A spokesperson for No Portfolio Minister Konrad Mizzi said that ARMS ltd “is not privy to discussions between individual tenants and landlords....and is thus unable to comment on any reason why tenants would not request landlords to consent to the change in tariff”.
As of January, tenants will no longer require their landlord’s approval in order to register for the lower residential rate for utility bills. Prior to this change in the law, tenants needed their landlord’s approval, which was often rejected. A household is charged the higher, domestic rate, when it is the secondary home or when the account holder is a non-resident of Malta.
Problems have surfaced because a portion of landlords were not declaring their rental income to the tax authorities, and therefore the second home that they are renting out to tenants is viewed in the eyes of the authorities as the landlords second home, and not the primary home of a tenant. This distinction is important because a primary home of a Maltese resident is charged the lower utility rate.
Patricia Graham, spokesperson Up in Arms EU Advisory Group, spoke with this newsroom to say that a number of tenants have expressed their concern with bypassing their landlord for fear of having their lives made very difficult. Eviction is not so simple in Malta however there are other avenues for landlords to take who wish to be rid of tenants.
Asked by The Malta Independent whether the government has been made aware of such a situation and whether anything could be done to curb abuse, it said that it was not privy to private conversations between individual landlords and tenants, inclusive of negotiation of lease agreements. It also added that it was therefore unable to comment.
Tenants, through the Up in Arms EU Advisory Group, have been left feeling disappointed when they tried to bypass their landlord as of January in order to switch to the 30-60 per cent cheaper rate, and were met with a receptionist who was not aware of the change in the law. A manager subsequently came down to politely speak to tenants, telling them that the system is in its final stages and technicalities are being worked out. He assured them that it will be ready to go in just a few weeks time.
The reply continues:
“At present, tenants may apply for residential rates for their primary residence by having utility accounts in their names, or by obtaining the account holder’s consent to the change in tariff. Following government and shareholder instructions, in order to simplify procedures, ARMS Ltd is currently finalising the implementation of administrative and technical changes necessary to allow tenants to apply for residential rates for electricity and water consumed in their primary residence, without requiring prior consent of the current account holder.
“After the final testing phase is completed, ARMS Ltd will be able to offer tenants a new application process.
“The above change in procedure to simplify access to residential tariffs by EU citizens, follows other measures taken by Government since 2013, to address instances of alleged discrimination against EU citizens. The implementation of these measures also led the Commission Services in November 2016, to formally close the Infringement Procedure that it had opened in September 2012.”