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Czech housing benefit rules become more strict as of 1 July

20.6.2020 15:29
Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jana Maláčová being interviewed by journalists prior to the cabinet session on 20 November 2018. (PHOTO:  www.vlada.cz)
Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jana Maláčová being interviewed by journalists prior to the cabinet session on 20 November 2018. (PHOTO: www.vlada.cz)

The rules for disbursing housing benefits in the Czech Republic will become more strict as of July- eligibility for benefits will be determined not by whomever has permanent residency at a particular address, but by who actually lives in the household applying. The total income of all members of the household will be assessed and will then play a role in the granting of support and establishing how much support will be given.

Another innovation is that bureaucrats will be able to investigate household situations directly in applicants' homes and in the homes of those already receiving state money. Czech Labor Office spokesperson Kateřina Beránková informed the Czech News Agency of the upcoming changes on 18 June.

The law on state social support was amended to this effect before the end of last year, along with an increase to parental benefits as of January. During the discussion in the Chamber of Deputies the provisions on the housing allowance were proposed by governing coalition MPs and come into force half a year after the other measures adopted.

The Czech Labor Minister originally counted on the rules changing in the ministry's proposed law on a new, single housing benefit which the ministry wants to replace the current housing allowance and housing supplement. The tightening of the rules is a component of the so-called benefit revision that is underway.

"As of 1 July, the Labor Office will take into consideration, when assessing eligibilty for housing benefit, the applicant's husband, wife, or dependent children and all other persons living in that household. Those persons use the housing along with the applicant and could cover the common costs of their necessities," the spokesperson said.

The adjustment could, for example, affect fathers who may live with their families at one address but have a permanent residence registered elsewhere and apply for benefits using that address, which means their family members' incomes would not be taken into account when their eligibility is assessed. The assessment of income will also change.

Currently a benefit could be granted to a property owner or renter with permanent residency if the costs of the housing exceed 35 % of the "family income" in Prague or 30 % of that income elsewhere, but could not exceed state-established norms. Under the new rules, the income of both the owner or renter and "commonly assessed persons" will be taken into account.

These assessments will, therefore, include the amounts of income generated by all who live together at that address. According to the amendment, for the purposes of housing benefits "all persons in the family are considered".

Another change is that the application will ask for permanent residency, a postal address, and the location of the applicants' actual residence. The applicant will be asked to list all persons living in the household, not just those permanently registered there.

The applicant must document the cost of housing, income, and provide an accounting of the household income and expenditure for the last quarter. Another innovation is that bureaucrats will be able to visit applicants' homes to check who actually lives at that address.

If an applicant or recipient of benefits refuses to allow the Labor Office staffers into their home, they will automatically lose their benefits. "The aim of that measure [verification] is to ascertain all the facts determinative not just of eligibility for the benefit, but also its amount," the spokeperson said.

Labor Office staffers will reportedly have service badges and special authorization from the regional branch of the office. Tenants will have to first agree to the inspectors entering a rental property - but if they refuse, they will lose their benefits, which renders their consent somewhat trivial.

As of July, applicants and beneficiaries must document their income and expenditures for the previous quarter on a regular basis. The first such documentation will be for April through June.

The duty to provide such documentation was suspended during the pandemic, when the Labor Office restricted its operations and handled emergency contributions to companies to cover employees' wages, as well as special benefits related to the pandemic. Applications and background documentation can be sent to the Labor Office electronically.

An officially registered data box and electronic signature is required for electronic communicaitons. Those who do not have a data box must send everything through the mail or bring it to the Labor Office in person and confirm it in person as well.

ČTK, SB, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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doplatek na bydlení, Finance, Housing, Sociální dávky



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