Czech housing estate sees water cut off, situation is critical for residents
Several families with young children living at the Janov housing estate in the Czech town of Litvínov have had their water supply cut off through no fault of their own. Hot water has not been available to them for several weeks now, and for the last few days cold water has not been running there either.
The families have been properly paying their rent and utilities bills, and have now jointly filed a report of a crime against an unidentified perpetrator for violating hygienic norms. The debt owed to the water company has been caused by irresponsible owners of the apartment units and administrators of the local buildings, who are behaving untransparently.
"Now we are absolutely without water," one of the residents of Bloc C of Janov told news server Romea.cz. "Nobody is communicating with us."
"We are going to acquaintances' homes to get water for cooking, bathing, and to use the restroom," the tenant said. "This is a catastrophe."
Access to clean, potable water is a basic human right. Cancelling water supplies to an apartment unit is a serious intervention that prevents housing from being used and can be perceived as endangering a dignified way of life.
"These are decent, nice people with two young children," Naděžda Kuzmina, an owner of one apartment unit at Janov who leases it to a Romani family, told news server Romea.cz. "They have paid all their bills, but now they are absolutely without water."
"Many apartments here are owned by people who cannot be located, they do not communicate with the tenants at all, they live in another city or even outside of the Czech Republic, and they do not take care of these properties," she said. Kuzmina is one of a very few owners who do take care of their properties at the housing estate and who has properly paid all creditors.
Despite this, the company LiRaS s.r.o., which administers the entire building, is now demanding that she and other members of the condominium association pay a certain amount of money to cover debts related to the properties. The administrator's approach will apparently lead to the remaining tenants moving away and to the building going unused.
The units are essentially unsellable. Two other buildings on the estate face a similar situation in advance of the winter.
Unpredictable housing situation
The critical situation currently involves five families. Four have been offered replacement apartments directly at the Janov estate by the management company, with the fifth being asked to relocate to the UNO residential hotel in Litvínov.
Yesterday Kumar Vishwanathan, director of the Life Together organization and a representative of the ROMACT project, which is supposed to encourage community work in excluded localities, visited Janov. "The apartment situation at Janov housing estate is actually very unclear. A large number of units here are owned by people who take no interest in the sitaution. The City of Litvínov and the Labor Office finally began to attempt to figure out where the money being paid for rent and utilities and where the housing allowances are going," Vishwanathan told Romea.cz.
"It is not at all clear how these debts arise - at Janov there are enormous housing estate blocs with dozens of individual aparment owners, many of whom cannot be located. The buildings are administered by different companies and frequently there are also middlemen involved between the owners and the renters as rent collectors," Vishwanathan told Romea.cz.
He sees the problem as being that if the condominium association is so dispersed it has no opportunity to agree on a common approach, as more than half of the owners must support any decision. "I see hope in negotiations with a bigger investor, a responsible one, who would buy out more than half of the units in the building. The Janov housing estate can be a nice place, but it is necessary to have a common approach, not a fragmented one," he said.
Money is "getting lost"
Bloc C, where units are cut off from water supplies, was still being administered one year ago by the Krušnohor Housing Construction Collective (Stavební bytové družstvo Krušnohor - SBD Krušnohor). At that time, however, the administrator of the building gave up on it because of the debts of its irresponsible apartment unit owners - not the tenants - and it was taken over by the LiRaS s.r.o. company, short for Litvínov Real Estate and Property Management (Litvínovská realitka a správa).
The growing amount owed to creditors was then divided among several of the few remaining apartment unit owners who have nothing to do with the debt other than the fact that they are members of the condominium association together with the members who have defaulted on their obligations. "Many tenants are actually paying, but the money gets lost on the way," František Ryba, the director of SBD Krušnohor, who is famous for his anti-Romani, racist remarks, told news server iDNES.cz.
It is not clear how much money has been "lost" in the case of Janov's Bloc C, but tenants have filed a crime report and hope a police investigation will aid them. The debt owed to the utility supplying heat to the building exceeds CZK 300 000 [EUR 11 700] according to a document seen by news server Romea.cz.
According to the information in that document, some debtors have already agreed to pay their debts. Despite that fact, the management company is demanding the other condomonium association members, who have paid their bills on time, now make up the difference for those who do not.
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