TALLINN - President Arnold Ruutel rejected for the second time Parliament-approved amendments to amend the housing law so as to abolish the rent ceilings.
Ruutel, who had refused to promulgate the law the first time it had been passed, decided to appeal to the Supreme Court to find out whether the amendments were inconsistent with the constitution.
"The property reform launched in the course of restoration of independence must be completed in agreement with the objectives of the property reform and honoring the constitutional foundations of the legal order. Evaluation of the conformity of laws with the constitution is in the competence of the Supreme Court," the president explained in a statement.
If the court finds the amended legislation consistent with the constitution, the president said he would sign it into law.
Parliament on July 20 passed the amendments abolishing ceilings to rent in restituted houses, which the president had rejected in June, without any changes.
Adoption of the amendments was backed by 47 deputies, with 36 MPs voting against and no one abstaining.
Votes in favor of the bill came from the ruling coalition's Res Publica and Reform Party and the oppositional Pro Patria Union, while deputies from the opposition Center Party and Social Democratic Party, the coalition member People's Union and most social liberal MPs voted against.
The decision was preceded by heated debates, which peaked at the second reading of the bill early in June.
The president had refused to promulgate the amendments, saying the date stipulated in them would give those affected too little time to adjust, which did not comply with the principle of legal certainty laid down in the constitution.
Leading parties said the president's move was sensible, since it needed legal assessment by the Supreme Court.
"The Center Party hails this brave step and finds that it is fully justified and fair to society as a whole," Evelyn Sepp, press officer of the oppositional Center Party, said. "It also gives the government and Parliament a new chance to come up with a realistic balanced solution that does not prejudice anyone's rights."
Rent ceilings in restituted houses are used by several local governments in Estonia, including Tallinn, where it stands at 15 kroons (0.96 euro) per square meter per month.
The country's second largest city, Tartu, does not restrict the size of rent in restituted houses.