Search form

menu menu
  • Daily & Weekly newsletters
  • Buy & download The Bulletin
  • Comment on our articles

Brussels’ proposed rental contract database causes controversy

10:54 26/04/2024

Brussels’ proposal for a new system to record all rental contracts in the capital looks set to take some time before becoming law – if it ever reaches the statute books at all, given the criticism it has provoked.

Brussels state secretary for housing Nawal Ben Hamou wants the region to establish a database of all rental contracts which will enable the housing costs per neighbourhood to be assessed.

Last week, the Brussels parliament plenary session approved her proposal that is supported by most of the other political parties, while the centre-right MR and right wing N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) and Vlaams Belang groups voted against the proposal.

The aim is to combat sky-high rents, with prices increasingly out of reach for the average wage-earner. Ben Hamou argues that this system would monitor the housing market more effectively and that the Council of State had not questioned the legality of registration in Brussels.

The new system would require landlords to register their leases with the regional administration, via the local commune, rather than using the federal finance ministry’s MyRent platform, whose data is seen to be "largely insufficient and incomplete".

This would stop overburdening landlords with a double registration process, Ben Hamou said. Meanwhile, landlords would have to register any new information on their rental contracts or risk not being allowed to index their rents (raising them each year in line with inflation) or to increase them if works are carried out to improve the property.

However, federal finance minister Vincent Van Peteghem (CD&V) argued that this measure breaches federal competencies. He said that the relevant federal authorities were not consulted, even though the bill contains “the abolition of the federal obligation to register residential leases”.

According to Van Peteghem, the failure of Brussels to register its properties on the MyRent platform would be “seriously detrimental” to federal state interests and stop the federal government from exercising its fiscal powers.

Brussels taxpayers would also face problems over the new system for deducting rental charges and the new VAT rate system for demolition and reconstruction of properties.

The minister insisted that if the legislative process to adoption of this proposal continues, he will demand its annulment at Belgium’s Constitutional Court, the highest court for constitutional matters.

This court rules, by judgments, principally on conflicts of authority between the legislative assemblies of the federal authority and the federated entities and on violations by legislative rules of the constitutional rights and liberties.

The N-VA agreed, arguing that this measure, like other initiatives on housing put forward by the Rudi Vervoort government, would “distort the market” and constitutes “an attack on the rights of property owners”.

Written by Liz Newmark