Israeli Fair Rental Law passes final vote, 6 years after housing protests

“The nation demands social justice, and this is a step on the way,” 2011 protests icon MK Stav Shaffir said.

Catching up to Hong Kong: Since 2007 the price of flats in Tel Aviv has risen 76.4 percent  (photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)
Catching up to Hong Kong: Since 2007 the price of flats in Tel Aviv has risen 76.4 percent
(photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)
A long-awaited law setting guidelines for landlord- tenant relations passed a final vote on Monday night.
The law describes the minimum requirements for a space to be considered a livable apartment, including that it must have a bathroom with a separation between it and the rest of the unit, openings for air and doors and windows to close them, a front door that can be locked, and working sewage, electricity and lighting systems.
If any of these conditions is not present at any time, the contract can be canceled.
In addition, the law features instructions for rental contracts meant to ensure fair relations between the landlord and tenant.
Renters will have to pay for damage they cause to the property through “unreasonable use,” but owners are responsible for repair of damage caused by “reasonable use,” and must do so within 30 days. Urgent repairs must take place within three days. If they fail to meet that responsibility, renters may deduct the cost of repairs from their rent.
Renters will have to pay for water, electricity, municipal tax and day-to-day maintenance, while owners will pay for anything that increases the value of the property, as well as for insurance.
Another provision of the law stipulates that landlords may not demand a guarantee of more three months’ rent, a common practice upon signing a rental contract.
The guarantee money can only be used if rent or other payments the renter owes are not paid on time, if the renter caused damage to the property, or if the renter did not leave the property on time.
The party that hired a realtor will have to pay for it, such that renters will not have to pay a realtor’s fees if the landlord is the one who decided to use one.
If the parties agree for the renter to continue living in the property past the time listed on the contract, either side can end the arrangement with reasonable notice.
A proposed limit to how much rent can be raised from year to year was not included in the final text of the law.
The law applies to properties being rented for between three months and 10 years, and does not apply to vacation homes or assisted living facilities.
The legislation was originally proposed by Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir, who was a leader of the social justice protests in the summer of 2011, in which people pitched tents in parks across the country demanding lower housing prices and better public services.
She was elected to the Knesset in the 2013 election and almost immediately put forward her proposal to regulate landlord-tenant relations.
In the current Knesset, she worked with Kulanu MK Roy Folkman on the bill to reach compromises with the coalition.
“The nation demands social justice,” Shaffir said, repeating the 2011 protesters’ chant on the Knesset stage.
“This is an important step on the way. This law belongs to the tent generation.”
Shaffir said the law will help the 2 million Israelis who do not own their homes, and were “abandoned to impossible housing prices and pushed into the rental market, which for decades in Israel was left as a wild jungle.”
“Around the world, it has been proven that a regulated public and private rental market, with fair rules and encouraging long-term rentals, is an irreplaceable key to lowering housing prices,” she said.
Folkman said he was glad to bring good news to renters.
“Rental apartments weren’t considered an alternative [to buying] until now, but when there will be high-quality apartments for rent with a sufficient level of maintenance, and regulated tenant-landlord relations, it will be a real alternative to buying apartments at an early stage of life. This is the most effective solution for in-demand areas,” he said.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said that the law is not perfect, and that it would have been better to regulate how much rent can be raised, but its passage is still good, important news.
“Finally, Israeli law says what is a livable apartment and defines basic rules of the game between a renter and owner,” Huldai said.