BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman's referral of a disputed rent law to the Constitutional Council for review infuriated landlords who blocked a road in a Beirut neighborhood in protest Wednesday.
Several protesters used burning tires to block the road facing the National Museum, sending plumes of smoke into the sky and causing a suffocating traffic jam.
Sleiman who refused to sign the bill passed by Parliament earlier this year into a law, asked the Constitutional Council to review its legality. The president's move will certainly delay discussion on the draft law.
The draft law has caused controversy in the country since it was proposed nearly two years ago.
Tenants say the bill would displace thousands of families who rent in Beirut under an old law governing lease contracts enacted before 1993.
Under the new law, rents would increase over six years until they reach 5 percent of the current market value of the apartment. Owners have the choice to either sell the apartment or lease under a new contract and price.
Landlords say that most of the owners are also part of the working class and need to be treated fairly as well.
Inhabitants pay minimal rent fees that often amount to less than LL1,000,000 ($666) annually in the capital where prices of new apartments amount to no less than $200,000 per year.