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Coronavirus Impact On My New Apartment

Coronavirus impact on my new apartment

Post Series: Road to home ownership

Because of lockdown and social distancing rules, many constructions sites have come to a halt. Just like my newly bought, yet to be completed apartment. I mailed my contractor to see what the impact will be for the Brussel’s apartment. I’m still waiting for a responses, but I expect something like: “we’re doing our utmost best to limit the impact but ”a small” delay is possible”.

Just as the construction of the apartment was speeding up with the start of the basement/underground parking, we got hit by the coronavirus. It felt like yesterday that I was super happy to become the official owner of the apartment. Luckily -well, that remains to be seen if it’s a good thing-, the government announced on Friday (24/04/2020) that they will relax certain measures. Hopefully, this means that the contractor continues with construction.

Either way, It’ll jeopardize the agreed date of delivery of the construction project for sure. According to a recent survey by De Tijd, most times, there is a delay of three to six months.

Apartment delayed: Force Majeure

These delays are anything but fun as it means I must wait longer to move out of my rental apartment, with more rent to pay as a result. Unfortunately, there isn’t much I can do, especially since the delivery date is still more than a year away. The reason for the delay is also something outside the control of the contractor, aka force majeure.

Most deeds, including mine, stipulate they automatically extend the delivery times in the event of force majeure. Currently, contractors are only allowed to make urgent repairs in inhabited houses. In uninhabited homes – such as new homes to be completed – work may only be carried out if the safety regulations of the corona measures are observed.

My main concern, besides the longer rental period, is that they try to push their extra costs to adhere to the corona measures onto me. Time will tell how things evolve. In the coming months, I will gather information on how I can handle any possible unforeseen costs. With handling I mean, not having to pay for them.

The rental agreement extended?

So, a longer rental period. While this sucks, considering it’s more than a year away, there isn’t an issue to extend the rental contract as there is a clause that allows this under the current rental agreement. On top of that, current rules in Flanders stipulate that if you had already canceled your contract, you can ask your landlord to “extend the rent due to extraordinary circumstances.”

This is actually a law that already exists, but few knew about until the corona measures. It’s included in both the federal rental law and the 2019-update rental decree. This is important because the new Flemish rental decree covers leases concluded since 2019 and all older leases are still subject to the federal rental law.

Extraordinary circumstances

But what are these “extraordinary circumstances”? It is circumstances over which a tenant has no influence and which temporarily prevents them from looking for another home or from moving. This could be, for example, the age of your tenant, his illness, pregnancy, or sudden unemployment.

An excellent example that could apply to my situation would be if my apartment was nearing completion, but due to the corona measures, the contractor wasn’t able to finish yet. Moving out wouldn’t be possible. I could then use this clause to ask for an extension.

I must ask the landlord for this extension by a formal letter no later than one month before the end of the lease. Due to COVID-19, the Flemish government temporarily relaxed these conditions: renters can make the application in the last month and they don’t have to write a signed letter, an email is sufficient.

This has the perverse effect that some landlords are squashed between the old tenant who cannot leave and the new tenant who is eager to enter. In order to prevent tenants from being left on the street, the Flemish government has decided that no forced evictions may take place until 17 July.

Careful reboot

Coronavirus tips
Wash your hands and cover your mouth when sneezing using your elbow or a paper throwaway tissue.

A delayed construction and a longer rental period. That is the conclusion for my apartment in Brussels. But when can I expect construction to continue or get more info about the actual delay? Well, as mentioned in the beginning I’m still waiting for a response from my contractor, but according to bouwunie, the union of small and medium construction businesses, 2/3 of construction companies have (partially) rebooted their work since 8 April.

In the same survey of bouwunie, 40% of respondents asked for a more flexible work schedule, i.e., more overtime, to catch up and still meet their deadline.

While it’s not a guarantee for anything, it does give me home that the delay might not be so bad and who knows, with a bit of luck I can still move into my new apartment on the agreed date (17 May 2021). Fingers crossed!

Stay safe and healthy.

Mr. FightToFIRE
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