Nuisance from neighbours is a serious and common problem throughout the world. Researchers from the Centre for Public Order and Safety, attached to the Faculty of Law of the University of Groningen, have come up with an idea for tackling nuisance neighbours sooner and more effectively. Their idea is one of the fifty best ideas in a global competition for the Innovative Justice Award, organized by the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law. Public votes could secure the researchers from Groningen a place in the final. Voting is possible from 7 until 18 October via the Innovating Justice website.
Loud noise, stench and endless streams of day and night-time visitors can ruin the lives of people living in a neighbourhood, causing permanent stress, insomnia and other serious health problems. But landlords of these ‘neighbours from hell’ are only willing to apply to the court for an eviction order once the situation gets completely out of hand. Eviction is an expensive and unsatisfactory solution. Evicting people from their home is seen as a drastic measure and so notice of eviction can only be applied for at a late stage. By then, victims have usually been terrorized by their neighbours for years, with all that this entails. Eviction also leads to existential problems for the family causing the nuisance. Many of them have serious, multiple problems, which will only get worse after being evicted.
The new approach devised by the researchers from Groningen involves responding differently to the nuisance an earlier stage. Both parties stand to benefit if specific rules of conduct are imposed on the nuisance neighbours and they are offered help before it is too late, with the court playing a central role.
‘This innovative idea will save money’, say researchers Michel Vols and Jan Brouwer. ‘An eviction costs around € 60,000, and this is without taking the knock-on costs into consideration. If people become homeless, their children are put under supervision and placed with other families. And then there are the long-term costs of the neighbours’ suffering. The total costs can run into hundreds of thousands of euros’.
Public votes could secure the Groningen researchers a place in the final. To cast a vote, visit the Innovating Justice website between 7 and 18 October. The site has more information about the proposal.
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