It’s time for the government to take concrete action to safeguard the thousands of people who are facing eviction from their homes due to old rental laws, lawyer Veronique Dalli has said.
“As a lawyer, I encounter the situation of pre-1995 rental laws on a daily basis,” Dalli told a Labour Party political rally yesterday.
“We can’t stick our heads in the sand and ignore the constitutional developments that have been going on for a while. The situation has been building up and we’ve now reached a point where we must see what solutions we can offer.”
“There can be no easy or straightforward solution which can be taken from one day to the next, but the situation is that a number of landlords have been waiting for years to safeguard their rights and many elderly people are facing eviction.”
“This isn’t a partisan issue and I’m convinced that the Labour Party, which has always had a social soul, is the only political force which can address these social issues and ensure no one falls behind.”
Several landlords remain contractually bound by rental contracts entered into before 1995, when the government liberalised the rental market.
This means they have to charge rent that’s miles below the market value, sometimes as low as €200 a year.
The Constitutional Court has declared that forcing landlords to rent properties below their market value is unconstitutional and has been ruling in favour of these landlords on a case by case basis for several years.
Unable to pay the market value of their properties, several tenants, many of whom are elderly, have ended up evicted.
However, the government has been reluctant to tackle the situation holistically, instead preferring to deal with each evicted person on a case by case basis. It has recently introduced compulsory mediation to avoid lengthy and costly lawsuits in these cases.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Robert Abela admitted that the situation cannot be ignored any longer and said the government must “strike a balance” between the rights of landlords and tenants.
“It’s useless to talk about what happened in the past; we must address this reality,” he said. “The Housing Authority is following up cases on a case-by-case basis to ensure that no one ends up homeless, and we’re offering free legal assistance to people facing eviction proceedings.”
“However, we must look towards the future. It’s a complex problem and the government must strike a balance while ensuring that no one ends up homeless.”
Opposition leader Bernard Grech has also been pressing on this point in recent days, urging the government to take action to address a growing problem.