(30 March 2023) The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, have in a letter to the French Government expressed their concern about a draft law increasing penalties for unlawfully occupying housing and commercial buildings.
The draft law which has also been subject to criticism by Civil Society Organizations, the French Human Rights Ombudsman and the National Consultative Commission for Human Rights, will strongly increase penalties for squatting in homes and buildings, making it subject to fines of up to 30,000 EUR or 2 years of imprisonment. In addition, also remaining in a building or home after an eviction order can be subjected to a fine of 7,500 EUR.
As about 95 percent of all evictions in France related to unpaid rents or other housing costs, the law puts persons largely living already in precarious situations at risk of criminalization, instead of ensuring access to alternative adequate and affordable housing, which is in many cities and regions of France in insufficient supply.
The Special Rapporteurs are concerned that the new law would speed up eviction procedures, by significantly reducing the time tenants have to pay back any unpaid rent or find alternative accommodation before being evicted. At the same time, the power of judges to grant an extension to tenants to repay debts would be curtailed under the new law, limiting the period to a maximum of one year, down from the current three years.
The new law would also extend France’s controversial fast-track evictions, which give individuals just 72 hours to vacate a property without the involvement of a judge or the offer of any alternative housing or accommodation.
In their letter the Special Rapporteurs expressed also their concern that the initial draft of the law would have made as well “propaganda or advertisement” for the irregular occupation of housing or commercially used buildings subject to a fine of 3,750 EUR, thus putting as well housing and human rights defenders and other civil society organizations at risk, assisting persons at risk of homelessness or living in informality.
The draft law was adopted on 4 April 2023 by the National Assembly with few modifications and has been transferred to the Senate for final approval.