The Hardship Faced by Landlords After Accommodating Refugees

In recent years, a change in the conditions of social benefits for migrants has profoundly impacted their livelihoods. This alteration took effect in July and has driven many refugees into poverty. Interestingly, the refugees and their landlords have borne the brunt of these changes.

The story of fifty-five-year-old Ivan from Prague is a prime example of the consequences faced by landlords who have provided shelter for refugees. Ivan had purchased a one-bedroom apartment with a balcony using the money from selling his parents’ house. With plans to rent it out for at least thirteen thousand crowns per month, he had invested time and effort into renovating and furnishing the property.

However, the situation took a turn when the Russian invasion of Ukraine triggered a wave of refugees, bringing hundreds of thousands of people to the Czech Republic. Ivan accommodated Elena from Kharkiv and her ten-year-old daughter in his apartment. To reduce her dependence on state support, Elena worked as a saleswoman in a drugstore, earning a monthly net income of eighteen thousand crowns.

Until July, the state provided a solidarity contribution of nine thousand crowns to eligible refugees. This meant that Ivan was losing four thousand crowns each month, but he had accepted this arrangement, considering the difficult circumstances faced by the refugees. However, the situation changed when the state abolished the solidarity contributions from July onwards. Instead, refugees would receive financial support for their accommodation through humanitarian aid, which they would then pass on to their landlords.

For apartments registered with the Ministry of Labor, the support amounted to three thousand crowns per person, with a maximum of fifteen thousand crowns. There had also been a tightening of the original humanitarian aid provisions. Ivan had anticipated that the state would contribute six thousand crowns per month towards the rent, and Elena would add three thousand from her earnings, resulting in the same arrangement as before. However, to Ivan’s dismay, the Ministry of Labor rejected Elena’s application for support because her monthly income of eighteen thousand crowns was deemed sufficient to cover her housing expenses.

Unfortunately, Elena did not qualify for social benefits available only to local citizens, even though rents in Prague often exceed eighteen thousand crowns per month, the amount Elena was earning. This predicament left Ivan with a difficult choice: either evict Elena and her daughter or bear the financial burden himself. Eventually, they agreed on a monthly rental agreement of six thousand crowns. Nevertheless, this decision meant Ivan lost seven thousand crowns each month. In essence, the state had shifted caring for refugees onto its citizens.

Considering the circumstances, Elena contemplated returning home. However, the ongoing shelling in Kharkiv made it an unsafe option. When the situation was brought to the attention of Marian Jurečka, the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, he recommended that Elena find a better-paying job to alleviate her housing expenses.

The plight faced by Ivan and Elena highlights the challenges encountered by landlords who have offered their properties to refugees. While the humanitarian crisis demands compassion and support, ensuring that the burden is shared equitably among all stakeholders is essential. As the debate surrounding refugee assistance continues, finding a sustainable solution that addresses the needs of refugees and landlords remains a pressing issue.