Tenants of Barcelona against La Caixa for not being able to buy their flats

They will demand after losing the option to acquire the homes and be at risk of having to leave them in a year. The Foundation of the entity alleges that they knew they were without that option by renewing their contracts

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Nine years ago the 78 houses of a block that the La Caixa Foundation built in an area under construction in Mataró (Barcelona) were inhabited. Tenants had to prove income that prevented them from emancipating and lacking properties to seal a rent reduced to official protection prices. The offer included the claim that they could purchase the flats after 10 years. “It was the hook for the vast majority to access,” says Gabriel, based in the building. However, the option has been phased out. The first to move to the promotion ensure that the entity did not notify them of the rectification. Now they don’t know where they’re going to live in a year, when their contract expires.

Veronica raises two children with her partner at home. “They sold us it would be ours someday. Having to find another floor would be torture,” he says. Like the others that premiered the property, the La Caixa Foundation extended the lease for five more years in 2016. “When we went to sign, we asked if the conditions were the same. They told us not to worry, that it was all the same,” he recalls.

However, the right to purchase the first agreement is not included in the renewal. “We sign innocently,” Veronica laments. Residents file a lawsuit to demand that the offer be reinsumed.

The La Caixa Foundation responds that it will not solve what it does with the houses until October 2021, when the bulk of the subscribed rents expire. It submits that the tenants were ‘aware’ that the possibility of purchase was withdrawn and stresses that it was abolished ‘without incurring any irregularity’.

“At no point did they warn us,” Marta disputes. “We couldn’t read the contract before we signed, they gave us only 10 minutes. The renewal contract has 15 pages written front and back, and 15 more annexes”, specifies the girl, ready to pay the price of the home.

‘You cannot change the contract without the consent of one of the two parties and without communicating’, says Patrícia Llorens, a lawyer of the applicants, who denies that the agreements were initialling knowing the fine print: ‘It happened the same with the preferred ones. Customers trusted the bank and no one thought I could make them a move like that. Moreover, who would give up a right that benefits them?”

MORE CASES

The La Caixa Foundation has eliminated the acquisition clause in more promotions. It justifies prioritizing the duration of a park of affordable rental buildings. Tenants of the entity in a property of 168 homes of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat (Barcelona) also consider suing, as do the neighbors of Mataró. They argue that they were also not anticipated that they would lose the purchase offer when they renewed the rent in 2019.

“I learned that they had removed the clause within a year of signing,” Veronica says. “A neighbor alerted when he read the contract well. If you didn’t sign, you had to leave in 15 days,” says Gabriel, who recently renovated with a price increase: “The official protection rent is 375 euros, but with expenses it goes up to 628. It’s abuse. The parking space is mandatory, although I do not have a car, and maintenance is scarce for what we pay for. I’m waiting in case the purchase option is recovered. Other than that, I wouldn’t make up for it.” He adds that there are families who have sacrificed themselves: “The floor is small and they had opportunities to leave, but they were excited to own a property.”

“This used to be fields and has been revalued. In 20 years they lifted the official protection regime and can sell it better,” suspects Sergio,who has gone from paying 454 euros to 511euros. Neighbors stress that the rise of housing in Mataró makes it difficult for them to exit: the average price of an address has risen from 113,000 to 198,600 euros in seven years and the rent has climbed from 496.45 to 651.83 euros. “I see myself going back to my parents at 37,” Marta.

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