Category Archives: Critiques

Lebanese Parliament Votes On New Rent Law – Old Rent Law Abolished At Last

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I really can’t believe it took this long for the parliament to drop the ridiculous old rent law, but they’ve finally done and I think the new law proposed is fair for both tenants and owners. For those of you unaware of the old rent law, it was enacted after World War II and is one of the weirdest laws still in existence, as it gave more rights to the tenants over the owners, and kept the rents at the same fixed price as originally agreed. As a result, there are still people paying 400$ a year for an apartment in Beirut while market rent prices are at their highest level.

In order to explain things, I gathered info from various sources and compiled them into four key paragraphs:

What Is The Old Rent Law?
Inherited from a first law that was enacted at the end of the Second World War, Rent Acts n°159 and 160 — known as the “old rent” law — were introduced in July 1992 after the end of the civil war. They froze all rental agreements signed before this date, which accordingly do not take into consideration inflation, the increase in rental housing market, and Lebanon’s currency collapse during war years (especially between 1983 and 1987). However, old rents are supposed to take into account the eventual rise in wages. Meanwhile, the law liberalizes rental agreements signed after July 1992 and allows new rents adjustment every 3 years. In addition to giving the opportunity to transmit the right to occupancy to other family members, the legislation specifies that old agreements can be called off in two specific cases only: building demolition and the use of the real estate property by the landlord or his/her family members. Any breach of agreement generates tenants compensation set by a court decision. Compensations usually reach an amount of 25 to 50% of the asset value. [Source]

So basically, you can only ask the tenant to leave if you wish to destroy the building (or the building collapses like what happened in Achrafieh two years ago), or one of the landlord’s family members wishes to live in the apartment as long as he proves a need to do so. Moreover, even if you have proof, you will need to pay the tenant to go out and agree on an amount with him or go to court.

The New Law Proposed:
The new law was drafted by the Parliament’s Administration and Justice Committee, chaired by West Bekaa Member of Parliament Robert Ghanem. A copy of the draft law in the form submitted to the committee was obtained by Executive, despite Ghanem’s office attempting to withhold it from the media. In its current form, the draft law seeks to find a solution by having tenants on old rent pay gradually higher rents over a six year period. Through government-appointed experts that report to a judicial committee, properties will be evaluated and an amount agreed upon by both the landlord and tenant. Then each year for the first four years the tenant will pay a 15 percent increase in rent, then 20 percent per year for the fifth and sixth years. After this time, the property can be rented at free market prices, but the tenant has the right, if they notify the landlord three months before the period ends, to stay on for a further three years, although at market rates agreed upon between both parties.

If a landlord wants to reclaim the property for family usage during the six-year extension period, then he has to pay compensation to the tenant equivalent to four years rent after four years of rental increases. To tear down a building, the same principle will be applied but on the value of the total six years of increased rent. In either of the above situations, if a property is considered ‘luxurious’, compensation will be reduced by half. [Executive-Magazine]

In Numbers:
While the old rent issue could have been a marginal one if the number of tenants was relatively low, according to the advocacy group named the Committee for the Rights of Tenants (CRT), some 170,000 of Beirut’s 210,000 tenants pay old rent rates. But just as no one is exactly sure how many people there are in Lebanon (the last national census was in 1932), the number of properties on old rents — and the number of people living in them — is not exact either. According to Joseph Zoghaib, head of the Association of Landlords in Lebanon, based on taxation records and copies of rent laws submitted by municipalities to the Finance Ministry, there are 81,000 tenants on old contracts and an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 on new contracts. As to the number of landlords affected, Zoghaib estimates it at anywhere between 15,000 to 20,000. [Executive-Magazine]

Even if the numbers provided are not 100% accurate, what’s sure is that tens of thousands of tenants and owners are affected by this law.

