Residential Leases Act: The First Step Forward – Instability and Exorbitant Prices Yet To Be Addressed |  Moviment Graffitti Malta.
11/07/2019

Residential Leases Act: The First Step Forward – Instability and Exorbitant Prices Yet To Be Addressed

Joint Press Statement 11/07/2019


A coalition of 20 NGOs active in the social field view the Residential Leases Bill as the first step forward. The NGOs had presented a proposal for rent regulation in February 2018 and reacted to the White Paper on this subject in October 2018. This Bill introduces a much-needed framework with basic rights and obligations on tenants and landlords, and is clearly the result of serious research work and a broad consultation process. However, the Bill very 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. The sudden and continuing hike in rent prices is pushing thousands of persons into precariousness, hitting hardest those on low and medium wages and pensions as well as persons in vulnerable situations such as women experiencing domestic violence. Thus, much more will have to be done if Government is to achieve its objective, as set out in the White Paperof making rent a housing alternative. 


The NGOs welcome several provisions of this Bill. We favourably view the obligation on landlords to register contracts that include an inventory and the amount of money deposited, coupled with dissuasive measures against renting without a valid contract. It is also positive that the Housing Authority will be responsible for private residential leases, related enforcement and an adjudicating panel that will speedily decide on minor disputes. We positively note that tenants will have the right to access utility bills, and that landlords will have to inform the tenant three months before contract expiry whether they intend to renew the lease or otherwise. 


The proposed Act would establish a one-year minimum contract period for residential leases. One year is glaringly insufficient to guaranteeing a degree of stability to the tenant, leaving the current situation of short-term contracts more or less unchanged. The coalition of NGOs, when reacting to the White Paper last year, had proposed a three-year minimum in order to start addressing the issue of tenants living precarious lives. The three-year minimum proposed by the NGOs would be binding on the landlord, with the tenant able to leave the place during the contract period without any penalty on condition they give due notice. Government plans to grant tax credits to landlords who offer contracts that are longer than one year are positive, but this will unfortunately have only a limited effect on incentivising longer-term contracts. 


The Act would regulate annual rent-price increases by pegging them to the Property Price Index and capping them at 5%. However, this regulation only applies to increases during contract duration, that is, to those cases where landlords provide contracts that are longer than one year. Unreasonable rent increases, with no limit whatsoever, would still be allowed following the end of the contract period. The coalition of NGOs had proposed that the monthly rent to be paid in any new contract, irrespective of whether it is with the same or a different tenant, should not be higher than 10% of the last monthly rent paid under the previous contract. This would prevent exorbitant increases in rent-prices following the expiry of contracts. We had also proposed the creation of a Rent Value Index that would enhance public knowledge on the private rental market and lead to a degree of rent-price stabilisation. The Rent Value Index would list rent-value in different areas and for different classes of property according to their size and quality. There would be a rule stating that an initial price should not exceed 10% of the price listed for that particular category within the Rent Value Index. This proposal has not been taken on board. 


Besides these points on the principles underpinning the regulation framework, the NGOs also have specific points as feedback regarding some articles, namely:

  • The Bill allows two exceptions to the obligatory one-year minimum contract term. These exceptions apply when i) proof is presented attesting that the lessee is a non-resident worker or student whose stay in Malta will be shorter than six months, or a resident who needs to rent an alternative primary residence for a period of less than six months, and ii) in the case of room rentals. Whilst the first set of exceptions is understandable, the second should be removed. Tenants renting rooms should be afforded the same protection as those renting a whole unit. 

  • The Bill states that the landlord has thirty days to register the contract from commencement of the lease. However, the law does not spell out that a contract should be in place from the first day of the lease and, when not, the lease is to be considered a de facto one with the protection afforded to tenants in such leases. In the absence of such a provision, landlords who are caught leasing without a contract can simply claim that thirty days from the commencement of lease have not yet passed, and it will be very difficult for the tenant to prove otherwise. 

  • The Bill gives the right to the tenant to access their utility bills. The Bill should go further and establish a mechanism whereby the tenant has automatic access to their water and electricity bills. 


The coalition of NGOs will continue to push for a rent regulation framework that enhances stability and peace of mind for tenants and landlords, eliminates discrimination and which avoids situations of precariousness, always bearing in mind that adequate housing is a fundamental human right. To this end, the NGOs will be presenting their reactions and proposals during the Bill’s discussion in the Parliamentary Committee prior to its enactment.


