The past two months of aerial and artillery bombing on Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham-controlled Idlib by regime forces and the Russian Air Force have resulted in the displacement of thousands of residents, especially from the city of Idlib. Nevertheless, the prices of house rentals in the city have not decreased, and obtaining housing there remains a difficult task, exclusively managed by private real estate offices.
The population of Idlib City is estimated to be about 380,000, while the population of Idlib governorate in areas under the control of HTS-linked Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) is about 3.48 million, 51 percent of whom are displaced persons, spread over an area of 5,651 square kilometres, according to the latest statistics issued by the Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU) in December 2022.
According to a correspondent for The Syria Report in the region, rental prices in Idlib city are more than double those in its nearby countryside. Demand for rentals in the city is increasing due to the concentration of municipal and service institutions, hospitals, and the university.
There are about 100 licensed real estate offices in Idlib, the director of technical services in the city told The Syria Report. These offices often agree among themselves on unified pricing for rentals in the city according to locations.
To licence a real estate office in Idlib, one must apply to the SSG’s Ministry of Local Administration and Services, along with a real estate record and a cadastral plan for the office or a rental contract for it, in addition to the personal data of the office owners. The Ministry of Local Administration and Services grants these offices official contract books to document rental transactions, and these contracts are supposed to be authenticated by a notary. Whether licensed or not, the SSG has no decisions or procedures in place to oversee the operation of the offices and to impose penalties on those that violate regulations.
For each residential rental transaction, the offices charge a commission equal to one month’s rent, half from the tenant and half from the landlord. For example, if the rental value is USD 150 per month, the real estate office collects USD 300 for the first month: USD 150 as the rental value and USD 150 as a one-time commission. Thus, the tenant pays USD 225 in the first month, and the landlord pays USD 75.
The average rental property in Idlib city is a 100-square-metre residence in a multi-storey building in the western and southern neighbourhoods of the city, with a value ranging between USD 150-250 per month. However, rentals in some of the more upscale neighbourhoods of Idlib city, such as Al-Qusur and Al-Rawdah, can reach around USD 600 for large, furnished detached houses. Non-governmental organisations often rent these homes to convert them into offices. Smaller residences of about 50 square metres in popular neighbourhoods and old buildings can also be rented for around USD 50 per month.
One displaced family from the southern countryside of Idlib has been residing in the Dabait neighbourhood of Idlib city since 2021, paying a monthly rent of USD 125. Their rental contract expired last October. During this period, Idlib city was under artillery shelling by regime forces, prompting many residents to flee to more stable areas in the northern countryside of Idlib. Nevertheless, the real estate office responsible for the house refused to renew the contract for the family unless the rent was increased to USD 175. The office owner explained that the house is in demand as it is on the ground floor, offering its inhabitants more protection than the upper floors.
In its Decision No. 121 issued in February 2022, the SSG required documenting rental contracts at its Ministry of Justice, specifying the rental period as one year with the possibility of renewal. The decision also mandated the explicit inclusion of the monthly rental value in the contract, in Turkish Lira or U.S. Dollars, and granted the landlord the right to evict the tenant at the end of the rental period.
The Syria Report’s correspondent reported that the process of documenting rental contracts is generally rare. This is mainly because real estate offices prefer to avoid official procedures, wishing not to adhere to rules related to the duration of contracts and rental values. These offices prefer to find tenants who accept short-term contracts with the possibility of increasing the rent. Some real estate offices rent properties whose owners live outside Idlib with annual contracts and, in turn, sublet them to other tenants under contracts that are not officially documented by any authority.