Winter Suspension Of Evictions : Advice From Judicial Officers To Landlords And Tenants

Scheduled from 1 November to 31 March 2015, the winter suspension only suspends the eviction process, but not the procedure for the termination of leases. Having encountered difficult situations on the ground, judicial officers regularly witness, on both the side of defaulting tenants and aggrieved landlords, a real lack of knowledge regarding the possible processes which can be undertaken or the assistance which can be requested during this period.

Although there are on average 120,000 eviction decisions made in France every year, only 6% of these are eventually carried out with the support of public authorities. As part of an eviction procedure between 12 and 18 months inclusive, the only legal phase leading to the actual eviction of the defaulting party requires a minimum of 8 months.
Also, the National Chamber of Judicial Officers recommends tenants and landlords to do their utmost, beforehand and afterwards, in order to find efficient solutions. Small methodological reminder for both tenants and landlords concerned.

Defaulting tenant: make all provisions so as to prevent eviction:

As soon as the first difficulties in making rental payments arise, the tenant must firstly contact the landlord to find an amicable settlement (e.g.: implement a repayment schedule for rental debt accrued).

Secondly, the tenant can contact relevant third parties (guarantor, social services, insurance). In this case, the judicial officer can intervene to attempt to reconcile the parties or recommend them to a third party mediator.

In the event of recurrent problems, the tenant must obtain information on his/her rights (e.g.: with the CAF) in order, if necessary, to request the various means of assistance offered by social services. He/she may also contact the excessive debt commission or appeal to an association or departmental agency for housing (ADIL). Finally, he/she must research alternative housing solutions (private sector, social housing, family, etc.) The judicial officer can assist in all these procedures.

It is in the interest of the tenant to personally attend all summons received (social workers, administration and judicial officers). Objective: To explain the situation and benefit from a personalised diagnosis by the competent authorities. The tenant must also be present at the hearing to defend his/her rights before the district court judge.

In the unfortunate event of an eviction being declared, the winter break gives some time to find an alternative housing solution. The tenant can also request assistance from the Commission for the Coordination of Actions to Prevent Rental Evictions (CCAPEX) or lodge an appeal to the administrative court to assert the enforceable right to housing (DALO appeal)

Aggrieved landlord: be vigilant and pro-active

From the first default on payment, the landlord must contact the tenant to analyse the situation and to identify the correct way to proceed in this particular case. Is the tenant is real financial difficulty, simply negligent or dishonest?

The landlord will then gradually make his/her rights known: pre-litigation stage with amicable reminders, registered letters, and so on. If it is the first time the tenant has failed to pay, and he/she is an honest tenant, an amicable solution can still be found. The landlord can then propose a schedule for paying back the rental debt accrued. Another solution involves the landlord obtaining the right for housing assistance payments owed to the tenant to be paid directly to the landlord.

If no tangible results are achieved, the usual legal means then need to be used: request the assistance of a judicial officer in order to use any deposit paid, send a payment order featuring the clause on the termination of the lease, and possible attached to a seizure for security.

Namely: Article L 613-3 of the Code of Construction and Housing defines the winter break as a period during which there shall be no rental eviction even when an eviction notice is declared. It is also important to recall that the winter break does not apply to squatters and occupiers of housing in a building decreed as dangerous.