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Malta's Rent Crisis: Living Nightmares From A Booming Island

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As Malta's economy booms and the property industry soars, ordinary residents are finding it harder to afford buying or renting decent places to live. 

Lovin Malta yesterday published a story about a single mother who is being kicked out of her home due to skyrocketing rental prices in Malta. The feedback has been overwhelming, with many people writing in to share their own horror stories about unaffordable prices and abusive tenants. 

These are just a few of the stories we received. Others will be uploaded as they come in. If you have a similar story or some ideas of what can be done about the problem, write to us by email on [email protected]

Story 1

We Pay €400 For A Mould Infested Hole In The Wall Thats Not Even Registered As A Residential Apartment

"I am currently living in a rented apartment in Xemxija with my boyfriend and the situation is so horrible that I had to find another job on top of mine (part time, as I'm a student) so we can move once the contract ends. 

We've been in this hole in the wall for over a year now and have had issue upon issue with the landlord time and time again, with no help and no rights whatsoever. She even controls where we put our clothes out to dry. 

Last summer the glass on the oven blew up for some reason (the oven must've been super old because I always used it as she showed me after we signed the contract) and she left us without an oven for an entire month and despite the fact that she is required to change such an important appliance ASAP she waited until we had given her another month's rent which is €400 (for a small hole in the wall, literally). 

A month later after we had been paying her an extra €50 a month for electricity and water, people from Enemalta came and cut off our electricity because she hadn't paid the bill in over a year, so she had been stealing €50 a month from us until they came and I threatened to get lawyers and police involved. 

A few months ago we had a leak under the tiles and our landlord and her husband called us crazy because they "couldn't see it" and we were told to handle it by switching the mains on and off and not using much water for an entire month before her husband came to shoddily fix it. 

Apart from that, the place is registered as a shop and not a residential apartment, it is infested with mould because there isn't a single window and because it is still registered as a shop we don't have basic needs like a tank that collects water should something occur to the mains so whenever there's a water cut from the government's side we just have to sit on our hands and wait for it to get fixed. 

Also, we have a "second bedroom" with no functioning lights so we're paying for two bedrooms but only have the use of one. 

You might say oh, €400 isn't much to pay for an apartment, keep in mind that the place is tiny, mould infested and not even registered. 

Apart from all this, last time she came to collect rent she told us that she's either going to increase rent by another €100 or she would decrease our rent by €50 but hold us completely liable for anything that goes wrong in a place where something needs to be changed every month. 

"The place is registered as a shop and not a residential apartment, it is infested with mould because there isn't a single window and because it is still registered as a shop we don't have basic needs like a tank that collects water."

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We also have a dripping geyser, are not allowed to leave clothes drying in the sun AND she included a clause into the contract after the oven incident claiming that if someone gets hurt (or killed) in her place because of something that was her responsibility she cannot be held liable.

This is a crisis in this country that the government refuses to acknowledge and look into. Ever since the gaming companies took hold of the country people who get paid ridiculously high wages can afford the inflated price of a crappy apartment, but us peasants (that's how we're made to feel) can't. 

I am going to be copying this email and sending it to some branch of the government, I highly doubt they'll be of any help, but the media seems to be getting the job done so here goes nothing, maybe some publicity will push the government into looking into such greedy people who don't even want to invest in their own property. 

Thank you for working towards the rights of the little ones out there who need someone to scream for them, because we don't have the power or energy to fight back this blatant injustice.

(Real name given)

PS: I'd like to remain anonymous for now as to be able to report this woman for the illegalities against me and don't want to end up homeless in the process, cause she can kick us out whenever she pleases, it's in the contract. 

PPS: We were desperate when we had to move into this place, my mother's an alcoholic and it was impossible living with her, so we had to find the cheapest apartment available to be able to survive, and now I'm even more desperate cause prices are even worse than last year."

Story 2

We Pay €400 For A Mould Infested Hole In The Wall Thats Not Even Registered As A Residential Apartment 1

"I have been living in Malta now for seven years and this year I would have been living in my current apartment for six.

My rent started off at €350 as it was a building site as the rest of the apartments were nowhere near finished. Fast forward five years later and my rent is now €500 a month for a one-bedroom flat. Like the previous person explained, rent is increasing by the minute yet my income has stayed the same.

My contract is up for renewal shortly and I know that she is thinking of putting the rent up once again.

Last year when agreeing to the €500 (originally wanted to put it up to €550) I was given my contract and asked to sign another document. After checking the contract it had €350 on it. When I questioned her about this she advised me that this was why she was wanting me to sign the other document which had the correct amount on it, which was €500.

