“A displaced not a tourist” is an expression that is echoing in the streets of Idlib city; it is repeated by the displaced people who escaped the armed confrontations in the eastern-southern countryside of the governorate, to a city in which they faced obstacles, that enhanced their suffering, speaking of exploitation on the part of houses’ owners, who increased the rents to an extent that the displaced could not even imagine.
Khadija Haj Ali, a woman from the city of Saraqib in the eastern countryside of Idlib, told Enab Baladi about her displacement to the city of Idlib, where she went through a nightmare to find a home for her family that suits her financial situation, for she was surprised by the fictional prices, which the city did not witness before they escaped to it, according to her.
Khadija says that finding a house in a secure area is next to impossible, adding that she and her children were forced to endure the shelling for ten days because she could not find a safe house.
“I searched a lot, until I managed to rent my friend’s furnished house in the western countryside of Aleppo; it is made of two rooms, with 50 thousand Syrian pounds as a rent (the equivalent to $100),” Khadija added.
According to Enab Baladi’s observation of the real estate market, the rent of a house in a secure area might relatively reach 75 thousand Syrian pounds ($150), for “safety” has a tax shaped by high prices, according to Khadija.
In an interview with the owner of a real estate office in the city of Idlib, called Abu Abdou, he said that the owners of such offices are also upset of the situation of the houses’ rents in the city, pointing out that Idlib never witnessed such a rise in prices before, despite the repeated waves of displacement in the past a few years.
Abu Abdou confirmed what Khadija has said, stating that the rent of a “good” house rose to 50 thousand Syrian pounds on average, pointing out that the tenants have to pay additional expenses, under the concept of “insurance,” which is hailed as a new custom in the real estate market.
Abu Abdou holds the owners of the houses accountable for the situation, saying that the rising rents is demanded by the owners themselves; “the broker cannot control this. In the end, there is an agreed upon contract between the tenant (the client) and the vendor (the house owner).”
Abu Abdou attributed the houses’ owners demand of an insurance to the spreading phenomenon of stealing houses, pointing out that the insurance requested for a furnished house ranges between 100 to 200 dollars, as for the unfurnished house, the insurance varies between 50 to 100 dollars.
Concerning the commission, Abu Abdou said that it varies from one broker to another, explaining that he requests half the amount of a rent from the tenants and another sum that he agrees upon with the house owner.
How Did Local Administration Contain the Crisis?
Enab Baladi demanded an explanation from the Local Administration in Idlib of the exploitation that the displaced people are facing in the city; the Minister of the Local Administration, under the “Salvation Government,” Fadel Taleb attributed the situation to the presence of “crisis’ merchants” against the background of the displacement wave that the city has been living.
Taleb pointed out to Enab Baladi that its Ministry is working to control the situation through coordination with the Ministry of Interior, under the “Salvation Government,” to curb exploiting and blackmailing the displaced people, stating that only a few displaced people applied complains about the crisis, which were not tackled properly.
He added that so far there are no laws to protect the rights of the both sides of the contract, “but we are working to create regulations concerning the matter at hand,” pointing out to procedures that the Government is depending on to contain the phenomenon, that centralis on motivating the contractors to register the contract in the Municipality to guarantee the rights of both tenants and vendors, in addition to codifying and issuing licenses for the real state offices in the area, and closing the unlicensed ones.
Talb estimated the number of the displaced people in rural Idlib as about 60 thousand families, due to the military operations that the eastern-southern countryside of Idlib is witnessing.
The suffering of the displaced people in Northern Syria has inflated after the military operations that the area is undergoing, for the Syrian regime has started a military attack, on October, targeting opposition factions’ positions in Southern Idlib to regain control over it; it also targeted masses of civilians, which led to a massive displacement movement to the more secure parts of the governorate.
Last January, in its report the United Nation (UN) mentioned the displacement of more than 200 thousand people in the period from 15 December, 2017, to 16 January, 2018; it also pointed out to the difficulties that face relief organizations, seeking to reach to the affected people in Idlib, calling on the different parties to the conflict to facilitate the urgent aid delivery process.