Milan Taraba, chairman of the Czech Tenants’ Association interview: read the English translation
On the occasion of International Tenants’ Day, Milan Taraba, chairman of the Tenants’ Association in the Czech Republic was invited to public television. Here is a translation of the interview:
Editor: World Housing Day was celebrated for the first time in 1986 under the name Shelter is my right. What emphasis do we place in the Czech Republic on ensuring that even the socially weak have decent housing?
M.Taraba: This fact appears in all government statements over the past 20 years. The problem is that it hasn’t always been successful. We had two draft laws. The first Act on Social Housing and the second Act on Affordable Housing. Although we had intensive negotiations with representatives of the relevant departments, the Ministry of Regional Development and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, and despite the promises of the ministers at the time, it was not possible to enforce it and the laws fell under the table. We are now in a new situation (note: after the parliamentary elections in October 2021) and next week we’ll have meetings in both ministries. I hope we can get results this time.
Editor: How important is the current situation, the economic crisis, inflation, high interest rates. How does this increase the pressure on rental housing?
M. Taraba: We are not living in an easy situation at all, which is difficult not only here, but also in Europe and the whole world, thanks to the effects of the energy crisis and inflation. That is why the IUT World Organization wants us to address these issues. Above all, it concerns the energy sector. Housing allowances and other measures are welcome. Some things need to be improved, for example in some big cities housing costs are different in peripheral parts and attractive locations, but contributions are formulated uniformly for the city in question. Contributions are set until the end of this year, but applicants can apply retroactively. However, there is insufficient information, people seek help too late and may lose their housing. We have 29 counseling centers throughout the Czech Republic and we are happy to help citizens fill out forms.
Editor: More people are now eligible for housing allowance. Could it also have a negative impact as apartment owners often don’t like to rent apartments to people on benefits and may increase security deposits?
M. Taraba: Yes, of course, the impact is here. There are other forms in the world, mainly rental housing in the public sector, i.e. cities and municipalities.Municipalities set rents for socially needy people at the cost level, because municipalities serve as a social guarantor. There is a shortage of these apartments in the Czech Republic, as they were first privatized below cost and then owner-occupied housing was mainly supported, as people wanted such housing. And today we have the problem you mentioned. The defense for contracts for an indefinite period is the possibility to increase the rent by only 25% in 3 years. Deposits are currently one month, precisely because of the economic situation.
Editor: Is it appropriate to return to the subject of rent regulation at this time?
M. Taraba: We have a different opinion on this topic. Cannot set prices centrally. We like the German model, the so-called rent mirror, which is set by the municipality, determines the limits for the given location, and both contracting parties agree on the amount of the rent. The rent mirror is approved by councils, tenants’ organizations and courts. This ensures economic balance for all parties for 4 years. After the four-year period, if the economic situation is different, the conditions will be adjusted. This is how it can work. That’s not regulation.
Editor: Price maps do not work here? Because that was exactly the road when rent control was abolished.
M.Taraba: Here it is a huge problem, because someone thought that the price maps could be set by the state. And that is nonsense. Price maps are concluded on the basis of contracts according to statistics in municipalities. on the example of Germany, we can see the satisfaction of the contracting parties. No one is judged, the owner has a guaranteed income, the apartments are fully occupied and the tenant has contractual security. On the contrary, there are frequent lawsuits in the Czech Republic.
Editor: When we mentioned the zero years and the decisions of the Constitutional Court regarding rent regulation, the relations between the Tenants’ Association and the homeowners’ organizations were heated. What is the relationship between landlords and your tenant representation organization now?
M.Taraba: We have good cooperation with the Rental Housing Association, which are representatives of the largest groups of apartments rented in the Czech Republic. They need apartments to occupy, they value long-term tenants who do not destroy property. The problems are with the owners of investment apartments. We didn’t get to cooperate there. For one thing, because there is a chain of contracts that raises inflation, they give tenants one-year contracts and make extensions conditional on a rent increase or eviction.
Editor: If the tenant finds himself in a situation where he does not have the means to pay the rent, what should he do to avoid the risk of termination of the lease?
M.Taraba: We recommend applying for a benefit in material need, which we will be happy to help with in our counseling rooms. The problem is with the functioning of the employment offices where benefits are processed. Processing often takes a very long time. Of course, it also depends on the willingness of officials.
Watch the interview (in Czech) at 51:05 https://www.ceskatelevize.cz/porady/10101491767-studio-ct24/222411058061003/. Czech Television – Studio ČT24 – 3 October 2022