What will happen now that the new law is passed?
Adopting the new law was important to resolve the never-ending dispute over the percentage increase of the rent hikes between tenants and owners. Instead of resorting to lawsuits and attending court sessions, rents would increase gradually over a 6-year period till they reach 5% of the current market value of the apartment. Moreover, and in order to assist the low-income tenants who won’t be able to afford the new rent prices, a government fund will be established to cover the difference in rents over a period of nine years. As far as landlords are concerned, they will be able to ask tenants to evacuate the apartment in exchange for 20% of its value.

Having said all that, the new law will definitely have a huge impact on the real estate market in the upcoming years, as landlords who were previously suffering from the old rent law will be able to sell or rent their apartments at market prices. As a result, there will be more supply and rent prices might go down. On the other hand, real estate companies will definitely seek to buy these old buildings and make way for new skyscrapers in Beirut. In regards to that last point, I think the concerned parties should come up with a plan to preserve Beirut’s identity (or whatever is left of it) and put some restrictions on the new buildings that will replace these old ones. On another note, the new law will help resolve Beirut’s Derelict Buildings problem as owners will have enough money to cover the maintenance costs.

I do realize that a lot of families will suffer from the new rent law, but a lot of owners as well were suffering as they were unable to profit from their apartments to help out their families. For example, I know a landlord who wasn’t well off and couldn’t get his son to move in to one of the apartments he had because the tenants wouldn’t leave them. As a result the son had to rent an apartment at market price. All in all, we needed a new law and I think the one the parliament passed is fair enough for both sides.

“Definitely there are both positive and negative repercussions from the eventual introduction of a large [amount] of stock to the market,” said Karim Makarem, director of Ramco, a real estate advisory firm. “If landlords are looking to sell or to rent, a substantial amount comes online, not to mention that the former tenants who vacate will need to be housed. So there are many new possibilities as well for developers.” One possible knock-on effect would be more supply than demand, which would lower real estate prices. For that reason, Sanyoura suggested it is “a good time to consider implementing this law as we’re not in a boom market.”

With buildings being vacated and renovated, and others being torn down for new projects, Zoghaib opines that $50 billion could be pumped into the economy in the coming years. A back of the envelope calculation of 30,000 buildings being re-developed at an average of $500,000, would generate $15 billion and potentially billions more in associated services.

A further boom could occur if another stuck-in-a-time warp law is overturned: the pre-1992 law concerning commercial rents, which is similar to the residential law in fixing rents, but to remove a tenant requires the landlord to compensate for the “loss of footfall” to the premises. “We’ll have a party when the [new rent] law passes and the next day move onto proposing a commercial rents bill,” said Zoghaib. [Source]

Ma T2oulo Mabrouk Ba3ed: Domestic Violence Law Approved Without KAFA Amendments

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Via Almaza

When I first read that the domestic violence law got approved without any amendments, I thought the parliament passed the draft-law including Kafa’s remarks without amending it, but as it turns out, they only voted on the original draft-law and not the crucial modifications requested by KAFA. One of the KAFA lawyer went as far as calling the law a “farce”.

This is definitely bad news as the law approved doesn’t incriminate marital rape and doesn’t protect the children or give women custody of her children. Having said that, I am not even sure we could call this a step in the right direction. What I know is that the MPs who signed on the draft-law with all the amendments have failed KAFA and the Lebanese women.

Shame.

Tripoli’s Bikeathon

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Picture from Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi’s FB Page

I was eager to see pictures of the Tripoli Bikeathon that took place yesterday and was aimed at “reflecting the real image of Tripoli” as a city of peace and a city that loves life but I could barely find any. I looked on Tripoli’s most active facebook page and it didn’t include a picture from yesterday, the same for Bikeathon-Tripoli page and the event page with its lousy poster.

Assuming whomever is running the page didn’t have time yet to upload all the pictures taken, I looked on Instagram and barely found 5 or 6 decent pictures. I used the hashtags #TripoliLB, #Bikeathon, #WeLoveTripoli, #Tripoli and #LiveLoveTripoli.

