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Eviction season opens in France as 'winter truce' is called off

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Eviction season opens in France as 'winter truce' is called off
A homeless man in Paris. Photo: AFP
17:06 CEST+02:00
The start of April marks the end of the so-called "winter truce in France and the beginning of eviction season.
At midnight on Friday March 31st, a truce will be called off that will have a major impact on thousands of people across France.
 
It's not the kind of truce you would find between enemies on a battlefield or warring political factions but between landlords across France and their tenants. 
 
March 31st marks the end of the trêve hivernale, or the winter truce as it can be translated, meaning French landlords can now forcibly evict tenants until the truce begins again on October 31st.
 
As long as they have permission from a court of course.
 
The number of forced evictions has risen in recent years with charities saying some 14,400 took place in 2015. Many other families don't wait for the bailiffs to turn up and simply move out.
 
According to the emergency phone line "Allo prevention", the number of tenants contacting them has risen 7 percent in the last year - with around half of those calls coming from the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France.
 
A protest will take place in Paris on Saturday to raise awareness of the precariousness many hard-up families are in.
 
In March the government announced the creation of an extra 5,000 lodgings to be made available at the end of the truce.
 
What the truce exactly?
 
La trêve hivernale runs for five months from November 1st and marks a period when French landlords are not legally allowed to evict their tenants for any reason. 
 
The truce is meant as a humanitarian measure to ensure people don't become homeless and end up sleeping on the cold winter streets.
 
"During the truce we can breathe easy because we are not scared of the bailiffs turning up," a mother named Moana, who is facing eviction from her Paris home told The Huffington Post.
 
 
 
Basically the end of the truce coincides with the arrival of spring and warmer weather. 
 
From April 1st, police or bailiffs can start carrying out eviction notices that have been piling up throughout the winter months or weren't carried out before the truce came into effect.
 
The rules of the truce also prevent landlords and providers from cutting off gas and electricity to tenants during the time period. Although it doesn't cover those living in squats or buildings deemed dangerous.
 
The law is highly contentious, and once again a demonstration will take place on Saturday against high rents and evictions being carried out despite alternative housing being arranged.

The number of households affected rises each year and shows no sign of slowing given the high unemployment rate and stumbling French economy.

“Each year, we simply announce when the truce begins and when it ends, but we are not able to do something that allows us to protest the most vulnerable,” Christophe Robert from the housing charity Fondation Abbé Pierre told The Local previously.

“For some reason in this country we are incapable of putting in place a prevention policy to help families pay the unpaid rent debts or find alternative housing.

“This needs to be done after two or three months (of unpaid rent), but after a year it's too late,” he said.

Christophe Louis from the charity Les Morts dans la Rue (The Dead on the Street) says the government simply has to build more affordable lodging.
 
"They have to launch construction projects so there is enough available accommodation that is accessible to the country's most hard-up," he told The Local previously. 
 
But it's not just about the hard up homeless.

Charities recognise that the process needs to be sped up for home owners who, because of the five month winter truce, often have to wait years before an eviction is finally carried out.

They are not all rich landlords and many of them simply can't afford to be left out of pocket and local authorities procrastinate about whether to order an eviction.

The concept of the "winter truce" may seem foreign to those from English-speaking countries, as many of them don't have anything similar in their law books. In most other countries, landlords can evict tenants whenever they want if all correct procedures are followed. 
 
Do you have a question about France you want answering? Send it in and we'll get experts on the case to help. 

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