She has six weeks to evict her tenants. If she does not do so, Henriët van den Beld must pay the municipality of Heerde 20,000 euros. An escalated neighborly dispute thus takes on dramatic forms for her. Evicting her tenants, says her chargé d’affaires, she can’t do that at all. But don’t pay either.
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Ever since new neighbors moved into the building a few years ago with a sex establishment a little further on, the Wapenvelder Zand has been at war. Van den Beld and her tenants and the newcomers can’t get along or see each other. Again and again they get into each other’s hair. The magnitude of the consequences of the quarrel is now becoming painfully clear.
When her mother died in 2009, Van den Beld inherited her former business premises in the outskirts of Wapenveld. For many decades it has consisted of five apartments. She lives in one of them herself, and rents out the other. However, the new neighbors discovered that the zoning plan only allows for one home. They demand that the municipality put an end to the illegal situation.
So demolish it, or convert it into one home. For more than two years, this has hung over her as a doomsday picture, ever since the municipality imposed a penalty on her. She hoped it would end with a fizzle and a court ruling last year seemed to confirm that hope. However, now that the highest administrative court – the Council of State – has ruled on appeal, she knows that it is very serious.
Isn’t it going too far to demand that she vacate her homes and evict the tenants? “It is quite something to lose the roof over your head”, was considered during the session.
However, the municipality may indeed do so, the court has now decided. Rules are rules. If someone requires the municipality to comply with them, then they should enforce the municipality. The public interest of this outweighs the consequences for Van den Beld and its tenants, the court said.
Front left the former business premises with five apartments, right the building of the new neighbours. Photo: Henri van der Beek
The period that Heerde had linked to the penalty has now started immediately: the apartments must be vacated within six weeks, Van den Beld has been told. The fact that two tenants have been living there for more than twenty years does not change that.
The municipality puts her in an impossible position, responds Jan Kaiser, who represents her interests as ‘regional ombudsman’. She can’t cough up that 20,000 euros anyway, he tells the municipality: ‘She is financially on the edge of the abyss, partly due to the high energy costs. The costs of the legal proceedings are therefore borne by me personally.’
If she succeeded in evicting her tenants, she would lose her income ‘and she would fall into poverty’, Kaiser predicts. But within six weeks this will be impossible at all, he says. Due to the legal protection that tenants enjoy, they can live there for another two years anyway, he emphasizes. ‘Moreover, I understand that they do not want to move and Henriët does not have the resources to make this legal work.’
Henriët van den Beld and her representative Jan Kaiser. Photo: Henri van der Beek
He calls on the municipality to show leniency and to rectify the ‘mistake in the zoning plan’ that was made earlier. ‘After all, the municipality has known for decades that several households are present in the building. The zoning plan, which did not allow a sex establishment, was also amended at the time for the sex establishment of the neighbour.’
For the municipality, however, it is important that the former business premises currently do not comply with the Building Decree, for example in the field of fire safety. Mayor Jan Willem Wiggers speaks of ‘a difficult puzzle’ in a response to the Stentor.
He finds it too easy to dismiss the six-week deadline as ‘too tight’. “It has been clear for a very long time that this is hanging over the market, but in that time little has been ‘moved’,” says Wiggers.
Ball at municipality?
As Van den Beld’s chargé d’affaires, Kaiser always puts the ball in the court of the municipality, the mayor notes. “He always says: ‘You have to legalize’. But he is the one who has to move and come up with a proposal.”
Even now that the clock is ticking, there are still opportunities, Wiggers makes clear. When the six weeks are over, the mayor and aldermen still have to make a collection decision, to which Van den Beld can object. Meanwhile, “the door is still ajar,” says Wiggers, if a plan is submitted to safely legalize the situation.