In what seems to be a totally unprecedented legal case, a Pennsylvania couple has taken their next door neighbor to court in order to try and force him to buy their home, after the man was previously convicted of sexually assaulting their daughter.
The highly unusual lawsuit was picked up by the Associated Press, which reports that the couple claim they are “under duress to move” because they feel that they cannot live next door to the man any longer, saying that to do so is “ultra-hazardous” to their child’s well-being. According to the report, the parents further state that their $300,000 home is now “virtually unmarketable” due to the presence of their neighbor, who is registered as a sex offender.
The case dates back to September 2011 when the neighbor in question, one Oliver Beck, pled guilty to indecently assaulting the couple’s daughter, who was aged under 13 at the time. Following his conviction, Beck was sentenced to and served a three-to-23-month jail term. However, the man has since been released from jail on probation, and has returned to live next door to his victim again.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Beck feels that he shouldn’t be forced to buy his neighbor’s home. His lawyer has challenged the case, saying that it’s illegal to force someone to buy a property when they don’t want to.
However, the child’s parents believe that there may already be a legal precedent for doing exactly that. Back in 1998, the Pennsylvania state appeals court ruled that a plaintiff whose home was located next to a toxic-waste dump had the right to collect damages after being unable to sell the property. Obviously, having toxic-waste next door is a different kettle of fish to living next to a convicted sex offender, but if the couple can prove that their home’s value has diminished or is now ‘unmarketable’, they could well have a case.