The Malta Independent 21 September 2019, Saturday

NGOs disappointed MDA, PN ‘opposing rules for basic decency in rent’

Thursday, 12 September 2019, 10:24 Last update: about 9 days ago

Fifteen organisations working in the social field said today they are disappointed that the Malta Developers Association (MDA) and the Nationalist Party (PN) are pushing to remove basic obligations on landlords contained in the draft Residential Leases Bill. A number of NGOs had presented a proposal for rent regulation in February 2018, gave their feedback to the White Paper on this subject in October 2018 and reacted to the Bill tabled in Parliament earlier this year.

In their reaction to the Bill, the NGOs had welcomed the introduction of a framework with basic rights and obligations on tenants and landlords, whilst stating that the Bill only marginally addresses the predominance of short-term contracts that lead to widespread instability, and fails to tackle the most pressing issue of exorbitant rent prices.

It is bewildering that now the MDA and the PN seem to suggest that they want those very basic obligations imposed by the Bill on landlords removed. Similar rules are found in almost all other European countries. Such obligations do not in any way fix prices or impose leases beyond contract periods, the NGOs said.

In fact, any parallels with the pre-1995 rent regime are delusional. These obligations simply stipulate rules for basic decency such as the obligation to register contracts that include an inventory and the amount of money deposited, allowing access to utility bills and informing tenants before contract expiry whether the lease is to be renewed or otherwise.

Opposing these rules means defending the status quo of total non-regulation that is placing thousands of people in Malta in an extremely precarious situation, hitting hardest those on low and medium wages, pensioners, and persons in vulnerable situations such as women experiencing domestic violence, resulting in deleterious effects on individuals, society and the economy.

The Bill tabled in Parliament is based on the registration of contracts with the Housing Authorities. Should the power of the Housing Authority to verify the tenant’s residence in a unit be removed – as seems to be suggested by the MDA and the PN - the whole Bill would become next to useless since landlords will simply continue with the current situation of renting without a contract or with irregular, non-registered, contracts, the NGOs said.

The current situation of non-regulation and tax evasion can only change by empowering tenants to report landlords who do not register contracts, and giving the tools to the Housing Authority to verify that the tenant actually resides in the rented property. Moreover, threats from the MDA that landlords will pull their property from the market are most clearly a bluff, since if this proposed Bill is enacted it will in no way hinder landlords from making hefty profits from their rented properties.

Rules and obligations in residential leases cannot be considered as a burden on landlords. They simply establish some very basic decency. Opposing them is equivalent to favouring the continuation of the residential leases black-market, the undignified treatment of tenants and the current free-for-all situation brought about by total non-regulation.

1.       Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar

2.       Forum Komunitá Bormliża

3.       Għaqda għall-Ġustizzja, Ugwaljanza u Paċi

4.       Integra Foundation

5.       Isles of the Left

6.       Malta Gay Rights Movement

7.       Malta Humanist Association

8.       Malta Tenant Support

9.       Men Against Violence

10.   Millennium Chapel

11.   Moviment Graffitti

12.   SOS Malta

13.   Spark 15

14.   Women’s Rights Foundation

15.   Żminijietna – Voice of the Left

 

 

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