The Malta Independent 5 August 2021, Thursday

83% of lessees in Malta are foreigners, Housing Authority study finds

Bettina Borg Monday, 31 May 2021, 13:53 Last update: about 3 months ago

The vast majority of lessees in Malta, at 83%, are of foreign nationality, while only 14% of lessees of in Malta are of Maltese nationality status, The Annual Malta Residential Rental Study has found.

The study, which was presented on Monday and observes the effect of the Private Residential Leases throughout 2020, found that the remaining rental contracts were signed by a mixture of foreigners and Maltese.

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The Housing Authority said that this figure is in line with a priori expectations, since Maltese citizens generally prefer home ownership, while foreigners generally favour rent when searching for housing on the island.

The study also found that 14% of contracts in Malta were terminated before the original intended duration of the contract had elapsed. Of these cases, 93% of tenants who had been party to these contracts were of foreign nationality.

Throughout 2020, a total of 30,483 original contracts were registered with the Housing Authority. Of these, 858 contracts were terminated during the year in accordance with the terms agreed upon in the contract; 4,138 contracts were terminated before the expiry of the original date; and the remaining 25,487 contracts were still active at the end of the year.

Upon surveying the entire year, it was found that April was the least popular month to rent in 2020, with only 1,642 contracts coming into effect. This was largely due to the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which hit Malta in March.

The situation recovered significantly in summer, where 2,867 contracts were commenced in July. This proved to be the most popular month to rent in 2020.

The most popular type of property to rent was apartments (78%), followed by maisonettes (12%) and houses (8%).

In terms of size, the majority of contracts registered were for two-bedroom properties (42%), followed by three-bedroom properties (34%) and one-bedroom properties (20%).

The majority of leases distributed were long private residential leases (92%), followed by shared space residential leases (7%). The remaining 1% of are short private residential leases.

Two occupants is the most popular number of occupants in long-let and short-let contracts (36%), followed by single occupants (29%).

St Paul’s Bay is the locality which with the highest number of contracts, a total of 4,959.

Sliema proved to be the second most popular locality to rent in 2020, with 2,736 contracts registered.

The locality that registered the least amount of contracts was Mdina, with 6 contracts in total.

For Gozo, the locality with the most contracts registered was Żebbuġ with 362 contracts; while the locality with the least contracts registered was Għasri, with only 18 contracts in total.

Taking the median monthly rent for two-bedroom apartments into consideration, it was found that the most expensive areas to rent in Malta are Ta’ Xbiex, Valletta and Kalkara (1,050 per month for each of the localities).

By contrast, the median cheapest areas to rent a two-bedroom apartment monthly in Malta are Mqabba (525 per month) and Rabat (500 per month).

Looking at Gozo, the most expensive area to rent a two-bedroom apartment monthly is Għasri (650), while the cheapest areas are Munxar and Żebbuġ (including Marsalforn) (both 400 per month).

The presentation of the survey was attended by Minister for Social Accommodation Roderick Galdes, who said that the Private Residential Leases Act has provided the rental market with much-needed transparency and efficiency.

The study, he said, reflects the resiliency of the accommodation sector during the last year and a half, upon being faced by the pandemic.

He said that society typically has a view of the rent market as an intimidating “jungle”, however he stressed that rent is not something to be scared of.

Leonid McKay, CEO of the Housing Authority, accompanied Galdes, and said that a number of success emerged from the past year, including the increased professionalization of the rent market and more visibility and level ground between landlords and tenants.

While he said that the reform did not focus on making housing more affordable, he noted that there were other measures alongside the law that made housing prices more reasonable, such as rent benefits and a number of other schemes that came into effect last year.

Before the reform, there was “little to no information” on the data of those who are renting, McKay said, however now the Housing Authority is aware of who is renting, how much they are paying, how long they are renting for and the challenges they are facing.

These are encouraging steps in the sector, he added, and have made the study possible in the first place.

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