Photo credit: CALEB LAU

Flat owners will be presumed guilty in high-rise littering cases unless proven otherwise from Jul 1

Justin Hui

One of the oldest people on TikTok.

Published: 8 February 2023, 6:19 PM

The Government passed new laws in Parliament on Monday (Feb 6) that place greater responsibility on homeowners and tenants to prevent littering from their units.

Under the new amendments to the Environmental Public Health Act, homeowners or tenants who rent out the entire unit will be presumed to have committed any littering acts that originate from the unit starting from Jul 1.

The presumption can be rebutted by the owner or tenant within 14 days by proving that they were not present at the time of offence, that they could not be the offender, or by providing the identity of a person believed to be the offender.

In her opening speech in Parliament, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor said the changes are in response to a “persistent, growing issue” of high-rise littering that “blights our heartlands”.

She referred to the 60 per cent increase in high-rise littering cases investigated by the National Environment Agency (NEA), from 19,000 instances in the period from 2017 to 2019, to 31,200 cases from 2020 to 2022.

Despite NEA’s enforcement efforts, there were cases where the offender could not be identified because all occupants denied knowledge of the act. 

“This means that even with evidence that littering has been committed from a flat, NEA is unable to take enforcement action in such cases, which undermines deterrence,” said Dr Khor.

The presumption clause will take effect in cases where there is evidence clearly capturing the act of littering and the flat the litter came from. This would mostly be from footage captured by NEA’s enforcement cameras, but could also be from evidence submitted by members of the public.

Under the Environmental Public Health Act, the fine for littering is $2,000 for a first conviction, $4,000 for a second conviction, and $10,000 for subsequent convictions. The court may also impose a Corrective Work Order, requiring offenders to clean pubic areas for up to 12 hours.

Dr Khor said the current process of issuing advisories when feedback on high-rise littering is first received will remain, and special care will be exercised in investigating cases committed by vulnerable groups such as young children and the elderly.

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