at the time of the offence, by proving that he/she could not have been the offender, or by providing the identity of a person reasonably believed to be the offender to NEA. NEA will proceed to issue a summons to the presumed offender after the stipulated timeframe.
If the presumed offender missed the letter of intended prosecution, he/she may make representation to NEA and provide evidence as to why he/she missed responding to the letter of intent, e.g. air tickets/boarding passes to show he/she was overseas during the relevant period. NEA will assess the representation and if accepted, will withdraw the summons.
8. Will the new legislation, including the presumption clause, apply to private apartments such as condominiums?
The presumption applies if litter is thrown from a private apartment that is used for residential purposes and if the litter lands in a public place.