A decision to set rental values in areas controlled by the Autonomous Administration in North and East Syria (AANES) has not regulated the rental market in Hassakeh. The lack of regulation and other challenges have left tenants, especially displaced people who have migrated to AANES-held territories, the weaker party in the tenant-landlord relationship.
The AANES’ Executive Council issued Decision No. 1 in February 2021 to regulate tenancy and set monthly rent prices in Syrian pounds. Prices ranged from SYP 10,000 to 150,000 for homes, depending on house specifications. The decision also put in place a unified template for lease contracts issued by the Categories Union, which must be formally documented with the relevant municipalities after approval from the local commune and the real estate affairs office of the Asayish internal security apparatus. A commune is the smallest unit of local governance within the AANES and exists at the neighbourhood and village levels. Meanwhile, the Categories Union is an AANES organisation that regulates market professions.
Under the Decision No. 1 of 2021, each commune must maintain records of local rental properties. Each property has a record that includes a description, the owner’s name, the tenant’s name, the contract period, the rental payment amount, and the name of the real estate office maintaining the contract, among other things. This information must be updated whenever any changes occur.
Many landlords do not stick to the prices the decision delineated, however. In practice, rent is priced in USD and can range between USD 40 and USD 250 per month. Landlords and tenants agree to register a pro forma rental amount when documenting their lease contracts with the municipality to comply with Decree No. 1.
The decision also gives tenants the right to file complaints against violators and tasked communes with monitoring the property rental process, identifying violations, and taking required legal steps. However, no complaints have been registered despite widespread violations and public outcry over rising rents, according to The Syria Report’s sources. This gap indicates distrust among tenants who appear to believe that their objections would be futile. Often, landlords deny their high prices before the communes or courts and then refuse to lease to complaining tenants or resort to legal evictions. In such conditions, tenants have little choice but to comply with the landlord and avoid risking material and moral hardship in the courts and complaint committees.
Decision No. 1 states that a tenant must be given an acceptable period of time to vacate the property should there be a dispute between the lessor and landlord. The commune sets the eviction period. However, if the dispute escalates, a committee specialising in real estate complaints sets a deadline between one and three months.
In the first stage of the dispute resolution, the commune can usually mediate the disagreement between the tenant and landlord before either of the two parties resorts to the AANES People’s Courts. According to The Syria Report’s sources, most tenancy lawsuits that make it to the courts are generally filed by the landlords due to the end of the contract period or the failure of tenants to vacate the property.
A landlord may also file a lawsuit for eviction for sabotaging the rented property. Sometimes such cases are filed with malicious intent to evict tenants who refuse to pay the increased rent. When the People’s Court issues a ruling to evict a tenant, then the judicial police or Asayish are then tasked with enforcing it. In turn, the tenant is entitled to submit a complaint about the landlord’s non-compliance with the rental contract. However, tenants usually decide not to take this route as they are the weaker party and risk losing their housing.
Any person who has been displaced from another part of Syria to the AANES-held areas must present a wafed, or “migrant,” card and other documents to enter into a rental contract as a tenant. People residing in AANES whose civil registration is from outside the area must obtain these cards, issued by migrant centres affiliated with the AANES Ministry of Interior’s General Administration for Crossings and Migration.
The card proves that its holder has a civil registration outside AANES areas of northeastern Syria, has undergone a security check, and has a sponsor within AANES territory. Their sponsor must be at least 18 years old and must not be avoiding compulsory military conscription. In some cases, the real estate affairs offices have requested that the sponsor be a property owner. Every displaced person seeking to live in AANES areas must have a sponsor. A person may sponsor up to five people, meaning a displaced family of 10 would need two sponsors.
The migrant card includes personal information and the holder’s current address. The card is renewed every six months, during which cardholders must repeat the procedures, with the presence and signature of the sponsor. The card is necessary for moving through crossings and between different administrative areas.
Migrant cards were introduced in 2019 for security purposes to prevent members of extremist organisations from entering AANES using false identity papers. Before the cards, the Asayish requested that displaced people living in AANES territory obtain residency permits from the mukhtars in their host areas.
However, Kurdish people displaced from the Afrin area of rural northern Aleppo governorate are not required to undergo security checks or obtain migrant cards. Instead, the AANES’ Afrin Societal Association handles their affairs.
When renewing their lease contracts, longstanding displaced tenants must obtain a migrant card to document their contracts formally. For displaced people who are not tenants, such as those living in the homes of their relatives, the local communes request rental agreements or proof of ownership to grant or renew their migrant cards. In such cases, people often have little choice but to draw up pro forma lease contracts and pay real estate brokerage offices SYP 250,000 to register them.