In the midst of a booming economy and a soaring property industry, Malta is currently facing a rental crisis. Last week, Lovin Malta published a story about a single mother who is being kicked out of her home due to skyrocketing rental prices in Malta. 24 hours later, our readers sent in a host of nightmare stories from all over the island, clearly showing us that the issues with buying or renting decent places to live in Malta are only increasing.
Lovin Malta reached out to a managing partner at a top real estate agency and a member of the EU Nationals Advisory Group for some essential tips to look out for when renting in Malta, to help you navigate the current labyrinthine situation.
1. Make sure that if you’re renting an apartment, it’s actually listed as an apartment, and isn’t a converted office or shop
You might think that a space is a space no matter what it’s called, but you’d be wrong. Different types of buildings are classified differently for a reason, and that translates into varying rights for the tenant and liberties for the landlord. One of the stories we were sent in, in fact, was about a couple who were paying €400 for a mould-infested apartment in Xemxija which was actually registered as a shop. A place like that would have missing amenities from the get go, and it not being registered as a residential home only makes matter worse.
2. Make sure to establish what costs are going to be borne by the lessee, and which will be in the hands of the lessor
Everything should be explicitly listed in the contract, because you don’t want to have any financial surprises further down the line. If it’s not stated, do not hesitate to clarify any issues… but also be sure to see it go down on paper as agreed upon before you actually sign anything.
3. Clarify and track the rate with which the rent goes up
Make sure that the rent goes up and down with inflation. If it does go up, it needs to go up with 10% of the market value (tell the owner why and negotiate it). The contract needs to carry an exact representation of any rent increase after the period of lease, and at what % the rent would be likely to increase. Notifications of rent increases should be given two months in advance. Make sure that all copies of the contract carry the same changes, and are signed by the landlord, tenant and agent. While we’re at it, that includes the electricity and water meter readings; all tenants must have access to their own meters.
4. Establish a notice period, and state that the tenant has the right to stay on the property until this day
This is devilishly simple, but extremely vital. As with many other things, the important thing is to have everything agreed upon from beforehand, and knowing till when you can stay on the property if something happens can turn out to be the essential difference between
5. Confirm that the rent is VAT registered and according to the law, and that the property is MTA approved
If you’re agreeing to rent out a property which does not completely abide to laws and regulations, it’s going to be very difficult to take the moral high ground if shit hits the fan.
6. Don’t agree on paying one month’s rent as a holding deposit
These deposits are for the most part non-refundable, and any receipt given for this type of deposit should contain an explanation of the terms and conditions. A fiscal receipt is also required for agency fees.
7. Always do a thorough walk-through of the whole place on the day you move in
Taking inventory is essential, and it’s vital to do it on day one. And we’re talking proper inventory here. Don’t just write Washing Machine; write the serial number and request any available paperwork for guarantees. That, of course, goes for all appliances.
Check both sides of mattresses and bases. Take pictures of everything, especially damages, paint spoil, evidence of damp or mould patches. Make a note of when the apartment was last painted, and keep those pictures safe; you could need them on move out. Check the plumbing by feeling along pipes for drips. Check under the kitchen sink for warping or signs of leaks. Don’t just smile at appliances; switch them all on. Check cables coming into the house, and question them. Older properties can have many old and unused cables, and you don’t want to find yourself hooked up to another property for either water or electricity (and yes, it happens, all too often). Check that the rugs and draperies are all fresh and clean. Your contract will state that this is the case when you move out, so it should be the same when you move in. Check what insurance the landlord has in case of fire or water damage. If it only covers the building and not the contents, get renters’ insurance. Make sure the landlord’s details are on the contract and an in-case-of emergency number is printed clearly.
Needless to say, make sure that both the landlord and the tenant sign off on the inventory, on the day, not two weeks later.
8. Be aware of the utility bills
Don’t pay utility bills without receiving a copy of the ARMS bill, and check you are registered on these bills. Residential Bills tend to come every two months, with a higher rate one coming every six months.
You may wish to keep a check on your own readings by checking your meters once a month and then using the ARMS calculator with the correct number of residents to verify your usage. Many people do this and pay on a monthly basis instead, to avoid any shockingly large bills. If you rent a property with a pre-paid meter, find out exactly what the charges are. You can check out the correct tariffs via the Regulator for Energy & Water Services’ official website. 35 cents a unit is not acceptable. Neither are 45 or 52 cents per unit.
9. Pay your rent on time
One of the most obvious things on this list, but still extremely important.
Landlords are well within their rigths to charge you for every day the rent is late, and that only makes sense.
Of course, a contract is two-way, so agree on certain terms like retaining the right to hold half a month’s rent until the owner’s duties are fulfilled if they don’t honour their own obligations.
So there you go.
Knowing is half the battle, so let’s make sure everyone is well-informed.
Featured Photo by _kateev_photo_