New Eviction Law
What citizen of Leningrad is unaware of the overload of housing disputes that has confronted our courts? Not even the establishment of the Housing Chamber, a special court working as a part of some ten parallel boards, has been able to ease the unending tide of such cases flooding practically every single local housing department of the city. But of the overall number of such cases, which reach to tens of thousands annually, many do not in fact involve any issue worthy of judicial consideration, since the tenant/defendant does not dispute the amount of space he occupies, its assessment, or the rent coefficient—in short, nothing connected with the calculations presented by the plaintiff. He is in court only to explain why he has failed to pay and by whatever means to "beat off" impending eviction.
Legislation throughout the world stipulates a simplified procedure for collecting debts due on promissory notes and other equally formal and indisputable documents (for example, documents that have been notarized). As is generally known, in this procedure the person indicated in the document as responsible for the debt is not summoned to the court, which, without hearing his objections, issues to the plaintiff a court order or writ of execution for the collection of the sum in question. This process, of course, is also provided for by the Soviet Civil Procedural Code, where (a typical feature of our legislation) it applies among other areas to the collection of debts in accordance with settlement agreements relating to alimony and wages due on pay books. The new decree issued by the Council of People’s Commissars extends this procedure to rent collection.
It goes without saying (and this is quite clearly stated in the law) that a court order can be issued only when the rent amount is undisputed. While the law accommodates the needs of the house tenants’ cooperatives, it by no means sacrifices to them the interests of the many millions of renters, a majority of whom are productively employed. The law takes into account the fact that in a number of instances there may indeed be a dispute as to the amount of the rent. In such cases the following procedure has been established: the renter is obligated to submit payment according to his own calculations, and the issue of the rent amount is determined in conformity with the usual legal procedure. The tenant, in any event, is guaranteed non-eviction.
The new law introduces no less important changes in the eviction procedure as well.
As is generally known, the procedure in existence thus far, based on article 171 of the Civil Code, permitted eviction of citizens from residences occupied by them after arrears of more than two months in the case of the productively employed, and seven days for others. The law did not state, however, that two-month (or seven-day) non-payment would result in mandatory eviction.
The new law makes these legal relationships completely and exceptionally clear.
The law draws a sharp distinction between tenants who are productively employed and everyone else. Whereas for productively employed citizens an arrears of two months results merely in a court order for the collection of the entire debt and a fine, for those not so employed a seven-day default provides, also by court order, necessary and sufficient cause for both collection of the rent and eviction. Thus considering that rent is due from the latter by the 10th of the month, the seven-day grace period expires on the 17th, and the issuance and implementation of the court order will take about another 10 days, it may be concluded that the arrears of such tenants cannot exceed one month, after which they will be evicted unconditionally.
The law allows two months to productively employed citizens and one week to others in which to satisfy old debts. This week expired on 26 November.
Translated by Charles Rougle