The Malta Independent 25 August 2019, Sunday

Over 400 construction sites up and running as new rules are being understood - PM

Sunday, 30 June 2019, 10:48 Last update: about 3 months ago

Up until Friday, over 400 construction sites in Malta were up and running, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Sunday morning.

Up to 80% of construction sites ground to a halt on Monday after the government announced new construction regulations.

In a recorded interview, Muscat said things were now settling down and stakeholders in the industry were beginning to understand the new rules and their responsibilities.

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Speaking about his decision to halt all construction work after a number of construction site accidents, and the subsequent drawing up of new rules, Muscat said that “something had to be done.”

The rules simply specify duties that should always have been carried out he said, like the method statements.

The only real point of contention is the issue surrounding the Site Technical Officer, Muscat said. The law currently says that STOs must be warranted architects, but the Kamra tal-Periti has warned that there are not enough architects for the requirements of the new law.

Muscat said it was not true that these STOs have to be on site all the time. They only have to be there when important decisions are taken or during major works. “For example, a crack shows up and the architect is called over to give a decision,” Muscat said.

It has also been argued that the extra works and studies require by the new law will lead to higher property prices. Muscat said people cannot first say that they want their rights safeguarded and then complain about extra costs. He argued that the method statements are not something new and should always have been done.

The PM also said that not only architects can work as STOs – the job is also open to engineers with the necessary experience or MCAST BSc Construction Engineering graduates.

Muscat also spoke about the new rent law, which he described as “landmark”.

The law seeks a balance between the rights of landlords and tenants and also seeks to incentivise longer and more stable rents. All contracts must now be registered, with harsh fines for those who fail to comply. Contracts cannot cover a period of less than a year, he said, and tenants must be informed about any increase from at least three months before.

“Today there is a jungle, everyone doing as they please,” Muscat said, adding that the government did not want to go overboard and introduce excessive regulation. “This did not work in many countries that tried.”

The government wanted to incentivise longer contracts so it is giving a tax incentive to landlords who enter into a two or three-year contract. On the other hand, they cannot increase the rent by more than 5% during the term of the contract.

Muscat said the law is expected to be passed by Parliament before the summer recess.

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