Social groups critical of PN’s opposition to new rent law provisions

Social activists disappointed that the Malta Developers Association and the Nationalist Party ‘are opposing rules for basic decency in rent’

Social activists say the proposed Residential Leases Bill tries to introduce decency in an otherwise unregulated rental market
Social activists say the proposed Residential Leases Bill tries to introduce decency in an otherwise unregulated rental market

The Nationalist Party is being criticised for opposing proposed rent rules that give the Housing Authority power to check on a tenant’s residency by entering private property.

Several NGOs active in the social field have lambasted the PN and the Malta Developers Association for opposing the power granted to the authority by the new rules.

The Residential Leases Bill being proposed by the government seeks to introduce rights and obligations on tenants and landlords in a bid to bring some order to the rental market.

The new rules include the obligation to register rental contracts with the Housing Authority that will include inventories and the amount of money deposited.

The rules do not set rental prices but include fiscal incentives for landlords who opt for longer term contracts.

The law will empower the Housing Authority to verify residency claims by entering private property, a proviso social activists believe is important to ensure enforcement. The PN and the MDA have come out strongly against this.

“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.

They insisted that the current situation of non-regulation and tax evasion can only change by empowering tenants to report landlords who do not register contracts. The Housing Authority has to be given the tools to verify that the tenant actually resides in the rented property.

The NGOs said that any comparison of the new rules with the pre-1995 rent regime was “delusional” because the rules do not fix prices and do not impose leases beyond rental contracts.

The rental market exploded over the past five years, a situation that has led to substantial increases in the price of rent.

Anti-poverty activists have long been warning that higher rents were outpricing vulnerable people out of their homes.

The government finally moved on the issue last year when it set about with a consultation process that ended with the proposed draft bill.

Contrary to the wishes of social activists, the government has steered clearly away from imposing a cap on rents but has proposed a regulatory regime to bring the rental market out of the black economy.
The NGOs said 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,” the NGOs said.

The statement was signed by  Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar, Forum Komunitá Bormliża, Għaqda għall-Ġustizzja, Ugwaljanza u Paċi, Integra Foundation, Isles of the Left, Malta Gay Rights Movement, Malta Humanist Association, Malta Tenant Support, Men Against Violence, Millennium Chapel, Moviment Graffitti, SOS Malta, Spark 15, Women’s Rights Foundation, and Żminijietna – Voice of the Left.