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Czech Regional Development Ministry may address traffickers in poverty with rent map

25.7.2017 9:43
A building in Prague's Vysočany quarter owned by the A Property company, 2017. (PHOTO: Archive)
A building in Prague's Vysočany quarter owned by the A Property company, 2017. (PHOTO: Archive)

Czech Television has broadcast an investigative reportage by reporter Richard Samko about a recent case of sophisticated trafficking in poverty that news server reported earlier this month. A Romani single mother of three young children contacted after the owner of the apartment they were living in (the A Property company) threw them onto the street from one day to the next.

The tenant had a valid lease and the rent had been paid appropriately. The company never delivered her written notice of eviction, and CEO Ondřej Opletal is holding onto her supposedly refundable deposit of CZK 14 500 [EUR 560].

Czech Television's reportage has drawn attention to the broader context, in which many landlords of such facilities are trying to find different ways to make money on people in social distress now that the state is doing more to check the accommodation conditions on offer in the country's residential hotels. "Some landlords are changing their residential hotels into apartment buildings on paper so that the people who want to live there find it easier to be awarded one-time benefits for the deposit or for annual utilities top-ups from the Labor Office," news server ČT24 reports.

"The state and local authorities are looking for ways to stop such practices and a planned map of rents should aid with that," news server ČT24 reports. The recent case of the building near the Vysočany train station in Prague reported on by demonstrates this problem in practice.

The landlord had been receiving both the deposit and the rent payments directly from the Labor Office. Despite that, he threw out the tenant concerned and her children, even though she had a lease for one year and was not given notice of eviction.

The municipal department's Deputy Mayor Adam Vážanský (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) confirms that tenants frequently leave that particular building. "Yes, the fluctuation is high there," he told Czech Television.

"Those people then end up registered with the local authority on paper because they must have a place of permanent residence," he described. While the building is no longer officially considered a residential hotel and offers classic rental units on paper, the landlord continues to demand money from the tenants, for example, when they receive visitors or when they make use of the mailbox.

Will the price map of rents help?

Radek Jiránek, director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, sees a certain solution in the price map of rents that is being created. "The way forward is through a price map that will be very detailed. Basically it will give everybody doing business on the market unified conditions," he told Czech Television.

The first drafts of the map have already been elaborated by the Czech Regional Development Ministry, but the Agency has several comments about it. By the end of August the Agency will provide the Government with complete material on the issue for approval, and one of the tasks is for the Czech Regional Development Ministry in particular to finalize the price map.

As part of the Civil Code there should then be a clarification of the interpretation on how to get property owners to meet their obligations to maintain apartment units and rental relationships. The Agency mateiral should also include a proposal for any overpayment of utilities deposits through the benefits system to be returned to the state budget.

Still no law on social housing

The Social Affairs Committee of the lower house has suspended discussion of the social housing bill at the suggestion of the ANO party, which means it is not possible for the law to be adopted in its current form. That task awaits the newly-elected Parliament after the fall elections.

"This is a law that the Czech Republic has waited a very long time for. If we have deregulated rents, then in my view we need a social housing system," Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) was reported as saying by Czech Television.

Sobotka said he believes the bill drafted by Czech Labor Minister Michaela Marksová (ČSSD) is one that can be easily resubmitted. "It will be either up to the Government or the opposition to take this up," he said.

voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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