French MPs are set to vote on Tuesday (April 4) on a new law that would impose harsher sanctions on illegal squatters and speed up proceedings against non-paying tenants.
What does the bill say?
The bill proposes:
Sanctions of up to three years in prison, and fines of up to €45,000 for illegal squatters
In comparison to the current one year in prison, and a €15,000 fine
The bill was presented by Renaissance Eure-et-Loir MP Guillaume Kasbarian, who is also president of the economic affairs committee. It is notably supported by the Renaissance and Horizons groups (centre-right).
It was adopted during a first reading, gaining extra support from far-right MPs, and is now set to be voted on after a second reading. If adopted, it will become law.
Does the bill apply to second homes too?
Yes, the rules will also apply in the event of squatters in second homes, and the “express eviction” procedure will also be available to empty properties, even if they do not have furniture.
Mr Kasbarian said: “I have received many accounts of ‘small’ landlords who have been fighting for two, three, even four years. Many citizens are angry about being victims of squatters or non-paying tenants. This creates a feeling of injustice and impunity.”
The same sanctions will be due for people who pose as owners to illegally sublet a property.
What does it provide against non-paying tenants?
Under the new bill, non-paying tenants will be subject to a systematic cancellation of contracts, without owners needing to take the tenants to court. However, if a landlord does go to court, the judge may grant tenants an extension to pay.
The bill would also reduce the minimum period between the court summons and the actual hearing of any court case “from two months to one month”, to speed up the process.
The bill also aims to reduce the maximum time allowed between a judge ordering an eviction, and tenants having to move out, where rehousing cannot take place immediately “under normal conditions”.
Currently, the period can vary between three months and three years. The bill proposes to reduce this to “between two months and one year” instead.
Mr Kasabarian defended the need for tougher rules, saying: "The reason landlords ask for so many guarantees, deposits, and supporting documents [from tenants] is that they know that the [current] procedures [for eviction] are tortuous.”
Critics: ‘A societal step back’
However, the bill has been the subject of criticism from some, especially among left-wing MPs and housing campaigners.
Last weekend in Paris, 350 people turned out to march against the bill, denouncing rental evictions and saying that the bill is likely to make them easier.
Eddie Jacquemart, president of national housing group la confédération nationale du logement, told BFMTV that the bill amounted to a “societal step back”. He said: “This law will criminalise renters, and will contribute to the ‘hunt of poor people’ orchestrated by [President] Emmanuel Macron.”
Socialist MP Iñaki Echaniz said that the bill would “risk increasing the number of homeless people”.