The NGOs issuing this Press Statement are: 

  1. aditus Foundation

  2. African Media Association Malta

  3. Alleanza Kontra il-Faqar

  4. Forum Komunita’ Bormliża

  5. Integra Foundation

  6. Isles of the Left

  7. Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust

  8. Malta Gay Rights Movement

  9. Malta Humanists Association

  10. Malta Tenant Support

  11. Mid-Dlam għad-Dawl

  12. Moviment Graffitti

  13. Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM)

  14. SOS Malta

  15. Spark 15

  16. The Critical Institute

  17. The Millennium Chapel

  18. Third World Group Malta

  19. Women’s Rights Foundation

  20. Żminijietna – Voice of the Left


Stqarrija Stampa Konġunta 11/07/2019


L-Abbozz ta’ Liġi dwar il-Kirjiet Residenzjali: L-Ewwel Pass ‘il Quddien – L-Instabbiltà u l-Prezzijiet Eżorbitanti għad għadhom iridu jiġu ndirizzati.


Koalizzjoni ta’ 20 għaqda attivi fil-qasam soċjali jqisu l-Abbozz ta’ Liġi dwar il-Kirjiet Residenzjali bħala l-ewwel pass ‘il quddiem. Dawn l-għaqdiet kienu ppreżentaw proposta għar-regolamentazzjoni tal-kera fi Frar tal-2018 u taw ir-reazzjoni tagħhom għall-White Paper fuq dan is-suġġett f’Ottubru tal-2018. Dan l-Abbozz jintroduċi qafas ferm meħtieġ ta’ drittijiet u obbligi għall-inkwilini u għas-sidien, u huwa ċar li warajh kien hemm xogħol serju ta’ riċerka u proċess konsultattiv wiesa’. Madanakollu, l-Abbozz jindirizza biss marġinalment il-predominanza ta’ kuntratti qosra li jwasslu għal instabbiltà mifruxa, u jonqos milli jindirizza l-kwistjoni l-iktar urġenti ta’ prezzijiet tal-kera eżorbitanti. Iż-żieda mgħaġġla u kontinwa tal-prezzijiet tal-kera qed jitfgħu lil eluf ta’ persuni fil-prekarjat, bl-agħar milquta jkunu dawk fuq pagi u pensjonijiet baxxi u medji kif ukoll persuni f’sitwazzjonijiet vulnerabbli bħal nisa li qed jesperjenzaw vjolenza domestika. Dan ifisser li għandu jsir ħafna iktar jekk il-Gvern irid li jintlaħaq l-għan, kif imniżżel fil-White Paper, li l-kera issir forma oħra ta’ akkomodazzjoni. 

L-għaqdiet jilqgħu diversi dispożizzjonijiet f’dan l-Abbozz. Naraw b’mod pożittiv l-obbligu fuq is-sidien li jirreġistraw il-kuntratti u li dawn ikunu jinkludu inventorju u l-ammont tad- depożitu, kif ukoll il-miżuri dissważivi kontra min jikri mingħajr kuntratt validu. Huwa wkoll pożittiv li l-Awtorità tad-Djar se tkun responsabbli tal-kirjiet privati residenzjali, tal-infurzar u ta’ Bord li jiddeċiedi malajr fuq tilwim żgħir. Ninnutaw b’mod pożittiv li l-inkwilini se jkunu qed jingħataw id-dritt li jaċċedu għall-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma, u li s-sidien se jkunu obbligati li jinfurmaw lill-inkwilini tliet xhur qabel jiskadi l-kuntratt jekk hux se jġeddulhom il-kirja jew le.   


Il-liġi li qed tiġi proposta se tkun qed tistabbilixxi kuntratti b’minimu ta’ sena għall-kirijiet residenzjali. Sena hija ċarament mhux biżżejjed biex tiżgura ċertu stabbiltà għall-inkwilin, u se tkun qed tħalli s-sitwazzjoni kurrenti ta’ kuntratti qosra ħafna bejn wieħed u ieħor l-istess. Il-koalizzjoni ta’ għaqdiet kienu issuġġerew fir-reazzjoni tagħhom għall-White Paper is-sena li għaddiet perjodu kuntrattwali minimu ta' tliet snin sabiex tibda tiġi indirizzata l-kwistjoni ta’ inkwilini jgħixu ħajjiet prekarji. Dan il-minimu ta’ tliet snin propost mill-għaqdiet ikun jorbot fuq is-sid, u l-inkwilin ikun jista’ jitlaq mill-post matul il-perjodu kuntrattwali mingħajr ebda penali sakemm jagħti notifika ta’ dan minn qabel. Il-pjanijiet tal-Gvern li jagħti krediti ta’ taxxa lis-sidien li joffru kuntratti itwal minn sena huma pożittivi, iżda dan sfortunatament se jkollu biss effett limitat fuq l-inċentivar ta’ kuntratti itwal. 


