Springtime ushers in French eviction season

French eviction season opened on Tuesday with the end of the annual moratorium that prevents landlords from kicking tenants out during the winter months. It's should be busy year with thousands of families likely to be evicted.

Springtime ushers in French eviction season
France's eviction season opened on Tuesday. Photo: Betrand Langlois/AFP

France is a country of many protections for the little guy and housing is no exception, but starting on Tuesday morning one of the rules went into its annual hibernation.

Under France’s so-called ‘winter truce’ from November 1st to April 1st it’s illegal for landlords to kick out tenants for any reason, even if they haven’t paid a centime in rent for months.

However, beginning at 6am on Tuesday – when authorities deem the weather warm enough to evict – the law allows property owners to again take their apartments back. The concept of the ‘truce’ is a foreign one for most Anglos.

Neither the United States, the United Kingdom, nor Canada, which have recorded harsh winters in recent years, have anything similar in their law books. If landlords follow proper procedure, they generally can kick tenants out at any time of the year.

Even if France’s approach could appear humane to Anglos, French activists say the country needs to halt evictions altogether as the country battles record, rising unemployment.

According to the most recent statistics available, 115,000 families were subject in 2012 to court-ordered evictions, a number that has grown by 37 percent in ten years. More are expected this year.

In order “to put in place a real policy of preventing evictions,” we need a “a moratorium” on all evictions, Christopher Robert, a spokesman for a collective of 54 advocacy groups told AFP.

 Patrick Doutreligne, executive director of housing advocate group Fondation Abbé Pierre, told AFP the rise in evictions is worrying as it comes “at a time when the twin phenomenons of climbing housing prices and a dip in the buying power is hitting families with tight budgets.”

Given many families’ tight precarious finances a seemingly small expense like car repairs or short-term layoffs can snowball into big problems. Tenants who have the money, but chose to avoid paying are rare.

“Bad faith renters, they exist, but the majority of the cases we see concern some type of social breakdown,” Philippe Bourgeac, a bailiff who carries out evictions in Paris told AFP.

On the other hand, property owners see the annual moratorium as a weight they bear alone. The president of the national landlords union, Union Nationale de la Propriété Immobilière, said the moratorium should be stopped.

“Many retirees need the rents payments to live and repay their loans,” UNPI President Jean Perrin told AFP.

There has been talk of creating a fund to subsidize renters who are in trouble, but the idea has gone nowhere. A law that is to take effect in 2016 could have served this purpose, but its requirements will be optional.    

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