It’s a real shame that such a great initiative doesn’t get the proper online coverage, specially when the aim is to show a better image of Tripoli amid the tensions and fights happening there. It’s a good thing LBCI covered the event live on NharkoumSaid.

Having said that, I hope the organizers will follow the Achrafieh2020 model next time and make a proper buzz for their beautiful city Tripoli.

Here are some of the pictures I found:

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via Najwa

tripoli3
via PaulaYacoubian

tripoli4
via RanaElHalabi

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Dutch ambassador Hester Somsen was there – Picture via Sietske

[YouTube]

U.N. Refugees Chief Antonio Guterres Warns Lebanon Could Collapse Under Syrian Refugees Burden

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Picture via UNHCR

Here’s a sum up of what United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour:
- Lebanon could collapse under the weight of the massive influx of Syrian refugees
- Without economic and financial support, and an increased effort to share the burden of Syrian refugees, “Lebanon [does] not [have] the possibility to go on with the present situation.
- Twenty-five percent of the Lebanese population today is Syrian.
- We have more Syrian students in Lebanese public schools than Lebanese students.
- Lebanon has serious problems with electricity and water, and largely because of this huge increase in population.
- The health system is totally overburdened, and the security implications of the Syrian crisis to Lebanon are absolutely dramatic.

This is old news to most of us Lebanese by now, and Lebanon is in need of a substantial help to cope with this humanitarian crisis. Aside from that, and instead of requesting to expel Syrian refugees or stop receiving them like some Lebanese officials have been doing for the past couple of years, the government needs to set up an emergency plan once and for all to cope with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and organize them into camps or proper settlements. This should have been done since day1 and even if things are out of control now, it’s never too late to have a plan and put an end to this chaotic situation because the Syrian war is not ending anytime soon.

Roqayya Monzer A New Victim Of Domestic Violence + Parliament To Discuss Draft-Law On April 3

[YouTube]

Roqayya Monzer is yet another victim of domestic violence in Lebanon after her husband shot her dead when she asked him to divorce her. Roqayya was fed up from all the beating and asked for a divorce on several occasions according to her sister who was brave enough to come out and testify against the criminal husband. Unfortunately, the victim was pregnant.

This is not the first case of domestic violence and definitely won’t be the last, not before there’s a new law to protect women from abusive husbands, a law that would come under the penal code rather than being personal status laws. That’s what KAFA has been working on for years now and Nabih Berri has vowed to include and discuss the draft-law proposed in the next parliament session on April 3, after KAFA collected 71 signatures from MPs in favor of adopting the new law.

For those interested in knowing the remarks added by KAFA to the draft-law proposed, you can check them [Here] and follow [KAFA] for further updates on this matter.

I hope that the law will be passed quickly and put into action, so that these murderous husbands are put in jail and not freed the next day.

PS: There’s a seminar for women only that teaches them how to defend themselves against domestic abuse and crimes of rape on April 5 for those interested.

Dear Lebanon

[YouTube]

Dear Lebanon is a movie showing Lebanese teenagers’s views on Bombings, Religion and Politics. I want to believe that the new generations will make a change in the right direction and rebel against the corrupted political class that’s been ruling and ruining the country for years but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

What does this constant insecurity mean for them? What are their thoughts on religion and politics? To what extent do they feel personally affected by the bombings?

Together with a team of eight youths between the ages of 15 and 18, film producer Raphael Schanz set off on a journey in search of answers. During the course of seven weeks he accompanied them through the streets of Beirut and discussed the points in which they felt their wishes clashed with the crude reality. This 30 minute documentary features youths’ ambivalent love for their home country. Which role do teenagers see for themselves in Lebanon? How can they succeed in making their voices heard?

via StopCulturalTerrorismInLebanon

Reason Behind The Traffic In Beirut Today

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I don’t understand why they have to close the road all the way from Annahar building if they are holding a session at the parliament. Moreover, isn’t it better to close it starting 9am and let people get to work on time?

In all cases, the road will be closed tomorrow as well so watch out for traffic and leave early.