Let squatters have same eviction ban

Housing charities are lobbying the government to extend the winter ban on evictions to squats and travellers’ camps.

HOUSING charities are lobbying the government to extend the winter ban on evictions to squats and travellers’ camps.

In France it is illegal to evict tenants during the winter months, even if the person is in arrears with their rent – a period called the trêve hivernale (winter amnesty). Proceedings to evict the tenant may continue, but no one can be turned out on to the streets during this period with certain exceptions, for example, if alternative lodgings have been found.

The trêve lasts from November 1 to March 31 this year. The period was extended by two weeks due to the exceptional cold in March 2013. However, the amnesty does not cover squats – and housing charities say more people are having to turn to such accommodation and need protection over winter.

In December more than 150 people were turned out of a squat in Paris by the police, with nowhere else to go. Charities including the Fondation Abbé Pierre, Droit au Logement and Médecins du Monde want to see a stop to such evictions.

Fondation Abbé Pierre spokesman Christophe Robert says people who are in squats are there because they are in difficulty.

“The housing situation is under immense strain in France and we see people finding a roof over their head wherever they can – car parks, cellars, staircases and squats,” he said.

“We cannot condone people living in illegal lodgings – but sometimes when a building has been empty for several years and there are no plans for its future and people are desperate we would like to see at least some compassion for those people rather than an eviction in the winter.

“We would like to see the introduction of a trêve for squatters and also more resources to help people during the amnesty period find a solution to their housing problem.”

A bill on access to housing is currently going through parliament. Mr Robert says it goes half way to meeting their demands and will provide some improvements but he says there is still not enough practical help and guidance for those in greatest need. Among the other measures in the bill are:

- Rent caps in areas where housing is in short supply: a tenant could obtain a discount if their rent exceeds a set limit based on area.
- Better guarantees for landlords in case of unpaid rents
- New limits on estate agency fees – and equal sharing of fees between landlord and tenant for the cost of drawing up a tenancy agreement
- Better rules on what paperwork a landlord can – and cannot – ask a potential tenant to supply; new templates for rental contracts and inventory
- Caps on fees charged by syndics (the management company for shared buildings such as blocks of flats)
- Tougher sanctions for landlords who fail to carry out necessary repairs/hygiene works.

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