The Malta Independent 1 March 2021, Monday

Cabinet to meet tomorrow to discuss reforms for pre-1995 rents – Abela

Albert Galea Sunday, 21 February 2021, 12:44 Last update: about 7 days ago

The Cabinet and Labour Parliamentary Group will meet on Monday to discuss a reform plan which will be centered on pre-1995 rents, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced on Sunday.

Speaking at a political activity at Villa Bighi, Abela said that the reform will work to address years of injustices faced by landlords and to alleviate the uncertainty faced by tenants who live in property under rental agreements struck before 1995 – which is when the rent market was liberalised.

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The reform, Abela said, will be based on three key principles.

The first is that everyone who deserve protection on their rents will be provided that, meaning that nobody will end up without a roof over their heads.  The second is that those who deserve protection of their social rent, in particular pensioners and vulnerable families, will not end up facing rents which they cannot keep up with. 

The third is that properly owners will be given just compensation for their property in accordance with principles established by the courts in rulings on cases which continue to be handed down till this day.

Under the proposed reforms, the Housing Authority will have a dedicated unit established within it specifically to handle these reforms.

“We are facing a pandemic – we are manging it, but we are also continuing to be a catalyst for change”, Abela said.

The proposed reforms are aimed at addressing rental situations which pre-dated the liberalisation of the rental market in 1995.  Back then, one could enter into a contract to rent a property at a certain price, but that rental contract is automatically renewed year after year without the price being altered – meaning that to this day, a landlord would get a pittance in rental income when compared to the current market prices.

The law was declared to breach the human rights of the landlord in a landmark judgement in 2000, and the courts continue to rule on similar cases – invariably in favour of the landlord – to this day.

Abela said that it took the Nationalist government 10 years to actually do something about this situation, and added that the reforms they did implement were an abject failure which managed to frustrate landlords more and cause even more uncertainty for tenants.

Abela continued that Cabinet will meet on Monday to discuss the plan, which has already been put together, with a view of this being implemented in the very near future.

The Prime Minister dedicated the bulk of his speech to the housing sector – a sector which he said is key to making sure that all members of society live a life with dignity.

He said that the ideal principle would be for people to own their homes – something which 80% of people in Malta do, and where 60% of those do not have any loans pending – and that the government had implemented schemes such as the first time and second time buyer scheme to facilitate this.

Likewise, the equity sharing scheme had been implemented to apply for other realities where, for instance, a person who was married may end up out of their home due to a separation in the said marriage and where it would have been difficult for them to get a home loan.

The government, he said, had also invested 100 million in 1,700 new social housing apartments, and Abela added that he believes that social housing is the key to social mobility.

The Prime Minister also dedicated some time to the recently announced plans for cannabis reforms, which he detailed earlier this week while talking to journalists, saying that he did not want the social injustice of youths being humiliated through arrests over a joint to keep going.

Abela reserved the final part of his speech for one more swipe at the Opposition, this time over their recently unveiled energy sector plans. “When you know the costs, the timeframes, and how you will pay for it – then you can talk about a plan”, he said.

As things stand, he said, Malta has an opposition which is cobbling together a few ideas and calling it a plan.

Social Solidarity Minister Michael Falzon and Mtarfa mayor Daniel Attard also addressed the activity.

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