Neighbour's grouses lead to frequent checks
IN THE six years since she moved to her flat, Mok Keat Har and her family have been visited by a variety of government agencies.
Housing Board officials, town council staff, officers from the National Environment Agency (NEA), the police and even the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) have been to the Geylang HDB maisonette.
All because of a smell that a neighbour insists permeates from her flat.
The agencies have found nothing.
Madam Mok, 49, said the visits are the result of a dispute with a neighbour and that the latter is making complaints to harass her and her family.
She added that the officials' visits are upsetting.
Last month, the two neighbours signed an undertaking after mediation at the Community Mediation Centre (CMC).
According to the agreement, the next time Madam Mok's neighbour feels something is amiss, she should arrange with Madam Mok to visit her flat to trace the source of the smell, instead of calling the different agencies.
But within days, officials were back at Madam Mok's flat for yet another visit.
An exasperated Madam Mok said: "We have done nothing wrong and even accepted the agreement.
"I don't know what to do when my neighbour doesn't adhere (to the agreement)."
The situation was especially difficult two years ago, after her father was diagnosed with cancer. Madam Mok was then already struggling with her mother's cancer.
"I was rushing from work to the hospital, where my father was receiving treatment.
"And then, I would rush home because my frazzled mother would say the police were at my flat," she noted.
Madam Mok lives in the flat with her husband, parents and her son, 13.
"The whole situation has made our whole family paranoid and it's very unpleasant," she said.
"We do burn incense and my husband smokes at home but there is nothing illegal about doing that."
She even gave the agencies the incense cones that her family uses and said her husband smokes in her flat, not along the corridor.
The New Paper on Sunday asked the various agencies, from the HDB and the town council to the CNB, police and NEA about the visits.
CNB said it "views every piece of information seriously and thorough investigations will be carried out".
NEA said it could not comment due to operational sensitivities. Other agencies declined to comment.
The dispute started within months of them moving in, said Madam Mok.
"First came complaints about the clothes we hung out to dry along the common corridor, then the plants and my son's bicycle.
"Then came complaints of second-hand smoke."
Until then, her parents had been exchanging pleasantries with her neighbour's husband.
However, all that changed when the visits by the HDB and town council officials intensified.
"One of the officials let slip it was my neighbour.
"I don't understand why she keeps doing this," she said.
The New Paper spoke to the neighbour and she readily said she was the one who contacted the authorities.
She is also named in the copy of the mediation documents Madam Mok has.
"Can't you smell that strange smell?" said Foo Ching Lian, who is in her 50s.
At that point, this reporter was unable to detect any unusual scents in the air.
However, Madam Foo said the smells have ruined her own family's peace and well-being.
Madam Mok, who runs her own business, said the constant stress has taken a toll.
Her parents, both of whom are retired, said they are constantly worried about people visiting their flat and the suspicious looks other neighbours would give them.
Said Madam Mok: "I have done nothing wrong but I went for the mediation agreement anyway because I wanted to settle this. I don't know what to do."
THE NEW PAPER