Compact micro-apartments may be the latest answer to housing shortages, but some Parisian landlords have been accused of taking the trend to the extreme.
One tenant, Dominique—who asked that his full name be withheld—has sued his landlady for renting him a 1.56-square-meter (16-square-foot) apartment for 17 years after she defied a court order to rehouse him. He hopes to get awarded 25,000 euros ($33,828), the equivalent of 17 years' rent, plus damages.
His case, which is going through the French courts, is not isolated. Another lawsuit involves a single mother who was evicted from her four-square-meter apartment in January for falling behind on her 200 euros per month ($270) rent for three months. Her landlord told her via SMS that he had changed the locks to her apartment and that she had 24 hours to pick up her belongings, which he had put in trash bags and placed outside the closed door.
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The Abbé Pierre Foundation, a charity dealing with French housing issues, has helped in both cases, providing legal advice on the grounds that their clients' apartments and evictions were illegal.
French law states that a property must be at least 9 square meters and have a shower. It also prevents landlords from evicting tenants during the winter months, even if they haven't paid rent.
The foundation highlights a worrying trend in Paris' housing market. In its annual report, released in February, it said 90 percent of people living in the Paris region found it difficult to find a flat as rents continue to climb.
According to the Observatoire des Loyers de l'Agglomération de Paris, a group that monitors rents in the city, the median monthly rent at the beginning of 2013 was 1,097 euros ($1,434), a 3.3 percent increase from 2012, which was 3.2 percent higher than in 2011. This, despite flat economic growth and 11 percent unemployment in France.
In London, figures released in September by LSL Property Services show that rents had risen 4.8 percent year-on-year, to reach their second-highest levels since 2008, with the average rent standing at £1,126 ($1,805).
The Observatoire attributes the rise to the lack of new apartments being built but also the decreasing number of places to rent or buy coming into the market. It adds that rents are increased significantly between tenants, with an average increase in rent of 8.5 percent in the French capital.
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