Tenants in Paris Suburb Exempt from Paying rent due to Unsuitable Living Conditions
The tenants of a building in Essonne whose facade’s brickwork crumbled last year have been exempted from paying rent until full restoration is completed, demonstrating the cost to landlords who provide unsuitable living conditions.
The tenants of a building in Essonne, a suburb in Ile-de-France, have been living rent-free since March last year and will continue to do so until a full restoration of their building’s facade is restored. By the end of the works, the housing association that owns the building is estimated to lose about €668,000 in rental income, though co-ownership charges for building maintenance will still be paid.
It was the mayor of the local commune, Courcouronnes, who signed the arrete de peril grave et imminent, a ‘notice of immediate and serious danger’, last year. The affordable housing association has begrudgingly accepted the decision.
“With this measure, the mayor has carried out their responsibilities and an expert has confirmed the danger that the crumbling facade presents,” said Bruno Delerue of Espace Habitat, admitting that “we would have preferred that the measure was lifted once the immediate danger was taken care of, but the law is the law.”
This is not the first case of long-term exemption of rents due to unsuitable living conditions in the wider Paris region. In 2014, the shared toilet and bathroom facilities of a residential building in Noisy-le-Roi were found to be unsuitable by the local authority who issued a similar order that noted an “absence of adequate ventilation which could cause or aggravate numerous pulmonary conditions such as asthma, respiratory allergies and pneumonia.”
The building contained many chambres de bonne that relied on those shared facilities, and the co-ownership was found to have been negligent regarding the maintenance of these. “For 15 years the co-owners should have done more to maintain the communal spaces,” said one landlord, who presumably had pushed for works to be done.
Oralia, the co-ownership syndicate, argued the measure was unfair, saying that “it exempts all the tenants from rent, even those who do not use the facilities in question. It’s unworkable.” The ARS, the Regional Agency for Health responded, saying that “if a measure concerns the communal facilities managed by a co-ownership, the rent exemption has to be applied across the board.”
The lesson from these is that the French state is not afraid to impose significant losses on landlords and co-owners who fail to properly maintain their facilities when renting properties out to tenants. Whether this is an affordable housing association (as in Essonne) or private landlords (as in Noisy-le-Roi), taking care of necessary renovations early on is the most sensible solution, financially and practically as well as ethically.
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