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Since 1 November 2022, evictions have been suspended in Wallonia.

In this way, Wallonia wants to prevent households in a precarious situation due to rising energy prices from becoming even more so due to a lack of housing.

1. A "déjà vu"

1.1 The measures in brief

A recent decree provides for a temporary suspension of all physical evictions from housing and of the enforcement of all judicial and administrative decisions ordering the eviction, until 15 March 2023.

The suspension of evictions granted by the courts take effect immediately and can be extended. During this period, the police must ensure that no evictions take place, by force or violence if necessary.

Exceptionally, this moratorium does not apply when evictions are necessary for security or public health reasons, such as imminent danger or the physical and mental health of residents. Evictions for intentional harm are also excluded from the suspension measure.

1.2 A temporary injunction that holds up?

As the preparatory work of the decree shows, the Walloon Region has balanced the interests of landlords and tenants subject to eviction. In particular, this provision is based on the assumption that landlords are less exposed to the risks of rising energy prices than tenants, who are in a more precarious situation. In this respect, the measure is undoubtedly in line with the practice of the "winter stock" applicable to social housing in Belgium or in force in France.

The list of negative consequences is now well known: significant delays in implementation, weakening of the economic stability of landlords, restriction of access criteria to the rental market.

The intransigence of the Walloon legislator thus raises questions. Ignoring that systematic recourse to an eviction moratorium leads to a crisis situation, risks hardening the rental market, to the detriment of those most in need.

2. To do or not to do, that is the question

2.1 Actions landlords can undertake 

According to the preparatory work of this decree, "it is about suspending the implementation of decisions and not cancelling them". During these four months, evictions are indeed suspended, but the landlord does not lose his "right" to evict and judgments obtained remain valid.

Furthermore, the prohibition does not cover pre-eviction procedures and other forms of enforcement. First of all, it should be recalled that an enforcement by a bailiff is carried out on the basis of an enforcement title, usually a judgment.

Specifically, an enforcement order always allows the owner of a rented property to recover the amounts owed. Only the eviction of the rented premises is postponed to a date after the end of the aforementioned moratorium.

More specifically, during the moratorium, the landlord is free to perform the procedural acts that precede an eviction. This applies to the service of the judgment, order for payment or order for eviction.

Take the example of the tenant of a house in Nivelles who has not paid his rent for a year. According to the decree, although the tenant has been ordered by the justice of the peace to leave the property, the landlord cannot force him to do so. However, upon the request of the landlord a bailiff can issue an eviction notice and at the same time seize the property of the tenant (e.g. the furniture) to collect the debt. At the end of the moratorium, if the tenant has not left the property voluntarily, eviction can take place.

In practice, it often takes several months to carry out an eviction, so the moratorium will have little impact on future judgements. The concrete impact is particularly noticeable in eviction proceedings that have been planned for a long time and where the priority is the speedy recovery of amounts due.

2.2 The obligations of the tenant with a moratorium on payments

Although this period of protection allows the tenant to remain in the property, it still does not release him from his obligations to pay the rent and charges.

A tenant who has already been sentenced by the court has every interest in taking advantage of this grace period either to reach a settlement with his landlord or at least to meet his payment obligations, but he cannot  be forced to leave.

3. And now what?

The question is what the impact of the moratorium will be and whether it will be extended or not.

This measure to suspend evictions, coupled with strict controls on rent indexation, will have serious consequences for the Walloon rental market. If this situation persists, it could soon be called a "winter truce".

This point seems relevant since a draft ordinance of the Brussels government on a winter moratorium on evictions has been submitted to the Council of State for its opinion.

In any case, an appeal for annulment and a request for elimination of the decree was filed on 20 October 2022 by the non-profit organisation "National Owners and Co-Owners Syndicate", but no decision has been taken yet. 

Given the variety of situations in this area, it is wise to seek the advice of counsel. Our team of real estate law specialists can assist you and answer your questions. Please do not hesitate to contact our specialists at info@seeds.law or on +32 (0)2 747 40 07.

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