Owners of second homes at the Belgian coast are up in arms about the decision by the national security council to postpone allowing them to visit their properties.
Earlier this week one owner issued a writ against federal home affairs minister Pieter De Crem demanding damages of €50 for every day he was forbidden to visit his home at the coast.
Now at least three groups have been created on Facebook to gather together the owners of second homes at the coast to protest against the ban. The groups are private, but those that are visible have at least 1,000 members.
The government’s view is based on health care provision: in a time of pandemic, there is a risk that the hospital facilities in that part of West Flanders might be overrun by cases of Covid-19.
The property owners protest that the government is depriving them of the right to enjoy their property, and point out that nobody is suggesting that people renting apartments should immediately be allowed to come to the coast.
“We really don’t understand why visiting your second home is still prohibited,” Ann Willekens, owner of an apartment in Westende, told Het Laatste Nieuws. “There is no scientific reason for this as long as we adhere to the same safety regulations as elsewhere.”
She also pointed out that virologist Marc Van Ranst has often said in the media that travelling to a second home would not accelerate the spread of the virus, so long as people stay in their own bubble – the company of the people with whom they already share living arrangements.
The group of second home owners has petitioned the national security council for a change to the rule, and is now considering legal action of their own. They are now looking for legal representation for a class action suit alleging they are being deprived of property rights, guaranteed by Article 16 of the Belgian constitution.
“On the basis of reactions so far, I would say there are about 300 people interested,” Willekens said.