Social housing company can evict tenants that own property abroad

A Justice of the Peace in the East Flemish municipality of Hamme has ruled that a social housing association was within its rights to use the services of private investigators to look into whether its tenants own properties abroad. The Justice of the Peace also ruled that owning a property or a building plot is a valid reason to refuse social housing to a tenant or a candidate hoping to become a tenant. 

The ruling came after five tenants of the social housing association De Zonnige Woonst in Hamme want to the Justice of the Peace in the East Fleming municipality after their tenancy contracts had been revoked.

The social housing association enlisted the aid of a private company to check what (if any) foreign assets the tenants, all of who are of Turkish descent, have abroad. The Dutch company that is specialised in tracing foreign assets checked the Turkish Land Registry. Six tenants that have since been asked to vacate their social housing own properties or building plots in Turkey.  Five of them took their cases to the Justice of the peace to get the social housing association’s decision to evict them revoked.  

A condition to being given social housing is that the tenant should not own a property or a building plot. However, it is difficult for social housing association to check if the property or building plot is located abroad. In order to carry out checks on foreign assets that have to enlist the services of private investigation companies. However, doing so is highly controversial.

A few months ago it emerged that the Antwerp Social Services had taken on private investigators to carry out checks on benefits claimants’ foreign assets. They were ordered to stop by the Federal Social Integration Minister Daniel Ducarme (Francophone liberal) who said that what they were doing had no basis in law.