Oss resident may keep his caravan-pitch after the municipality’s ‘extinction policy’ is set aside

On January 14th 2016, the district court of Oost-Brabant decided in favour of a traveller from Oss who’s wish was to continue renting the caravan pitch of his deceased mother. Through its decision, the court set aside the policy devised by the municipality of Oss to extinguish mobile sites. In this case, the Public Interest Litigation Project (PILP), intervened by way of opinion letter concerning the relevant human rights standards. The plaintiff was represented by lawyers from Kennedy van der Laan, working on a pro bono basis.

The municipality of Oss had intended to evict the plaintiff and permanently remove the caravan from the site under their extinction policy of mobile sites initiative. In doing so, the municipality failed to consider his registration as new owner of the caravan and the fact he and his mother maintained a joint household. Furthermore, the municipality failed to consider his cultural rights as a traveller. In his decision, the judge found there was indeed a sustainable joint household and therefore assigned the claim in favour of the plaintiff. This claim maintained the ongoing rental agreement.

The PILP’s Coordinator, Jelle Klaas, is satisfied with this decision, which confirms the plaintiff’s rights. “Once again, it is made clear for both caravan occupants and municipalities that the ‘extinction policy’ cannot be executed in this way.” However, he is critical of the courts’ failure to reference any of the human rights violations raised by counsel, particularly as they seem to have had an impact.

Due to its human rights implications, the case has been taken on by the PILP. In its letter to the court, the PILP explained why the culture and identity of travellers are essential considerations in devising and enforcing any caravan-related policy. What is at stake is not only the plaintiff’s right to rent, but his or her human rights including the right to respect of one’s home, private and family life (Article 8 ECHR), the prohibition of discrimination (Article 14 ECHR), and the right to protection of property (Article 1 Protocol I to ECHR). The PILP also emphasised the findings of the Netherland Institute for Human Rights who called the extinction policy of Oss discriminatory.

Extinction policy

There has been no unified national policy concerning travellers’ camps since the abolition of the Caravan Act (“Woonwagenwet”) in 1999. For clarity, the director of the former Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment put forward five possible policy options for municipalities concerning the regulation of caravan-pitches. The first policy option is the zero-option policy, also known as the extinction policy, which aims to remove all caravan sites. Municipalities can apply this policy by removing caravan sites when they become vacant, or by offering regular housing to travellers living in caravans.

You may consult the following sources for more information:

– The decision of the Court of East-Brabant January 14th 2016, ECLI:NL:RBOBR:2016:2.

– The press release of the court, January 14th 2016.

– The point of views of the PILP on the extinction policy and human rights, in the guidebook that has been written for municipalities.

– The entire PILP-file ‘Extinction policy travellers’ camps’.