LVIV – Since Russia launched its full-scale war against Ukraine on February 24, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people from the east of the country have sought temporary refuge in western Ukraine. .
While some passed through Lviv en route to the Polish border just over 40 miles away, others sought to remain in Ukraine but found refuge in the west of the country, finding temporary shelter in smaller towns. . But, according to Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi, some 200,000 internally displaced Ukrainians have decided to stay in the city of lions.
With increased demand for apartments in Lviv, prices have also risen, in some cases dramatically.
Mr Sadovyi called landlords and hotel owners who overcharge residents marauders. He asked the IDPs to inform the city council if they come across such cases.
“A landlord or hotelier who sets an inflated price for an apartment is a looter! Report these cases to the city hotline. We will act as required in times of war. We will verify and publicize the names of the looters and pass the data to the Ukrainian Security Service,” Sadovyi said at a recent press conference.
The mayor stressed that rental prices in Lviv should remain at the same level as they were in the pre-war period.
“If you came to Lviv, hiding from shelling and shelling, and want to rent an apartment, and the owner of the apartment sets an exorbitant price for you, that’s looting,” Mr. Sadovyi.
On March 16, Mr. Sadovyi’s office released a list of six landlords who were overcharging their tenants.
“I know that there are many more such complaints on social networks. But you must clearly justify your message. The information that an apartment is very expensive is insufficient. It is important to specify whether the cost of the apartment has increased since the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine. But please do not copy unverified information. Do not generalize and call all westerners looters. If there is clear data, pass it on to us,” Sadovyi wrote on his Facebook page.
“During the war in Ukraine, a significant proportion of hoteliers kept accommodation prices unchanged or even reduced them. But some entrepreneurs, on the contrary, seek to earn money on [the situation]said Natalia Tabaka, head of the tourism and resorts department of the Lviv regional military administration.
“Two-room apartments in Lviv cost a thousand dollars (per month). For a day in a hotel, a double room, which used to cost 2,500 hryvnias, now you have to pay 8,000,” Ms Tabaka said.
In the circumstances of the apartment rental market, some landlords evict their tenants in order to find new tenants who can pay higher rent. Most tenancy agreements allow landlords to do this when they need to use the apartments for their own accommodation or to house family members. But it is often very difficult to prove whether or not this justification is true.
Lesia Pronko is one of those who left her rental apartment because of the surprising rise in prices.
“Since the beginning of the war, I have heard several cases of ‘looting’ and I could not believe that, when the whole world helps, there are those who can take advantage of someone else’s misfortune”, said Ms Pronko, who has rented the same apartment for four and a half years. She said she hadn’t seen any “red flags” from the owner before.
“About a week ago our landlord called and said he was raising the rent by 50%. When asked why such a big increase, he replied, ‘A friend advised me increase the rent because now the demand is high.” According to him, the reason was not the war, but the demand,” Ms. Pronko said. situation and behave like that?” she said.
Since finding a new apartment in Lviv is now very difficult, Mrs Pronko offered a compromise to her landlord: gradually increase the rent – by 10% every month until it comes to a price that the owner wishes. He refused.
“It seemed to us that when dealing with such people, we didn’t respect each other either. We were disappointed because when you work to support the country, give your savings and everything for the army, in the evening you go volunteer at the shelter, where you feed the refugees, you believe in a better world of good people,” Ms. Pronko says.
Now Ms. Pronko is leaving the apartment where she lived for four and a half years. But she is full of optimism.
“We are saying goodbye to the apartment, and I think this is the start of something better because there are 100 good and honest people for a looter in Lviv. We will definitely write a statement to the city council because the Justice will come to everyone according to their deeds. It is always a matter of time,” Ms. Pronko said.
Valeriy Malinka, managing partner of Sitalo, a real estate agency, said rental prices in Lviv had risen by 20-30% since the start of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine on February 24.
Mr. Malinka said he thought the price increases were reasonable. He said almost half of landlords in Lviv have raised their rent prices, but the other half have not.
“When customers don’t like the price of renting in Lviv, we suggest they consider options outside the city or in other regional centers, but everyone stays in Lviv. In Lutsk, for example , the cost of a one-room apartment is 6,000-8,000 hryvnia (200-275 dollars) per month. Why don’t people want to go there? Why don’t they rent there? They want to be in Lviv; they have such a need. As a result, if the demand is so high, the price will increase,” Malinka said.
The real estate expert believes that in Lviv the rental price is twice as high as in other western regional centers. But he says the situation was the same before the war.
For example, while a two-room apartment in a new building in Lviv costs $500 per month, a similar apartment costs $250-300 in Ivano-Frankivsk.
“The landlord can only evict the tenant in accordance with the contract. Contracts usually specify potential reasons for eviction. The owner must report it within one month. If he does not give one month’s notice, the tenant will not be able to let him enter the apartment until the end of the contract. Without the permission of the tenant, no one can enter the apartment under the terms of the contract. And he can go to law enforcement to report illegal entry into the apartment. Another problem is that of faulty contracts or, in general, the absence of a rental contract. Then the rights of tenants, of course, are not protected. Unfortunately, such situations also occur,” Mr. Malinka said.
Olia Padiak is another apartment tenant in Lviv who had a problem with her landlord after the start of the full-scale war.
“It was the fourth day of the war when I agreed to host a woman with her son. They were fleeing kyiv and I had been living with my parents since the invasion, so the apartment I rented was empty. Somehow I was sure my landlord wouldn’t mind helping a war refugee,” Ms Padiak said.
“Imagine my surprise when he called at 9 p.m. the next day and yelled at me to leave immediately. He didn’t care that these people had nowhere to go. Likewise, I wasn’t physically able to move my life in a day. No quarrels helped, so the lady with her son went to Poland, and I came out of the apartment. I don’t know if he rents this apartment now at a higher price, but it still seems ridiculous to pack my bags when I could be packing humanitarian aid and losing my house not to a Russian rocket,” Ms. Padiak said.
But the situation is not entirely bad; there are also positive cases.
Dmytro Bruso explained how he helped over 60 displaced people while maintaining a good relationship with his landlord.
“When the war broke out, we did not discuss the rental conditions with the landlord. We were all panicking when the war broke out. After three weeks, we had a conversation with him. He called and asked if I was able to pay for the first month of the war, but he didn’t ask for payment for that month,” Bruso said.
Mr. Bruso’s landlord didn’t even mention the rent increase. Its new tenants in other buildings are paying the same price as before the war.
“The owners are nice guys, very empathetic,” he said.
Mr. Bruso has been hosting displaced people since the first day of the war. More than 30 families have spent at least one night at his house over the past two months. He didn’t charge them anything. He said his only rule was that guests clean up after themselves.
“I’m not the best chef, so people also cook for themselves. Sometimes they would do their shopping themselves, but the fridge was always full, so anyone could take what they needed,” Mr Bruso said.
“There is a war in our country. Taking money from forcibly displaced people is simply inhumane. But I don’t judge anyone who does it because people have different situations. If you can host someone, you should,” he said.
Mr. Bruso believes that the situation of rental prices in Lviv is not catastrophic. Most people who stayed with him temporarily found an apartment in town at a reasonable price.
“Yes, they saw ads for apartments with huge rent, but after a few days of searching most of them found accommodation paying pre-war rent,” Bruso said.
He said most landlords in Lviv kept their rental prices at pre-war levels and did not raise them dramatically. And, for anyone who needs to stay in Lviv for a few nights and can’t afford an apartment or hotel room, Mr. Bruso is always ready to help.