Before signing it she said "all landlords are doing this now, it's for tax purposes" I then pointed out that it wasn't for just 'tax purposes' it was to avoid paying the correct amount in tax! 

Anyways, to cut a long story short, she advised me that after signing I would not be able to have a copy because if I had then I could get her in a lot of trouble regarding tax avoidance. She also stated that IF I was to ever say one month I am not €500 I am paying the €350 which is what's stated on my contract, then she could take me to court (I clearly pointed out she would be shooting herself in the foot).

What gets me is that the majority of the landlords are avoiding paying the correct amount in tax which means they are saving a lot of money every year but still have the audacity to increase the rent!

My landlord has seven other apartments which she is also doing this for (she showed me the other contracts last year when signing my contract to ensure it wasn't just mine she was doing it with).

The Government needs to crack down in this as it is day light robbery! 

Anyways, I just thought I would let you know what a lot of us foreign people are facing in Malta.

LJ"

Story 3

Property Crisis

"My heart goes out to this single mother. I do not have children but I can understand her situation very well. Renting a property has become almost impossible given that the average Maltese wage is around €900 a month. Rental prices just don't match someone's regular wage anymore and many have to opt for staying at their parents home or find other solutions.

I have been trying to save money to to be able to buy my own property yet even those prices are sky high given a 10% deposit has to be paid by myself to cover a home loan. With properties costing lets say 180K, having to save up to €18,000 will take a lifetime to save up while paying such high rents in the meantime and being able to provide for yourself throughout the month. 

The market has been made suitable for gaming companies who attract people from all over the world, share accommodations to pay the rent of the properties between 2 or 3 people, staying for 6 months up to a year and then move on again. 

But what about the locals? What about pensioners? How will they be able to cover such costs with their monthly pension? Single mums who struggle like the one in your article?

Something needs to change quick."

Story 4

We Pay €400 For A Mould Infested Hole In The Wall Thats Not Even Registered As A Residential Apartment 2

"I have just read your article about the single woman with two children. Seven months ago l was in the exact same situation. l feel her despair. l lived in Gzira for five years. For the first three years, l had a contract for €450. When that ended, the landlord put it up to €600 and written on the new contract that the following year it would have to go up to €800. She said she wouldn't actually raise the price as it was only in the contract as a deterrent for unruly tenants. But l argued that she had done this the previous year and what was to stop her from doing it again. l knew that this was not a deterrent. The old saying fool me once shame on you etc. 

I knew there was no way l could afford this. We were fortunate as my son and his girlfriend let us have a room in their rented flat while we looked for a place. It took seven months to find €400 a month and we have nothing - not even proper electricity.

l am fortunate that l am handy with DIY as l am doing this slowly, as l have a full-time job. The government cannot help as l earn "too much". l have a daughter still at university. If it was not for my son and his girlfriend we would have been on the streets. l cried many tears but there is no one to see. 

l beg for a home but this fell on deaf ears no one cares and this is the plight of many single mothers who are trying to keep their family together but with most women we find a strength within ourselves and just get on with it.

You are punished if you have a job and try to get a decent life as the government doesn't want to know about this. In other countries, single parents are encouraged to work to help support family but here we are lost through the cracks. 

Married couples get allowances if the woman is working such as help with child care and two wages coming in. And as a single parent we are struggling just to put a roof over our family's head. It's shameful and can be soul destroying. 

The gaming companies might bring in revenue but they rent for three or four employees and the landlord can easily charge €1,000 plus a month. How can we compete with that? Yes, we have to rent rubbish and no one can help. l actually went to look at an apartment one bedroom. l thought, if it's big enough, my daughter can have the room and l put up a sofa bed. 

l was taken through the little door on the garage only to find out that this was the one bedroom. He had put a bed at the back of the garage, partitioned it off with wrought iron, a sofa against one wall and the smallest hand basin you could imagine. And when l commented there were no windows, he had the cheek to go to the garage door and open a pocket size window. The rent? €550.

Tell me that is not barbaric. So to say l feel strongly about this is an understatement. Nothing will be done until a death happens and everyone will be up in arms. As l have felt that despair l am glad you are trying to give it a voice and l hope you succeed as l do feel we are being ignored."

If you are having a problem with your landlord, there is help available. Contact Patricia Graham at [email protected]

READ NEXT: Maltese People Face Discrimination When Trying To Rent Properties In Malta

Written By

Chris Peregin

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