British couple blasts Norwegian laws

A British couple’s dream of buying a farm in the Norwegian mountains turned into a nightmare, and now they’re blasting Norway’s strict agricultural real estate regulations and comparing them to those in Zimbabwe. 

Paul and Andrea Hodgkinson have launched a media campaign back home in England and appealed to, among others, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg,Crown Prince Haakon and the Dalai Lama, complaining that they feel cheated and harassed by the Norwegian regulation known as boplikt, which requires owners of some properties to actually live on them.

The Hodgkinsons, according to officials in Telemark County, didn’t abide by the regulations after first buying a mountain property in Fyresdal in 2006 with the intention of raising goats and horses and catering to the tourist market. A parallel dispute with the Norwegian highway authority reportedly ruined those plans, too, and now they fear the farm will sold out from under them. Paul Hodgkinson calls the Norwegian authorities’ actions “a disgrace,” and told the BBC (external link) that he feels “suicidal.”

The county officials, meanwhile, claim the couple were made aware of the regulations, given them in English and allowed plenty of time to either establish residence or sell the property voluntarily. “We have informed them about what’s involved with taking over agricultural property here in Norway,” Elin Skålid of Fyresdal township told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “It has been very difficult to communicate with the couple.”

Several other Norwegian officials, at various levels of the appeals process, agreed. When residence requirements weren’t met, the couple was given a deadline in 2009 to sell the farm. That wasn’t met. Now the county is forcing a sale, and the couple is reportedly living in a tent in Derbyshire.

Views and News staff