Venezuela Passes New Leasing Law Proposed by Popular Initiative

A new law which aims to combat rent speculation and protect the rights of tenants and small landlords was passed by Venezuela’s National Assembly on Thursday. The law was based on proposals made by the  tenants movement. 

By Ewan Robertson - Venezuelanalysis.com

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The socialist bloc of the AN passed the law popularly drafted by social movements (AN)
The socialist bloc of the AN passed the law popularly drafted by social movements (AN)
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Mérida,  October 28th,  2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - A new law which aims to combat rent speculation and protect the rights of tenants and small landlords was passed by Venezuela’s National Assembly on Thursday. The law was based on proposals made by the  tenants movement.

“Housing cannot continue to be seen as a business. Justice has arrived, revolutionary, socialist justice,” declared Diosdado Cabello, National Assembly legislator of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), after the law was passed.

According to its statement of motives the new Law for the Regulation and Control of Leased Housing seeks the “revolutionary transformation” of leasing relations in Venezuela “to generate a new social model and judicial framework for fair leasing”.

The new law will regulate rent levels, using criteria such as property value, size and location, setting a maximum annual rent of 5% of the overall property value. 

The law’s 160 articles also contain provisions to ensure landlords must provide fair contracts, adequate living conditions and access to services.

It also prevents unjust eviction, undue charges, and discrimination against families, disabled persons and other groups when renting accommodation, with financial penalties should landlords break the new regulations.

The aim of these measures, as set out in the law, is to combat “speculative and exploitative leasing” and to support “just and socially responsible leasing relations.” It also strengthens the rights of small landlords, who “deserve full protection ”.

Elizabeth Santos of the Metropolitan Tenants Network (RMI) stated last Friday that the law was necessary in order to regulate an economic sector [property owners] that was almost completely at liberty to act as it liked.

Rental prices in Venezuela tend to be high and property owners take advantage of the housing shortage, estimated to affect two to three million people.

In April this year the Venezuela government launched the Great Housing Mission program with the aim of building two million homes in seven years.

The new leasing law also contains other provisions to improve access to housing including penalties for holding unoccupied housing, and giving tenants the ability to buy their rented property at discounted prices, depending on the number of years in residency.

The Housing Ministry will create the National Superintendency of Leased Housing to implement and regulate the new law.

Cabello estimated that 750,000 Venezuelan families living in rented housing will benefit from the increased protection of the law, as well as pensioners and students.

He concluded that “now, with clear rules of the game...the landlord and tenant will know where they stand”.

The law as an initiative of grassroots movements

The RMI tenants organisation first proposed the legislation in March after gathering 413,498 signatures and input from other social movements.

The law then passed to the assembly’s Administration and Services Commission for discussion and changes.

Members of the tenant movements and representatives of landlords associations attended National Assembly debates on the law. “Today the people-legislators are the protagonists,” declared Cabello after the law was passed.

The democratic right of Venezuelans to popularly initiate legislation is enshrined in article 70 of the 1999 National Bolivarian Constitution.

For his part, legislator of the opposition Democratic Unity Table (MUD) Juan Carlos Caldera, whose party opposed the legislation, stated that aspects of the law “will bring further collapse of the Venezuelan judicial system”.

The law has also been opposed by the Venezuela Chamber of Real Estate (CVI), with CVI president Aquiles Martini warning that the law will create “anarchy” in the property market by reducing property values and favouring small landlords over large ones.

The CVI is planning to appeal to Venezuela Supreme Court (TSJ) to attempt to have the law annulled on the grounds it penalises property owners.

However, RMI spokesperson Rigel Sergen stated that the law is not based on the notion of housing as a means of making profit, but the conception of housing laid out in the Constitution “as a right for everyone, not a few”.

Cabello also condemned “manipulations” from opposition sectors that have tried to portray the new law as an attack on private property.

He stated that new law “consolidates” private property while doing away with the previous leasing law because property owners “used that law as an instrument of persecution against people who needed to rent housing”.