Bill Regulating Rental Market in Israel Faces Further Delays

MK Stav Shaffir submitted the bill last July, but it has made slow progress through various parliamentary committees and stages.

MK Stav Shaffir at the Knesset, January 2, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

A bill regulating Israel’s rental market is facing further delays and is now thought unlikely to pass in the current Knesset session.

Eight months after a weakened version of the bill was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, and two months after it passed a preliminary parliamentary reading, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is still yet to discuss its clauses.

At this rate, the bill is likely to be delayed until the summer at least.

The bill’s implications are primarily financial and its connection to the constitution committee is tenuous at best, but Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has demanded the committee discuss the bill. The panel is controlled by her Habayit Hayehudi party.

Shaked, who seeks to deregulate the housing market, raised harsh opposition to the original bill, which had limited rent increases for periods of three years. That clause was removed from the revised bill.

Israel is home to two million people who rent, in a market nearly devoid of regulation.

Shaked held extended discussions with the bill’s initiators, MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) and MK Roy Folkman (Kulanu), to come to an agreed-upon draft.

The bill mandates a series of clauses that need to appear in every rental contract, and regulates the renter-landlord relationship. It also defines what is deemed livable conditions in an apartment.

Even after the sides reached an agreement on a draft, and it was approved by the ministerial committee, progress on the bill was unusually slow. There was an inexplicable delay of six months from the ministers’ stamp of approval until it came up for a preliminary reading in the Knesset.

Political sources suspect that given Shaked’s initial opposition to the bill, the delays are not coincidental.

“There are no words to describe the government failure that is delaying this important bill, while neglecting the quarter of Israelis who rent,” said Shaffir.

The constitution panel stated that the bill would be discussed during the current Knesset session. Shaked stated in response that this committee was the right body to be discussing the bill. As for why it was taking so long to come up for discussion, she responded, “You’d need to ask the committee.”