1. Winter Moratorium
Just like in the southern part of our country, there is now a general prohibition on evictions during the winter months in the Brussels-Capital Region. With this initiative, the Brussels Region aims to prevent situations of homelessness during the most risky period of the year.
From now on, evictions are prohibited during the period from 1 November to 15 March of the following year, regardless of the cause.
The Ordinance provides for four exceptions, where the landlord, with special justification, can request a deviation from the prohibition on evictions:
- when the tenant has found an alternative housing solution or has vacated the property;
- when the property poses a danger to the occupants in terms of safety or health;
- when the tenant’s behaviour creates a dangerous situation that makes habitation impossible;
- when the owner must personally occupy the property due to force majeure.
Landlords (excluding public real estate managers and social renting agencies) who do not receive rent during the period in which the prohibition is in effect are entitled to compensation paid by the Regional Budget Fund for Solidarity. For this, the landlord will have to initiate a procedure in which the judge determines the amount of the compensation. This compensation is usually equal to the rent, unless the judge considers there are justified reasons to grant compensation lower than the rent – for example, when the rent is already excessively high or the property is in an unhealthy state.
2. Tightened Rules for Eviction Procedure
The eviction procedure as stipulated in the Judicial Code is transferred to the Brussels Housing Code, and the rules are becoming stricter in relation to the landlord’s actions and responsibilities.
The rules regarding evictions apply to residential lease agreements, as well as commercial lease agreements that involve a property which is also partially occupied by the tenant.
- Prior Formal Notice
From now on, every judicial collection of rent arrears or eviction claim must be preceded by a written formal notice, at least one month prior to the proceedings. In this formal notice, the landlord must mention certain mandatory elements, notably:
- an itemization of the rent arrears, damages, and interest;
- a statement that if there is no response within the stipulated period, the landlord can bring the case to court;
- if the collection is being carried out by a lawyer or bailiff, a separate section in bold and in a different font stating: “this letter pertains to an amicable collection and aims to avoid judicial collection (conciliation before the court or attachment)”.
If the landlord disregards this obligation, the petition or summons initiating the procedure can be declared null and void.
The landlord is encouraged to initiate the collection or eviction procedure via a petition instead of a summons. If the landlord still chooses to initiate the procedure through a summons, the procedure remains validly initiated, but the landlord bears the costs of the summons regardless of the outcome of the dispute, unless the law mandates the use of a summons or the defendant is not registered in the population register.
- Appearance Period
In the context of an eviction, some legal deadlines are extended:
- the appearance period for an eviction request is extended from 8 to 40 days, to allow the Public Welfare Centre (CPAS/OCMW), which is informed about the procedure by default, to propose solutions to limit the rent arrears;
- the period between the notification of eviction by the bailiff and the actual eviction is extended from 5 to 15 days.
- Proportionality Criterion
In the context of an eviction procedure, the judge will assess the eviction based on the proportionality criterion. This means that the dissolution of the lease agreement will only be considered if the arrears cannot be repaid within a reasonable period, taking into account the situation of both parties, or if the dissolution is proportionate considering the debtor’s shortcomings.