Burenrechter: state-of-the-art resolution for neighbour disputes

Courts do not have to be slow, formalistic and expensive. The Dutch Council of Judiciary (Raad voor de Rechtspraak) wants to show how adjudication can move online, become much more user-friendly and can effectively intervene in legal problems that many people experience. HiiL’s lab has been facilitating judges to design a prototype for an innovative website interface called: ‘Burenrechter’.


Courts go online and come to neighbourhoods

Burenrechter is envisioned as an online platform where people who face disputes with their neighbours can login and describe their issues. After the issues have been documented, Burenrechter suggests a dialogue between the parties involved to negotiate a solution. This solution is guided by questions that are designed to empower neighbours to solve their problem together.
The second step in the conflict resolution only takes place if a resolution is not yet reached between the parties in the first phase. A mediator then joins the platform to comment on the dialogue. In case the dispute persists, a judge would login and study the documented story and its progress. This is then followed up by a personal visit from the judge to resolve the conflict, either through a settlement, or a binding decision. The prototype of Burenrechter has already been approved by the Dutch Council of Judiciary and the Ministry of Justice. The project is at the pilot stage and has been tested with real life cases in 2014.

Process design

HiiL developed Burenrechter together with judges from courts in Utrecht and Amsterdam. The police, neighbourhood mediators, social housing companies and IT specialists all gave their input in a scrum process in two-week long sprints. Using this input, teams from HiiL and the courts created all the necessary elements of a working prototype. In cooperation with Modria, a leader in online-dispute resolution in Silicon Valley, a website was developed to host the Burenrechter platform.
People know that living next to each other can be difficult. They also seem to understand that when issues arise, it is best to solve these in an effective, low-cost and accessible way. This is exactly what the Burenrechter platform intends to provide.