Bill seeks to improve conditions for renters

MK Shaffir’s Kahlon-backed proposal would freeze rent for three years, limit increases by 2%; Shaked demands changes, saying bill is unenforceable.

June 14, 2015 18:34
3 minute read.
A laborer works on an apartment building under construction in Har Homa

A laborer works on an apartment building under construction in the Har Homa quarter in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Landlords will not be able to raise rent for three years, if a bill by MKs Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) and Roy Folkman (Kulanu), which has Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s support, becomes law.

The “Fair Rental Bill,” which is expected to be presented to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Monday, also prohibits raising rent by more than two percent per year after the third year, and landlords can be fined by up to NIS 2,000 per month in which they overcharged.

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The bill is based on legislation proposed by the Justice Ministry last year in coordination with the Finance and Construction ministries, but current Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked says improvements must be made before she can submit a government version, as opposed to Shaffir and Folkman’s private-member bill.

Shaked’s main opposition to the current version of the bill is that she does not think it will be possible to enforce freezing rent for three years, and she instructed her ministry to find alternative ways to discourage landlords from raising the rent.

Shaffir, however, called for legislation protecting renters to be passed as soon as possible.

“Every day we delay this bill, we are exposing the renters to price raises,” she said. “We need fast and courageous action to put an end to this jungle and turn it into a balanced and fair situation for the renters and the landlords.”

The Zionist Union MK added that “when the ministers vote, I hope they think of the 2 million renters who are crying out for fair living conditions.”

Shaffir was among the leaders of the 2011 protests against high housing prices, and has proposed bills to improve rental conditions in the past. She rents an apartment with roommates in Tel Aviv.

The bill’s explanatory portion states that it seeks to bring stability to renters’ lives, allowing them to live in the same place for several years and preventing landlords from making renters choose between a much higher rent that does not necessarily match prices on the market, and the cost and trouble of moving.

If the proposal is approved, it will be the first time minimal conditions for a space to be considered fit for a person to reside in it are defined by law.

According to the legislation, a habitable apartment is fully constructed, has a kitchen and at least one bathroom with a sink, toilet and shower or bath, drinking water, hot water, drainage and sewage disposal, electricity and lighting, and openings – such as windows – for light and air, including a door that must be lockable.

The renter must be able to freely access the apartment, which cannot unreasonably endanger his or her safety or health and may not be smaller than 26 square meters.

In addition, landlords will have to make sure any serious repairs necessary to the property take place within a month of the renter informing him or her of the problem.

Another housing-related bill is on the ministerial committee’s agenda for Monday.

MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) proposed legislation that would prohibit discrimination in housing based on race, religion, nationality, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation, ideology, party membership, marital status, parental status or handicap.

The bill is meant to prohibit people from refusing to sell or rent their property for any of the listed reasons.

“The many recent cases of discrimination only emphasize the need to put an end to the loophole that allows discrimination against a person in what should be basic and elementary, like the right to a home,” Gilon stated, pointing to cases in which people refused to sell homes to Arabs.

The Meretz MK called for the government to support his proposal: “This is an opportunity for the Right to show it is above narrow interests and say unambiguously that it is against racism.”

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