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The Tenants Defense Committee Condemns Proposed Ammendments to the Act on the Protection of Tenants’ Rights

Opublikowane 23/05/12 o godz.12:41 w kategorii English.
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The Tenants Defense Committee has submitted a negative opinion on proposed ammendments to the Act on the Protection of Tenants’ Rights. The opinion was sent to the Ministry of Transport, Building and Maritime Economy, responsible for this bill, and to members of the government, the press and various organizations.

It should be noted that many of the points in the draft bill were copied from a draft bill promoted by the Ministry of the Economy 2 years ago, which we also criticized. As a result, these criticisms were discussed in the Parliament and eventually the bill was dropped.  Now many of the same attacks on tenants rights are being planned again.

Among the proposals of the bill:

    1.The government would like to do away with the obligation to find „social housing” for certain categories of people, in the event of eviction: pregnant women and families with small children, invalids and pensioneers would be effected. It is clearly a way that members of society who are in vulnerable positions would be denied any safety net and wind up on the streets.

    2. The government would like to introduce the principle that the basic price of rent have to be high enough to cover the cost of maintaining the building. We oppose this for several reasons. Many buildings are terribly neglected, thus the cost of proper maintainance would be much higher in these buildings, since they require repair. Tenants in neglected buildings, many of whom have always paid rent regularly, have been given a bad deal by the adminstration and now their rents could be raised to compensate for the lack of money spent in the past. This is shifting the burden of the high cost of neglect onto the tenants, who had no influence over the decisions of the administrations.

Furthermore, we can point out that many tenants in neglected buildings have had to invest significant money themselves in their flats to make them liveable. And tenants who live in flats without central heating have much higher electricity bills that tenants with central heating. But the decision about who has central heating or not is an arbitrary administrative decision. The proposals of the bill would only ensure that people who have already suffered from administrative neglect will have a harder burden.

We also point out that there is no clear mechanism for deciding what the actual cost of maintaining a building is, and this might become totally dependent on arbitrary adminstrative decisions.

The Committee also notes that the idea of public housing presupposes some sort of subsidies from public money and is not to be treated like a commercial enterprise.

    3. The government would like to set the maximum income levels to qualify for public housing according to the average wage in the Voivodship. Currently, the levels are set by Gminas (an administrative unit like a Borough).

The Committee has long criticized the income levels as being totally unrealistic. The ammendments would only make them unrealistic and illogical, as the prices of housing may differ widely in a given Voivodship.

The average maximum level to qualify for public housing in Poland would become around 230 euros a month: anybody earning more than that would be considered too rich. We have pointed out that the greatest problems are for those earning between 231 euros and 500 euros, which are a great proportion of the population. The market rates for housing are so high in some places that this literally means that low-income workers are better off not working, or working part time to get public housing, than working full time.

We think the levels are way to low, that they should be related to the cost of rental and determined on a more local level (ie. city) than by Voivoidship.

    4. The government would like to be able to terminate tenants contracts not only in the case when they cannot pay their rent, but also in the case that they do not pay other bills, such as for utilities.

The Committee remarks that it is not in the competence of the housing administration to act as debt collectors for private entities or impose any consequences for their contracts with tenants related to any debts towards third parties.

    5. The government would like to redefine what they mean by housing resources to mean only property owned by the Gminas. This is a very complicated matter, especially in relation to property which was subject to the Beirut Decree, but this redefinition would mean that many properties would be excluded from the list of public housing resources.

    6. The government would like to eliminate indefinite rental contracts and instead conclude contracts for periods of 1-5 years, with periodic verification of income. We think this will lead to more precarious housing situations and an increase in illegal employment and underemployment amongst the poor, who would take measures to ensure they don’t accidentally exceed income levels. There is also no mention of how the verification levels will be established, and if they will be based on statistics constantly updated and in which periods. Previous calculations to define income limits were based on indicators that were constantly rising (like minimum wage or minimum retirement payment). The average wage in the Voivoidship is an indicator which can fall, meaning qualified tenants might be disqualified if their own wages do not fall as well.

    7. The government would like to eliminate rights of tenants to inherit rental contracts. Due to severe housing shortages, many households are multigenerational. A person who has lived in a flat 50 or 60 years whose parents were named on the contract, would not get the automatic right to continue living there. Such changes can be devastating for families, especially those who, in addition to losing a family member, would then be faced with homelessness.

The Committee made some other remarks and gave a negative opinion on other points of the draft bill. The full opinion of the Committee is in Polish in the documents sections of our website.

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