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Rental commission to investigate charges of price gouging
The Brussels Capital-Region is about to launch a new commission to take complaints from people who believe the rent they are paying for their house or apartment is out of all proportion. The idea is to flag up property owners who are engaging in price gouging – charging much more than the market price for their properties – and open a dialogue with them.
The members of the rental commission will be representatives from renters’ rights organisations as well as property owners. The idea is to allow members of the public to check to see if their rents are reasonable without the bother of having to take the landlord to court.
The commission will assess whether the rental price is exorbitant and act as mediator between the renter and the landlord. It will attempt to get the landlord to lower the rental price if it finds that it is higher than it should be for the neighbourhood and size or state of the property.
30,000 questionable cases
“Anyone will be able to call on the rental commission, which is particularly focusing on the most vulnerable people in our society,” said MP Arnaud Verstraete (Groen). “There are 30,000 rental units in Brussels where price-gouging could be said to be happening. And we see these mostly in the lower end of the rental market. We speak of price-gouging if the rent is 20% higher or more than comparable properties.”
While the commission will work to get the landlord to decrease the amount of rent being asked, the landlord does not have to comply. In that case, the renter can still file a complaint and take the landlord to court. “And for the first time, the rental commission will ensure that the court has an objective basis on which to form a judgement,” said Verstraete.
This means that renters are better off going to the rental commission first, even if a legal complaint must be filed in the end. The rental commission is the first of its kind in Belgium; neither Wallonia nor Flanders has such a parliamentary body.
It is unclear when the commission will begin its work, but anyone interested is advised to keep an eye on the website of RBDH, which fights for affordable housing in the capital.
Photo ©Siska Gremmelprez/BELGA