‘Extend the rent freeze’ to help protect Islanders
JERSEY’s rent freeze should be extended and legislation overhauled to help provide Islanders with security and protection against exploitation, the Housing Minister has said.
Senator Sam Mézec (pictured, right) has raised concerns that tenants under financial strain will not be adequately protected once the rent freeze – which banned any price increases or tenant evictions during the pandemic – expires at the end of September.
His concerns follow reports that the new owners of some apartments are planning to put up rents by 15%.
On social media, the Senator said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ to hear about the proposed increases and that the rent freeze should be extended.
Speaking to the JEP, he said the end of the rent freeze in September could see tenants placed in a difficult position by landlords.
‘Because we legislated at the start of the crisis for a rent freeze across all rental housing sectors, I’ve occasionally had people get in touch with me because they’re not quite sure that what their landlord is proposing is legal,’ said Senator Mézec.
‘For lots of those people I point them in the direction of what the law says. They have a look at it and then I never hear from them again – which I presume means they read the law and told their landlord.
‘I think the difficulty we’re facing now is that the end of the rent freeze is on the horizon so landlords are now starting to look at what they can do in October once the legislation falls away. That is where things become problematic because there are people out there whose income has gone down, or have lost their jobs, and they may face hardship. We ought to do more to help people avoid that, and hopefully take advantage of the situation to fix some of the longer-term problems we have with housing that existed before the crisis.’
The minister suggested that legal protections for tenants were stronger in other parts of the world, with legislation in many European countries for open-ended tenancies and restrictions on rent increases.
‘We need to overhaul some of our housing legislation to include greater protections against unfair rent increases and to provide people with security so they know they can live a life and don’t have to worry about getting kicked out when they’ve done nothing wrong, or having their situation exploited because they couldn’t afford the upfront costs.
‘If I were completely in charge on this issue, I’d extend the rent freeze by another six months and introduce European-style regulation in the meantime. That way, when the rent freeze falls away, at least we’d have extra protection to fall back on whereas right now, when we get to October, we have nothing to fall back on.’
He added that while he was in favour of extending the rent freeze, the final decision would have to be made by the States Assembly who would ‘probably out-vote me on that’.
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