Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Old leases… readers’ comments

I received many comments over what I wrote last week about old-lease residential units and old-lease law governing the owner-tenant relationship. Honestly, I didn’t expect to find among those who cared and commented some of my friends and colleagues whom, like me, are regarded to be leftist. I saw how unbiased and just they were even if some others may think what they said does belong to the right-wing ideology.

For example, Mr. Moustafa Hammam the accountant wrote: “In the beginning, I used to side with tenants against owners; a childish revolutionary stance not based on real experience. That was until the company I work in bought one of the biggest buildings of Qasr ad-Dobara in Garden City neighborhood. The building is called Isis. I received the papers of this building and went into one of its apartments. I swear the apartment was very spacious to the extent that I lost my way out of it. During that time, the lease-value of very small apartments that are not supplied with all services reached 200 pounds. I looked at the papers of Isis’s spacious apartments and found out that some of the tenants rent them furnished for thousands of pounds; meaning one apartment is rented for higher than 47 double times the small ones. After this, I changed my opinion, and my stance towards tenants turned into an aggressive one, to the extent that a mentor of mine, whom I learnt a lot from, blamed me for my actions. Actually, my newly-adopted stance was not only due to the poor-value lease money paid but also because I found out that those tenants have very strong connections in the official entities. For example, the head of the police station was very afraid of the tenants because one of them was a relation to then-minister Botros Ghali. The same thing happened in electricity, land-line telephone companies and other ones. I cancelled contracts renting the apartments furnished unless under my own permission. My convictions changed to the degree that some of those who stick rigidly to what is written in the books accused me of abandoning my beliefs.”

Dr. Mounir Megahed, the nuclear scientist, wrote two lines saying: “Although I live in an old-lease apartment in an almost working-class neighborhood, I do agree to what you said in your article.”

Dr. Muhammed Farrag Abu en-Nour wrote a long and interesting comment suggesting solutions for the problem. I excerpt part of what he wrote. He said: “The idea is new and really well-founded. However, we should take into consideration how constitutional it is to terminate old lease in high-class neighborhoods and keep it in the neighborhoods of middle and working classes, paying attention that the latter have many buildings whose owners built them to secure their children against what might happen to them in the future.

Also, if we gave the owner and tenant the freedom to define the relationship binding them, there will be big social troubles, as there will be rich people in possession of apartments of poor lease-value, while there are old and widowed men and women living in similar apartments but have no income and no one to support them. Therefore, I suggest that we think of a gradual solution that will not result in big revenues but will guarantee obeying the law and not causing harm to anyone by this new law just because of a greedy exploiting bunch.

For example, we should terminate the lease in case the tenant is using the apartment for purposes other than residing personally in it, as there are thousands of apartments, owned by public companies like Heliopolis Company, the ministry of endowments and insurance companies, in the capital Cairo, Alexandria and other big cities, that are rented furnished by their tenants for thousands of pounds. Also, if it was proved that the tenant no longer stays in the apartment and has another place to stay in, then the lease must be cancelled. As to the rest of the apartments, a real estate tax should be levied on them and revenues should be allocated to the social housing fund in order to build housing units for those who need them and who will leave their old-lease apartments in the working-class neighborhoods.

In parallel, an annual increase convenient to the value of the old lease should be considered in order to be fair towards the old tenants. All that requires true hard work and serious scrutiny by the state entities and its legal departments in order to quickly provide the necessary resources funding the social housing so that we can have a gradual solution and not a paralyzing one. In doing so, we will guarantee not having big social troubles and not contravening the constitution.”

The three comments mentioned above are to people who, as I said before, belong to a cultural ideology totally in favor of the broad working-class masses, or what we call the Egyptian Left, which proves that in case the tackling approach is right and the vision is impartial, the adopted stance is more close to being right.

I also received a comment by e-mail from engineer Mr. Moustafa Abdelaal. He is from Port Said. He started his comment saying: “God bless you and damn all unjust ones,” then he cited seven texts from Quran; verse 58 of An-Nisa Chapter, verse 188 of Al-i-Imran Chapter, verse 104 of Al-Kahf Chapter, verses 85 and 188 of Al-Baqara Chapter, the beginning of Al-Mutaffifin Chapter and verse 183 of Ash-Shu’ara Chapter. Then he said that repealing the old-lease law will lead to a strategic shift in the Egyptian economy that no one can expect, adding that this will lead to achieving justice, equality, reducing burdens over the jurisdiction system, demolishing slum areas completely, having all the society above poverty level and fulfilling what Allah and his prophet said.

Mr. Abdelaal presented a lengthy suggestion saying that state properties alone represented in the property owned by the ministry of endowments are estimated to be of billion pounds worth. If such property were rented with a 7 percent annual increase, the revenue will be 70 billion pounds annually.

He gave details of the steps that should be taken in order to achieve such thing, saying that there are about five million old-lease residential units. If such leases were revalued and a tax of about 30 percent was imposed yearly, expected revenues of twelve billion pounds will be raised annually. Moreover, if every owner paid a sum of money, say ten thousand pounds, in exchange for taking his apartment back, this will yield a revenue of about fifty billion pounds, meaning providing 120 billion pounds for the fund supporting the tenants in need.

Now, I believe it’s time for the parliament to start having an open thorough discussion to come up with a solution for this dilemma and not making use of the needs of the poor to justify more looting by the greedy.

Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar

This article was published in Almasry alyoum newspaper on February 1, 2017.

To see the original article, go to:

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