Since moving into his Marsiling Lane three-room flat two years ago, Mr Azariah Thiagu, 31, has been sleeping in a room with damp floors and peeling paint.
Two months ago, it got so bad that he had to move out of the sixth-storey flat to stay with a relative in Toa Payoh.
"We can't sleep there because the ceiling plaster has been falling off in large patches. Insects are coming in because of the water.
"The smell is so bad. No matter what you spray or do, the smell is still there," Mr Azariah told The New Paper last week.
He claimed that the cause of their problem is an elderly neighbour on the 10th storey who wedges his showerhead outside his toilet window panes and keeps it running.
This goes on for hours at a time and the water splashes into the flats below, particularly the bedrooms perpendicular to the man's toilet.
Mr Azariah said: "I first found out it was him spraying water from his toilet window when it splashed on me in the middle of the night.
"I can't sleep when he does this. Sometimes it happens at 3 or 4am."
Mr Azariah's mother, Madam Sarah Kumary, 60, said the constant splashing of water had caused her room's ceiling to crack.
She spent $24,000 renovating the flat after buying it two years ago. But the clerk had to pay for repairs later to patch the ceiling.
To cope, she tries to keep the window closed but the water seeps through the walls and window sill.
"It's a real heartache because I've spent so much money on renovating this flat and now, not even two years later, it's like this. It's terrible," said Madam Sarah.
Madam Tee Kim Choo, a fifth-storey resident, also complains about water entering her flat. She calls her neighbour the "water-pouring uncle".
The 61-year-old housewife recalled an incident when her son accidentally left his laptop by an open window. She said: "Luckily for us, we saw the water splashing onto the laptop so we quickly closed the window.
"Can you imagine what would have happened to the laptop if we had not noticed the water?
"Many people have suffered so much and some of them can't stand it any more."
A Vietnamese housewife, Ms Nguyen Thi Anh Nguyet, living on the ninth storey said her family has faced this problem since moving in four years ago.
The 35-year-old, who is married to Singaporean Royston Tan, 52, said that just two months after they repainted the flat, her bedroom was damaged by the water seeping in.
"Every day there's water seeping through the wall. So I have to use a cloth to wipe it. If not, it's very unsanitary.
"My husband has tried going to his (the neighbour's) unit to talk to him but he never answers the door," she said.
Other neighbours told TNP that he also ignored them and they understand that he could be of unsound mind.
Madam Sarah said of her one encounter with the man: "I spoke to him and he said, 'This is not your flat. You can't do anything'."
She said she has raised the issue with HDB. Its officers and engineers have visited her flat to investigate the situation.
An HDB spokesman said that they have been trying to speak to the flat owner to try to resolve the issue.
When TNP went to the 10th storey unit last Thursday evening, the front door was open and a man who looked to be in his 60s was watching TV.
He declined to speak to us and became aggressive and chased us away.
Neighbours said that he lives with his two children who look to be in their 20s.
HDB trying to resolve issue since 2012
The Housing Board first received feedback from residents in Block 13, Marsiling Lane, about the spraying of water from a 10th-storey flat in November 2012, said its spokesman.
She said: “We understand that the flat owner was subsequently sent for psychiatric assessment.”
HDB received more complaints about a year later and has been trying in vain to help the owner resolve the issue.
“We have attempted to speak to the flat owner on numerous occasions, but to no avail as he refused to respond to us,” the spokesman said.
“We have also approached his children for help but they informed us that they are not able to stop their father’s behaviour.”
HDB said it would continue to work with the relevant agencies on this case.
It advised neighbours to try and resolve disputes amicably among themselves.
If the dispute persists, they should approach a Community Mediation Centre (CMC) or make a Magistrate’s Complaint to seek the court’s help in resolving the matter. Where the complaints involve mentally ill residents, HDB will usually engage the family and refer the case to a Family Service Centre or the Agency for Integrated Care for assistance.
A spokesman for the CMCs said that neighbours could apply for mediation but both parties would have to agree to it.
“Mediation is a voluntary process and if the parties involved are agreeable to consider mediation to resolve this issue, a mediation session will be arranged on a mutually agreed date and time for parties to discuss their issue,” he said.
Sembawang GRC MP Hawazi Daipi, who is in charge of Marsiling Lane, said: “I am aware of the case and have asked the agencies to provide assistance to the family of the resident (in the 10th-storey flat).
“Although the neighbours have been very patient and understanding, the staff from HDB, the Agency for Integrated Care and the medical personnel from Institute of Mental Health (IMH) are working closely to assist him.”
Wear & tear can damage flats
The New Paper showed an interior designer and contractor, Mrs Fanny Kok, photographs of the damage to some of the flats allegedly affected by the action of their neighbour upstairs.
Mrs Kok believes the root cause of the problem is not the water but the walls.
She said of the photo of Madam Sarah Kumary’s ceiling: “If old flats aren’t properly maintained, the wear and tear can cause cracks and even if it’s only a little bit of water, it can seep through.”
Noting that the damage was serious, she said: “It needs to be worked on.
“They should get someone to do it soon as the cement could fall from the ceiling and hurt someone.”
Mrs Kok said the upstairs neighbour must also do waterproofing and fix the floor.
As for pricing, she said it depended on the severity and HDB’s contractor, but estimated the total cost to be about $600.
She said that HDB might pay half of the amount under the Goodwill Repair Assistance Scheme.
This article was first published on Apr 28, 2015.
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