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Unions plan to protest change in rent law.

Summary: BEIRUT: Lebanese national federation of labor unions Fenasol held a meeting at the UNESCO Palace on Friday to organize protest actions over the New Rent Act project. The meeting gathered around 100 participants, many of whom represented tenants and workers associations. Fenasol says new law may compel 170,000 Lebanese families to emigrate.

BEIRUT: Lebanese national federation of labor unions Fenasol held a meeting at the UNESCO Palace on Friday to organize protest actions over the New Rent Act project.

The meeting gathered around 100 participants, many of whom represented tenants and workers associations. Fenasol says new law may compel 170,000 Lebanese families to emigrate.

A 1992 law freezing previous rents and liberalizing new ones is under fire from landlords who find extremely low rents unfair. The law maintains very low rents for old housing with rental contracts prior to 1992 and also prevents landlords from expelling their tenants.

Landlord associations want old housing to be put on rental conditions equal with rental contracts signed after 1992. The New Rent Act is said to allow landlords to expel tenants in return for a percentage of the property value, with exact amounts and percentages still undefined.

Dismissing these demands, Fenasol Secretary General Castro Abdallah said in his speech that high rents would prevent expelled tenants from finding new housing in Beirut. He said that current, free-market rents were so high that expelled families would have to leave Beirut.

"Renters will be asked to give their houses without financial return to the exclusive benefit of constructors and with the support of conniving public authorities," Fenasol's report states.

According to a 2010 Association for Protection of Renters' Rights' Report, some of the main problems in housing include insufficient incomes and lack of bank loans, preventing low-wage earners from renting or buying housing.

The New Rent Act dissatisfies both landlords and tenants, it seems. "My aunt owns an apartment in Beirut with old tenants paying about $20 per month while the fair market price is at least $600," a landlord's relative said on an internet forum dedicated to the issue. "The actual tenant died a long time ago, so did his wife. His children are using it as an occasional residence. To evict them, they would need at least $20,000. Is this fair?"

On the other side, tenants' supporters are not short of arguments either to defend the old frozen rent system. The expulsion of tenants would displace a large number of people from the capital, they say. Some say the plan is a scheme to sell entire areas to rich foreign families. They claim that giving even 40 percent of the property prices to the tenants in return for their expulsion would not be enough. "We could see Achrafieh being turned into an islamic city," one critic wrote on the Lebanese Forces forum.

According to APRR report, rents in Beirut suburbs have reached $300 for standard apartments while 28 percent of Lebanese get an average salary under $330 per month. APRR demanded that all rent increases stop and called for the Management and Justice Committee to take into account renters' demands and enter negotiations.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Jun 25, 2010
Words:540
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