BEIRUT: Lawmakers who filed appeals against the controversial new rent law said Monday that it would not go into effect before its revision by Parliament, adding that revisions should cover the entire law and not just articles rejected by the Constitutional Council.
“Procedurally, the law would no longer be viable for implementation until it would be reviewed by Parliament again and [after] its republication [in the Official Gazette],” MP Walid Sukkarieh said at a news conference held in Parliament.
However, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi said that "the new rent law is valid and effective as of December 28, 2014,” after the Constitutional Council approved the majority of articles essential to the law’s provisions.
Rifi met with the Association of Landlords headed by Joseph Zoughaib, who reiterated the justice minister's stand.
Lebanon's Constitutional Council rejected several articles in the controversial law Wednesday, kicking the bill back to Parliament.
The council's action means that the law, which was republished in June in the Official Gazette after a previous council rejection, can’t go in to effect in December as scheduled.
For his part, Sukkarieh said that Parliament had two options: It could either review only the articles rejected by the Constitutional Council or reconsider every article in the bill.
Sukkarieh said that he had initially filed an appeal against the law because its implementation would put 100,000 families out of their homes.
The MP said that many of these families could not afford a hefty rent increase and would not receive a loan from the state-owned Public Housing Institute, meaning that the new rent law would either cause massive debt or would put these families on the street.
Sukkarieh suggested reforming the laws regulating the institute to give every tenant the chance to receive a loan.
The suggested reforms would tackle the criteria needed to qualify for a housing loan.
The MP also said that government aid should not only benefit families whose income is less than half of minimum rent, stressing the need to expand government aid to tenants who surpass that threshold.
Sukkarieh also suggested dedicating government-owned land to special housing projects that could offer small apartments that would reflect the family’s size as well their income.
MP Qassem Hashem also backed Sukarrieh’s statements, saying: “This law will no longer go in to effect, despite what certain people are saying, because the decision goes back to Parliament and it’s up to the council to decide whether to reform the law partially or redraft the law completely.”
Lawyer Adib Zakhour, head of the lawyer committee challenging the law, said that not every article was discussed or voted on in Parliament.
“This is a violation of the internal mechanism of Parliament's work,” he said.
Under the new law, tenants under pre-1992 rental contracts will face rent increases in yearly increments over a six-year period, until annual rents reach 5 percent of the current market value of the house.
After being approved by Parliament this spring, the law was published in the Official Gazette a day early, which led to the Constitutional Court rejecting it. Then-President Michel Sleiman had challenged the law and asked the court to review its constitutionality, but the panel rejected both the law and the challenge because of its premature publishing.
However, the law was republished in the Official Gazette in June, which meant that it was set to go in to effect six months after the date of its publication.