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Administrative proceedings on enforced debt collection; immovable property subject to enforced debt collection K 27/15

On 18 September 2017 at noon, the Constitutional Tribunal publicly delivered its judgment concerning Article 144 of the Act on Administrative Proceedings on Enforced Debt Collection (hereinafter: the said Act).

The Tribunal reviewed the challenged provision insofar as it pertains to handing over an immovable property or emptying a flat or other premises that serve as a dwelling for a debtor and other members of his/her household.

The Constitutional Tribunal adjudicated that Article 144 of the Act of 17 June 1966 on Administrative Proceedings on Enforced Debt Collection – insofar as it refers to enforced debt collection by means of the seizure of an immovable property or a flat, used by a debtor for residential purposes – is inconsistent with Article 30, Article 71(1) and Article 75(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, due to the fact that it does not contain any regulations guaranteeing minimal protection against homelessness to persons who are unable to provide themselves with new dwellings.

Moreover, the Constitutional Tribunal decided to discontinue the proceedings as to the remainder.

The ruling was unanimous.

The Tribunal stated that the challenged provision does not equip an evictee with any guarantees protecting him/her against eviction “onto the street”. By contrast, what arises from Article 30 of the Constitution is the obligation of state authorities to provide at least minimum guarantees to satisfy the housing needs of persons who are disadvantaged because of their personal, family or financial situation, and with regard to whom an eviction order has been issued.

Eviction must not lead to homelessness. A situation where persons in  difficult circumstances vacate a flat when there is no indication of another flat or room where they could move in, in other words eviction “onto the street”, may not be regarded as admissible in the light of respect for the dignity of the individual.

The Tribunal also held that the challenged regulation is inconsistent with Article 71(1) of the Constitution, as it contributes to the scale of homelessness, which state authorities are obliged to counteract. The provisions on eviction from a flat, in the course of administrative proceedings on enforced debt collection, include no regulations protecting evictees against homelessness.

In particular, they did not grant a right to temporary accommodation, a substitute flat, council housing, or other procedural guarantees that secure the situation of an evictee against eviction “onto the street”. At the same time, they do not contain any restrictions within the scope ratione personae, which entails that homelessness may pose a threat to persons requiring special protection from the state, such as minors or disabled persons.

Moreover, the Tribunal held that in the course of introducing norms about eviction resulting from administrative proceedings on enforced debt collection, the legislator had not considered the provisions of Article 71(1) of the Constitution. To meet the requirement of Article 71(1) of the Constitution, the legislator should create a legal framework to remedy situations where families are deprived of adequate protection against drastic deterioration of their living conditions, including the threat of homelessness.

The task of competent authorities is to create conditions that would make it possible for families to have decent living standards. When living conditions drastically deteriorate, public authorities have the obligation to grant appropriate support to families. By contrast, the provisions on eviction in the administrative procedure do not guarantee even minimal protection against homelessness to evicted families, although – pursuant to Article 71(1) of the Constitution, those families are subject to special protection by the state.

The Tribunal also referred to the effects of the judgment. The Tribunal stressed that the carrying out of eviction “onto the street”, without any appropriate protective provisions, brings about far-reaching social consequences, which are, in fact, irreversible. Therefore, the Tribunal did not decide to defer the entry into force of the judgment in the present case.

Moreover, the Tribunal emphasised that, on the basis of Article 144 of the said Act, it is possible to reconstruct more than one legal norm. The challenged provision is the subject of this constitutional review, only insofar as it constitutes the basis of enforced debt collection against residential premises. Within the scope that was not the subject of the review, Article 144 of the said Act remains in force, and it may still constitute a basis of enforced debt collection in the administrative procedure.

The Presiding Judge of the adjudicating bench was Judge Andrzej Zielonacki, and the Judge Rapporteur was Judge Zbigniew Jędrzejewski.