Rental-housing Bills Passes First Legislative Hurdle in Knesset

'The goal is to balance the power and rights of landlords and tenants,' says Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir.

MK Stav Shaffir during a Knesset Finance Committee debate on October 28, 2014.
Emil Salman

Two draft laws to regulate residential rentals in Israel market were approved in a preliminary vote in the Knesset on Wednesday. There were no abstentions and no votes against the bills.

Both bills — a government bill and a private members’ bill — now head to the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee for work and another vote.

The government bill addresses the landlord-tenant relationship. It defines, among other things, what is considered a livable apartment, who is responsible for repairs and the maximum security deposit that a landlord can demand. It also specifies that three months’ notice must be given before an apartment is to be vacated.

It does not seek to restrict rent hikes, which the government seeks to address through a proposed cabinet resolution offering incentives to landlords.

“This is a bill that defines the basis for home rentals,” said MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union), who sponsored it.

“The goal is to balance the power and rights of landlords and tenants. A home isn’t a Milky, where you can just buy a different product or not buy anything,” she said, referring to a popular refrigerated pudding. A family that has been given two weeks to leave their apartment will be willing to pay anything and to sign an exploitative lease instead of having to move.”

Shaffir said she plans to expand the legislation to introduce a more controversial practice — rent control.

“A group of economists came to warn of how dangerous this bill is for the rental market. One of their arguments was that if we define what’s livable, it will reduce the number of apartments on the market and raise rents,” Shaffir said.

“By their argument, if someone is willing to live in an unlivable apartment, that’s fine. It’s like saying that if a vehicle has a faulty engine but someone is willing to drive it, that’s fine.”