August 04, 2008

ONE resident's Mercedes Benz badge was ripped off and stolen. Another had a poster plastered on his front door, with the words 'Trouble Maker' on it.

Yet another resident's telephone stopped working. And when he went outside to check, he discovered that someone had cut his phone line.

Say hello to a new form of neighbourly harassment that has reared its ugly head in several condominiums around Singapore, following the en-bloc fever that began last year.

Upset by some of their neighbours' refusal to endorse en-bloc deals, which could result in instant windfalls for some owners, these condo bullies resort to cowardly acts of vandalism to torment their neighbours.

As one aggrieved resident put it: 'This is really uncivilised behaviour.'

Last week, it was reported that at least six cars had been vandalised at Laguna Park since en-bloc discussions began. They all belonged to residents opposed to an en-bloc sale.

In the wake of the Laguna Park incidents, Singaporeans living in other private estates are coming forward with similar horror stories. At least two other condominiums have supposedly been hit by such bullies.

Some of its residents told The New Paper on Sunday of bullying acts - some uncivil, others plain criminal.

One such resident is Mr Tan Keng Ann, who owns an apartment at Green Lodge estate, a condominium along Toh Tuck Road.

Some of the 80 apartment owners there have been pushing for an en-bloc agreement for years. But Mr Tan was among those who resisted.

'I don't even read some of the proposals that were put out, because I have no intention of selling,' the 60-year-old cosmetics distributor said.

He bought his apartment in 1984 and lived there for a decade before moving elsewhere. He has been renting out the apartment.

Mr Tan claimed that from late 2006, residents opposed to the en-bloc sale had become targets of a variety of pranks and bullying tactics.

In December that year, someone pasted a poster on his door with the words 'Trouble Maker', he said. At that time, no one was living in the apartment, as the previous tenant had just moved out.

'If I had a tenant, you can imagine how it might have affected my relationship with him,' he said.

In the same month, Mr Tan's neighbour, who also opposed the sale, woke up one morning to find the badge of his Mercedes Benz missing.

The two made police reports together. Mr Tan said the police came and took fingerprint samples from his neighbour's car.

The New Paper on Sunday could not reach his neighbour, who is on an overseas trip.

Mr Tan said: 'I feel very angry. If you have any problem, as a neighbour, you should come and talk to me, instead of resorting to such acts.'

Green Lodge's en-bloc attempts have so far gained the approval of about 70 per cent of owners, falling short of the 80 per cent required under law.

Mr Heng Chee Tong, 32, a civil engineer, who lives at Lakeview Estate along Upper Thomson Road, said someone twisted off the radio antenna of his Toyota Altis last August after he declined an en-bloc deal.

He spent $50 to fix it and made a police report.

Four neighbours who rejected the en-bloc sale told him their cars were scratched.

Another said his telephone line outside the apartment was deliberately cut, Mr Heng told The New Paper on Sunday.

'Why are (these culprits) trying to harass other people into selling their apartments?

'There shouldn't be any coercion into making a decision. We should be more civil about the whole exercise. But now, there is a spirit of animosity in our estate.'

Mr Heng said that pro-en-bloc neighbours who used to talk to him when they met in the lift have since turned cold or hostile.

Two en-bloc attempts so far - in January and August last year - by Lakeview Estate's residents have failed. Both had about 60 per cent support.

A nature lover, Mr Heng intends to stay put in his apartment.

'The location is so good. It is central, and it is close to MacRitchie Reservoir.'

Property agents contacted by The New Paper on Sunday said that tension from en-bloc discussions is nothing new.

Mr Andrew Lin, an agent, said: 'There will definitely be hostility, because some want to sell and some refuse to.'

Another agent Francis Ngiam said en-bloc meetings by residents have been known to be heated, with some residents even making banners to express their strong views.

However, both said that resorting to illegal acts, such as car vandalism, is still relatively rare here.

Psychologist Kit Ng, director of The Centre for Psychology, said these condo bullies are not like common vandals 'who go around carparks painting cars'.

He said these vandals are 'seeking to create fear in others by sending a message that 'something will happen to you if you don't comply'.

Dr Elizabeth Nair, who heads Work & Health Psychologists, said that anger can turn even professionals and well-educated people into bullies.

And when they are upset over a perceived attempt to ruin their chances of getting a windfall from a property sale, the anger could just cause them to lose their heads.

Elgin Toh, newsroom intern



Six cars belonging to residents were vandalised in the past two weeks. Two were damaged with corrosive liquid. Another had black paint splashed on it. Some cars were also scratched.

All the victims were opposed to the en-bloc sale.


Residents were sharply divided after an en-bloc agreement was proposed this year.

One meeting in May to elect a committee to take charge of en-bloc sale matters was disrupted by shouts and jeers.

An anti-en-bloc resident who asked 'too many questions' was silenced by pro-en-bloc heckling, prompting the chairman of the management committee to threaten to end the meeting.


Before an en-bloc meeting last December, anonymous letters were circulated to convince residents opposed to the sale that their blocks had bad fengshui, and would bring bad luck to residents.

A 73-year-old resident on the en-bloc committee also had the windscreen and bonnet of his car damaged.


En-bloc meetings last year were not pretty to watch. One resident said those in favour of the sale would 'shout and boo at dissenters, usually the older residents'.

'You come home from the meetings very stressed. We have lost all sense of value and respect for the elderly,' she lamented.