Court: Gas firm must pay for earthquake damages, housing market collapse

Dutch gas firm NAM has to compensate residents of the earthquake area in Groningen for the decline in the house prices, even if the homes do not yet show any physical sings of damage or have not been sold yet.

The court in Assen made that ruling on Wednesday, according to a court press release in the hands of Dagblad van het Noorden.  The court finds it likely that the decreasing value of the homes in the area is the result of earthquakes caused by gas extraction. The court also ruled that the damages - depreciating property value - is present regardless of whether or not the homes have been sold.

"In this case the court concludes that the earthquake risk, and with it the depreciating value, can be noted as permanent or sustainable", according to the court. "Fluctuations in the housing market in the earthquake zone or the by NAM expected positive effects of their actions do not affect the existence of the depreciating value. There are no reasons for the damage not to be estimated now, whether or not the property is sold."

The lawsuit was filed by foundation Waardevermindering door Aardbevingen Groningen, or Depreciation through Earthquakes Groningen in English. The foundation represents about 900 homeowners and 12 housing associations who want compensation from NAM. According to the foundation, the homes in Groningen are becoming less and less valuable because of the gas drilling in the area.

NAM has been compensating homeowners for depreciating property values for some time, but only after the house was sold.

The full court press release can be seen here