Croatia: Restoring Tenant’s Rights to Security of Housing Tenure
The Alliance of Tenants’ Associations of Croatia is promoting the campaign Zero Eviction in Croatia, Restoring the Tenancy Right to Security of Tenure, together with the International Alliance of Inhabitants and many social, trade-union and political organizations, as well as individuals.
The change from security of housing in the former Yugoslavia to the nightmare of evictions in present-day Croatia
In the former Yugoslavia, occupancy/tenancy rights meant having all rights of ownership: the right to possession in perpetuity, the perpetual, unhindered and free use of a dwelling-place, to have it at one's disposal, as well as having the right to participate in the management of the building. The only thing that a tenant was unable to do was to sell the flat.
With regard to property relations, a tenant possessed nine-tenths of the property, while the nominal owner owned one tenth of it. And that the category in question was indeed the category of property – property of the nominal owner and property of the tenant, has been proven by the Ruling issued by the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina which, under the jurisdiction of the European Union, ruled that tenancy rights were the same as ownership rights.
In 1996 the Croatian Parliament passed the Lease Law which deprived the occupants of nominally-owned privatised apartments of their right to occupy such apartments in perpetuity, such rights being inheritable and in force since 1945. According to the 1996 law, if the nominal owners wished to move into the apartments they were obliged to provide a suitable replacement apartment for the occupant and his/her family. In 1998 the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia not only upheld that law but also deleted the requirement for the nominal owner to provide suitable alternative accommodation. Hence, families have been evicted from their apartments onto the street together with all their possessions, with no replacement accommodation and with no compensation for generations of investment in their apartments which they had considered to be their homes in perpetuity.
In other words, the Lease Law abolished tenancy rights to flats in nominally private ownership, and instead the murky categories of lessor and lessee were introduced. With this law the State acknowledged the 10% level of property ownership by the nominal owners while totally disregarding the 90% property ownership of the now former tenants. The State has carried out a nationalization of the property owned by those former tenants carrying out an act of robbery against those tenants.
The Lease Law has jeopardized the fundamental human right to the protection of home and family; former tenants are now threatened with eviction, and have been placed in a position of extreme legal and social insecurity.
Such evictions, which involve over 40,000 people , are now taking place with increasing regularity. Old men and women are being consigned to old folk’s homes, their upkeep being paid for not by the State but from individuals’ pensions.
Rents for occupants of nominally owned apartments were increased by 60%, effective 1 November 2005, but not for those living in socially owned apartments. This is blatantly discriminatory. As such apartments are occupied in the main by the poor and elderly, this means that such rents are beyond their means. Where an occupant is unable to pay such a rent, he/she is under actual threat of eviction.
The Lease Law: violation of human rights for the sake of parassitical gains
Another iniquitous aspect of the Lease law (even George Orwell could not have dreamt this up) is that couples must request permission from the nominal owner if they want to have a child, and also for a spouse whose partner has died to live with his or her new spouse in the apartment in the event that he or she remarries. The nominal owner may or may not grant such permission. Where a family either has a child (unless they decide that they must abort the foetus) or re-marries without the nominal owner’s permission, they are then liable to eviction onto the street. Nor is the son or daughter of an occupant permitted to marry and to bring his or her wife/husband into the apartment and to form a family.
Additionally, such families are being blatantly discriminated against because, unlike many thousands of other families occupying such accommodation, they are denied the right to purchase their homes at 10% of their market value, this being based on the fact that occupancy/tenancy right is a property right, especially where a family has occupied an apartment for upwards of 50 years.
Additionally, unannounced raids by police to search their homes without a court order must stop.
Following a bloody war in the very heart of Europe, yet another war seems to be going on: a selective and dramatic one which affects tens of thousands of people whose only fault is their status as tenants.
Whereas rent increases and evictions were blocked in most countries for decades after the end of the Second World War, Croatia, with its aspirations toward European Union membership has wasted no time in clearing the way for forced evictions.
This is totally unacceptable!
Never have the victors been seen to act to ferociously and selfishly, in their haste to turn the collapse of the former Yugoslavia into hard cash for parasitical gains.
A common front to restore the right to security of housing tenure
This is why the Alliance of Tenants’ Associations of Croatia is promoting the campaign: Zero Eviction in Croatia, Restoring the Tenancy Right to Security of Tenure, together with the International Alliance of Inhabitants and many social, trade-union and political organizations, as well as individuals.
The Appeal calls on the public institutions to act immediately, each within its specific competence, to stop the evictions and cancel the law which is in sharp contrast with the international treaties ratified by Croatia.
This urgent call for action is aimed at local authorities as well as state institutions. The Campaign calls upon local authorities, while awaiting the change in the national law, to do something immediately: to declare their territory “eviction-free zones”, even with requisition orders, as happened in many French cities and in the city of Rome itself .
Last but not least, the Campaign also calls upon international institutions, especially the European Union and the Council Europe, to intervene at an institutional level to ensure that Croatia respects its international legal obligations as regards human rights. At the same time, we invite UN-Habitat to send a UN-AGFE mission to meet the institutions and social organizations and gather testimony on the violation of housing rights and support a change in the law.
What can we do? A great deal, as has been shown by the other Zero Eviction Campaigns . They work by creating solidarity links between local mobilisation and tens of thousands of people who give concrete support to the struggle, even just by signing a petition.
That is why international solidarity is essential.
Click here to sign the Appeal!
Your signature will reach the institutions involved immediately.
Send this appeal to your friends for them to sign.
Read the UN-AGFE report on evictions in Croatia.
Watch the video History of an ordinary eviction in Zagabria, the Bukal Family.
Download the video:
Please, first of all download the movie in your computer, and then open it with your MPEG/DivX player; in case you need it, you can find here a version for Windows (DivX)
and a version for Linux (Xine)
Read the text of the video.
Read the Presidency of Croatia's message to the Alliance of Tenants' Associations of Croatia.