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Brussels steps up action against illegal landlords

09:00 30/04/2024

Some 26% of Brussels residents live in inadequate housing, according to new figures from the social barometer issued by the Common Community Commission (Cocom), that regulates and manages matters common to the French and Flemish communities in the Brussels region.

In response, Cocom is planning to amend the Brussels housing code with a new ordinance. The regional government said that these decrees are effective in protecting tenants, even though they do not solve all the problems.

The changes concern four basic rights: to decent housing; to affordable accommodation; to remain in your home; and, to stop illegal evictions.

The DIRL (Direction de l’Inspection Régionale du Logement), responsible for monitoring housing, has now had its powers extended to all housing, not only to rented and already occupied properties.

When tenants lodge a complaint with this organisation, the landlord will not be able to issue any notice terminating their contract while this complaint is being investigated.

In another change, landlords will now no longer be able to rent out properties if works are due to be carried out there in future.

The amount of the rental guarantee will no longer depend on the tenant’s ability to pay. It will also be limited to a maximum of two months’ rent, when in the past, landlords have sometimes asked for three months’ rent. The overall sum needed to be paid for the guarantee will also be reduced.

Anne Bauwelinckx, head of analysis and advocacy for the Rassemblement Bruxellois pour le Droit à l’Habitat said the ordinance should do more to keep rental rates reasonable.

“We do have a rent scale,” she said. “Landlords cannot impose a rent 20% higher than this scale, which represents the market rate. But this ordinance does not go any further; it will not guarantee access to affordable housing.”

The ordinance also states that landlords can only extend short-term leases once. This will promote security of tenure and therefore stability. The decree will also introduce disclaimers to inform people of their rights at the end of their tenancy.

To stop illegal evictions, landlords will have to pay a lump-sum payment of 18 months’ rent if they tell tenants to leave without a valid reason.

The government is also planning to introduce a specific injunction on this matter, via the court of first instance.

Written by Liz Newmark