New rent law could cause mass evictions

A LISBON tenants association says that the government’s controversial new rent law could provoke mass evictions. Property owners have also slammed the law after finding out that subsidies for building work and maintenance have also been scrapped.

The rent law, which will bring property rents in line with current market values within 10 years, was pushed through parliament and rubber stamped by President Jorge Sampaio recently.

The new law states that “frozen rents” will be incrementally brought in line with current property market values within the next five years for most tenants. However, if the tenant can prove that his/her annual income is less than 1,873 euros, this period can be extended to 10 years. This period of grace also applies to pensioners over 65, people on disability benefit and families looking after disabled relatives.

In the first year of the law being implemented, rental increases cannot exceed 50 euros per month and, during the four years that follow, they cannot exceed 75 euros per month. On the fifth year, landlords can charge the going market rate.

Up until now, thousands of tenants living in the capital have enjoyed highly subsidised rents, laid down during the times of dictator Salazar. In many cases, families living on low incomes have enjoyed rents as little as 150 euros a month on two and three bedroom apartments.

The Associação de Inquilinos Lisbonenses (AIL), the Lisbon tenants association, says that those earning low incomes, who are unable to pay higher rents, now face being put onto the street. Romão Lavadinho, president of AIL, commented: “There’s a serious risk of eviction en masse because the vast majority of families will not receive any help from the State in paying their rent. The government is insensitive to the worries of the tenants.”

Lavadinho went on to say that needy and lower middle class families are going to find that their rents shoot up by crazy amounts that they will not be able to balance with their actual incomes.  

Meanwhile, the president of the Associação Lisbonesse de Proprietários, (ALP), the association of Lisbon property owners, Manuel Metello, said he was indignant at the new law. “I really don’t understand how the President of the Republic can put his signature to a law he knows nothing about. There are at least 10 supplementary clauses to this law that no one seems to be clear on. Only when the law is published in documentation form will the full implications be understood.”

Metello said the government was “running away from its social responsibilities” and called the law “a disgrace”. “This law fails to mention any State help for the property owners towards the upkeep and maintenance of buildings. On the contrary, it seems the government is to do away with the most important subsidies,” he stormed.

The property owners association said it was sad that successive governments hadn’t dealt with the problem in a more efficient manner over the years. “We’re living in a country full of ostriches in which successive governments have been content to bury their heads in the sand,” he blasted. “We suggested that all the parties involved got together to hammer out a law favorable to all parties, but no one listened,” he said