Families given month to quit homes after losing legal battle

One of the houses that has to be evacuated, photo: ČTK/Deml Ondřej

Dozens of Czech families who made payments on new apartments in the 1990s found themselves high and dry when the building firm involved collapsed. Now they have been ordered to evacuate their homes forthwith after losing a long-running legal battle, a verdict that has come in for broad condemnation.

One of the houses that has to be evacuated,  photo: ČTK/Deml Ondřej
The construction company H-System was set up in 1993 and signed contracts with hundreds of clients to build them houses and apartments.

But four years later the firm went bust. Its head later received a 12-year jail term for “tunnelling” (asset-stripping).

A group of victims founded a cooperative in a bid to pick up the pieces and complete their new homes at Horoměřice, near Prague.

The then administrator agreed to this. However, his successor was opposed, insisting the clients’ contracts were invalid.

This began an 18-year legal battle that culminated on Tuesday when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the administrator.

Around 60 families have been given one month to clear out of their apartments.

This woman gave her response to the ruling to Czech Radio:

“I don’t know. It’s 30 days. Who can find a place, where can we go? And why? Why? I didn’t take anything from anybody. This is my home.”

Photo: ČTK/Deml Ondřej
The judges said the group had taken a risk by not securing agreement for their cooperative from a bankruptcy court.

The court also said that administrator Josef Monsport had a duty to other creditors who also lost out with the collapse of H-System.

Mr. Monsport now plans to sell the properties to raise money for them.

“I need to think about the fact that I have to defend the collective interest of the parties in these bankruptcy proceedings. Not just several dozen. H-System had a thousand creditors, and there are more and more of them.”

Some of the residents in Horoměřice say they have no intention of budging from homes they themselves completed.

Meanwhile the cooperative overseeing the eight apartment buildings involved is planning further action.

Martin Junek is the head of the co-op.

“I can’t imagine that the people living here would move on within one month. It’s completely inconceivable. They have nowhere to go.”

Martin Junek,  photo: ČTK/Beneš Jaroslav
A number of politicians have expressed support for the families. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who described the verdict as unjust, has offered to act as a mediator between them and the administrator.

President Miloš Zeman said this and other verdicts raised serious questions regarding the quality and humanity of the judiciary.

There has been talk of the Ministry of Social Affairs providing special funding to the families facing eviction.

Private individuals have also made them offers of temporary housing.