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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mayor Calls for Fines on Migrants' Landlords

Moscow landlords who rent out their apartments to illegal immigrants may soon a face a fine of between 250,000 rubles and 800,000 rubles ($9,500 to $30,000), Mayor Yury Luzhkov said.

"Landlords who rent out their apartments to illegal immigrants should bear the consequences," Luzhkov said, Gazeta reported Monday.

"I think that the measures that the government has taken to combat illegal immigration are helpful and I think they will be effective," Luzhkov said.

Luzhkov added that those who rented out apartments to illegal immigrants and those who employed them would shoulder equal responsibility.

But experts said that even if the fines were imposed, they would do little to combat widespread tax evasion among Moscow's landlords.

"This is an impossible dream," said Vladmir Volya, a real estate agent who specializes in renting apartments to foreigners. "Landlords may be more reluctant to rent out apartments to people they do not trust and may hike rents for them."

City Hall's housing department estimates that there are about 120,000 Muscovites with two or more apartments, making about $4 billion in potential rent revenues.

Last year, only 6,000 landlords declared their income.

In a separate development, City Hall has backpedaled on an earlier decision to reduce the number of foreigners operating in the city's markets.

After President Vladimir Putin called for the country's immigration laws to be toughened last year, Luzhkov signed a bylaw in October reserving 50 percent of trading places in the city's food markets for Russian farmers.

Since a federal law restricting the number of foreigners working in markets came into force last month, the numbers of migrant vendors in the city's food markets have fallen. But as Russian farmers failed to come forward, stalls were left empty and prices increased.

The situation has become bad enough for Vladimir Malyshkov, the City Hall official who oversees retail market issues, to complain publicly about the departure of about 30,000 immigrant vendors from the city's markets.

City Hall decided Friday to open bids for the 50 percent of places it previously allocated to Russian farmers to all traders, a ruling that could put City Hall on a collision course with federal migration law.

The new federal law imposed a limit of 6 million work permits in 2007 for migrants from countries with visa-free travel agreements with Russia.

Under the law, foreigners must make up no more than 40 percent of traders in markets. As of April 1, foreigners will be banned altogether from trading.

The current shortfall in market workers has only become apparent since the federal migration law was passed, although the city's quota system has been in effect since October.

Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev said Friday that there were "enough Russian citizens to work in the markets, including in the Far East."

Deputy Mayor Valery Vinogradov, who initiated the repeal of the city bylaw, could not be reached for comment Monday.