Din il-liġi se tkun qed tirregola iż-żieda annwali fil-prezzijiet tal-kera billi torbothom mal-Indiċi tal-Prezzijiet tal-Propjetà, sa massimu ta’ 5%. Iżda din ir-regola se tkun qed tgħodd biss għaż-żidiet matul id-durata tal-kuntratt, jiġifieri meta s-sidien ikun taw kuntratti li huma itwal minn sena. Żidiet irraġonevoli, mingħajr ebda limitu, xorta se jibqgħu permessi wara l-iskadenza tal-kuntratt. Il-koalizzjoni ta’ għaqdiet kienu pproponew li l-kera mensili li għandha titħallas fi kwalunkwe kuntratt ġdid, irrispettivament minn jekk tkunx mal-istess kerrej jew ma' kerrej differenti, m'għandhiex tkun ogħla minn 10% tal-aħħar kera mħallsa taħt l-aħħar kuntratt. Dan ikollu l-għan li jevita ż-żidiet eżorbitanti fil-prezzijiet tal-kera wara li jiskadu l-kuntratti. Konna wkoll proponejna l-ħolqien ta' Indiċi tal-Valur tal-Kera (Rent Value Index) li jtejjeb l-għarfien tal-pubbliku dwar is-suq tal-kera privata u jwassal għal grad ta' stabilizzazzjoni tal-prezz tal-kera. Ir-Rent Value Index ikun jelenka l-valur tal-kera f'żoni differenti u għal klassijiet differenti ta' proprjetà skont id-daqs u l-kwalità tagħhom. Għandu jkun hemm regola li tgħid li l-prezz inizjali ma għandux jaqbeż l-10% tal-prezz elenkat għal kategorija partikolari fir-Rent Value Index. Din il-proposta ma ġietx inkluża f’dan l-Abbozz ta’ Liġi. 


Barra dawn il-punti marbuta mal-prinċipji li fuqhom huwa msejjes il-qafas regolatorju, l-għaqdiet għandhom ukoll numru ta’ punti speċifiċi marbuta mal-artikli tal-Abbozz:

  • L-Abbozz joħloq żewġ eċċezzjonijiet għall-obbligu ta’ kuntratti b’minimu ta’ sena. Dawn l-eċċezzjonijiet japplikaw meta: i) tinġieb prova li l-kerrej huwa student jew ħaddiem mhux resident li se jdum Malta inqas minn sitt xhur, jew resident li għandu bżonn jikri residenza primarja alternattiva għal perjodu li huwa inqas minn sitt xhur, u ii) fil-każ ta’ kirijet bil-kamra. Fil-waqt li l-ewwel sett ta’ eċċezzjonijiet jagħmel sens, it-tieni eċċezzjoni għandha titneħħa. Inkwilini li qed jikru bil-kamra għandu jkollhom l-istess protezzjoni ta’ dawk li jikru unit sħiħ. 

  • L-Abbozz jgħid li s-sidien għandhom tletin ġurnata ċans mill-bidu tal-kirja sabiex jirreġistraw il-kuntratt. Iżda l-liġi ma tgħidx b’mod espliċitu li l-kuntratt għandu jkun hemm mill-ewwel ġurnata tal-kirja u li, fejn ma jkunx, il-kerrej għandu jiġi meqjus li qed f’kirja de facto bil-protezzjoni mgħotija lill-inkwilini f’dawn il-kirijiet. Fin-nuqqas ta’ din id-dispożizzjoni, sidien li jinqabdu li qed jikru mingħajr kuntratt se jkunu jistgħu jgħidu li t-tletin ġurnata mill-bidu tal-kirja għadhom ma għaddewx, u jkun diffiċli ħafna għall-inkwilin li jipprova l-kuntrarju. 

  • L-Abbozz jagħti d-dritt lill-inkwilini li jaċċedu għall-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma. L-Abbozz għandu jmur lil hinn minn hekk u joħloq mekkaniżmu li bih l-inkwilini jkollhom aċċess awtomatiku għall-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma tagħhom. 


Il-koalizzjoni ta’ għaqdiet se tkompli tinsisti fuq qafas regolatorju li joħloq aktar stabbiltà u serħan tal-moħħ għall-inkwilini u għas-sidien, jelimina d-diskriminazzjoni u jevita sitwazzjonijiet ta’ prekarjat, filwaqt li dejjem inżommu f’moħħna li akkomodazzjoni adekwata hija dritt fundamentali uman. Għalhekk, l-għaqdiet se jkunu qed jippreżentaw ir-reazzjonijiet u l-proposti tagħhom quddiem il-Kumitat Parlamentari li se jkun qed jiddiskuti dan l-Abbozz qabel ma jsir liġi.  


L-għaqdiet li qed joħorġu din l-Istqarrija Stampa huma:

  1. aditus Foundation

  2. African Media Association Malta

  3. Alleanza Kontra il-Faqar

  4. Forum Komunita’ Bormliża

  5. Integra Foundation

  6. Isles of the Left

  7. Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust

  8. Malta Gay Rights Movement

  9. Malta Humanists Association

  10. Malta Tenant Support

  11. Mid-Dlam għad-Dawl

  12. Moviment Graffitti

  13. Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM)

  14. SOS Malta

  15. Spark 15

  16. The Critical Institute

  17. The Millennium Chapel

  18. Third World Group Malta

  19. Women’s Rights Foundation

  20. Żminijietna – Voice of the Left