Landlords have no right to deny tenants a roof over their heads in protest at a proposed law to regulate the rental market, the Malta Consumers’ Association has warned.
“While property owners have the right to use their property to earn money, consumers who pay rent have rights too,” the Association said. “It is important to note that while the rights of landlords are related to income generated from their properties, the rights of consumers include the basic human right to have a roof over their heads. This is a basic human right and no market manoeuvre can deny that to them.”
“No one has the right to corner the market in a manner which denies consumers this basic right, particularly when the market is characterised by a limited supply of property and an ever-growing demand.”
Indeed, it suggested such actions could signal the operation of a cartel and urged the authorities to monitor developments in the property market to ensure the Competition Law isn’t being breached.
At a recent meeting organised by the Malta Developers Association, several landlords warned they will withdraw their properties from the rental market entirely if the proposed law goes through.
A spokesperson for the MDA said landlords remain scarred by the experience of 1979, when the government converted leases into permanent rental contracts.
“There’s some concern that this could be a repeat of the 1979 rent laws…some people are seeing some similarities and have become edgy,” he said.
Many landlords are also concerned at a proposal which requires them to give tenants three months notice before evicting them or face seeing the contract automatically extended by the same duration. While this is intended to give evicted tenants enough time to search for a new place, some landlords are concerned that tenants could abuse the system by ignoring eviction notifications so as to renew their contract.
However, the Consumers’ Association argued that tenants have a right to know when their contract will expire and warned no one has the right to “exploit the market, create poverty and place the burden of this poverty on society”.
“We urge the government to take appropriate action towards a regularised property market without delay,” it said.