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Brussels votes for winter moratorium on rental evictions

15:09 25/06/2023

The Brussels parliament has given the green light to a draft ordinance that will stop people who cannot pay their rent from being made homeless in winter.

Belgium’s far-left PTB party welcomed the draft law as a “significant social improvement”. However, the opposing right-wing Flemish nationalist N-VA party described it as a “communist instrument” that it said would heighten the risk of increased pressure on the housing market, and ultimately also disadvantage tenants.

Under the ordinance, there will be a revised eviction procedure and a winter moratorium – from 1 November to 15 March – on all public and private housing in the region, the creation of a solidarity fund to cover rent arrears and the introduction of a control system on evictions.

In practice, this means that if tenants do not pay rent during winter months, the landlord can be reimbursed via the rent arrear fund. However, the PTB said that this privilege should only be given to small landlords without a huge property portfolio.

This solidarity fund will be financed by the fines given to landlords of unsanitary buildings and people who discriminate on the housing market, for example by refusing certain tenants based on race or sexuality, for example.

Money will also come from the administrative charges for issuing conformity control certificates. The regional expertise centre will follow up on all evictions to see where they take place and to treat them more effectively.

In the plenary debate, Brussels secretary of state for housing, Nawal Ben Hamou, said the additional work represented by the ordinance would require 18 more full-time posts at Brussels' social action organisations, the CPAS. More than €1 million would be dedicated to this.

The NVA’s Mathias Vanden Borre emphasised that his party’s criticism is shared by Brussels’ justices of peace and the state council.

“I share their view that the government is transferring the responsibility and financial burden of the housing problem to the landlords and is therefore completely tipping the balance of the private rental market,” he said.

For the Flemish MP, with these rules, the expulsion deadlines are being extended without resolving the underlying problems.

In addition, he said that these measures would have undesirable effects, in the sense that the landlords are encouraged to set higher requirements for potential tenants or to take action to sue them quicker.

Written by Liz Newmark