A ruling by a Paris court on Monday will perhaps be cheered by anyone who has ever found themselves living in a tiny hovel in the French capital.
Judges at a court in Paris on Monday ordered the landlord and the Riberoux estate agents who managed the 1.56-square-metre flat to pay €12,000 damages to the tenant, named only as Dominique, who lived there for 15 years, paying €300 a month rent. That works out as €211 per liveable square metre.
The court in Paris's 11th district said the owner of the tiny flat and its property manager had violated city by-laws on the minimum legal size of rentals.
The court ordered the two to pay a total of €10,000 in damages for violation of property rights, €1,000 in moral damages and some €815 to cover relocation expenses.
According to a 2002 French law a flat must have at least 9 square metres of liveable space, but that would have felt like a mansion for Dominique, whose cupboard-sized room was without a shower or a toilet. The only furniture or appliances Dominique could fit into his tiny abode was a mattress, sink and humble hob for cooking.
When Dominique’s story broke back in January, it was found that his apartment in the 11th arrondissement of the French capital measured just 1.56 square metres of liveable space.
“The rent even rose with inflation,” his lawyer Aurelie Geoffroy previously told 20 Minutes. She had been seeking a total of €25,000 damages for her client but praised the court for sending a message to those who try to rent "micro-housing".
The tenant’s case was championed by French housing charity the Fondation Abbé Pierre, who were seeking to bring to the public’s attention the number of minuscule apartments being rented out in Paris illegally.
“[When I first saw the apartment], I asked myself ‘how is this possible,’” said Samuel Mouchard from the organization.
“Until then the smallest flat I’d ever seen was three square metres, but Dominique broke that sad record,” he added.
Despite the legal constraints on landlords renting out uninhabitable apartments, some continue to flout the law, according to Mouchard.
“Some landlords are unscrupulous. The law is there but it needs to be enforced,” he said in January.
“Tenants need to know that it’s forbidden. If they have doubts they can go to their local Town Hall where measures can be taken to protect them or to rehouse them,” he added.
But Patrick Doutreligne, from the Abbé Pierre Foundation said the tenant should have received far more in moral damages.
"€1,000 in moral damages is nothing at all – it makes light of human misery," he said, denouncing the flat as "not even a room but a broom closet".