Rent Regulation for a Fairer Society

Press Conference 24 February 2018

A coalition of seventeen organisations working in different sectors, including aditus foundation, are today launching a document with a Proposal for Rent Regulation in Malta. Malta has almost no regulation in the rental market, and the law of the jungle currently applies. This is forcing many tenants to lead precarious lives, with only temporary roofs over their head and no place to call home.

There is a pressing need for rules in the rental market in order to establish some fairness and to create more stability. Thus, we applaud the Parliamentary Secretariat for Social Housing for working on a White Paper about regulation in this sector, to be published shortly, and look forward to contributing to the consultation process.

The Proposal for Rent Regulation in Malta is based on the recognition that people have a fundamental human right to adequate housing.

Skyrocketing rent prices over the last few years are hitting vulnerable groups the hardest, such as pensioners and low-income groups. Tenants regularly paying their rent are finding themselves forced out of their homes due to overnight exorbitant increases in the rent price requested, or having to use the largest part of their wage/pension for rent payment.

This reality is also increasingly affecting other groups, such as the youth, some of whom have no other option but to live in rented places due to unaffordable property prices.

As property prices continue their steep rise, the number of Maltese people living in rented places is destined to increase at a fast pace and, in a few years, it will not be uncommon for Maltese people to live in rented places. The introduction of effective rent regulation at this juncture is essential to ensure that the rental market is not driven exclusively by the urge for quick profits, without any consideration to the impact on individuals, society and the economy, but is sufficiently regulated for the benefit of all.

We believe that landlords will benefit too from a regulatory framework since this will increase clarity and peace of mind. Rent regulation will not stop landlords from making profits out of rented property.

The rent regulation model in this document has been developed by looking at rent regulation laws in other European countries. In fact, Malta is one of the very few EU countries where there is no effective rent regulation in place. The type of rent regulation present in European countries ranges from controls on initial prices (present in countries such as the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and France) to regulating contract length and rent-price increases (present in countries such as Belgium and Germany).

It is to be underlined that the model in our proposal has no relation to pre-1995 rent legislation that existed in our country. The model we are proposing here would not impose any tenant-landlord relationship, other than that established in contracts that have the agreement of both in the context of clear and fair rules.

The main points of our proposal are:

  • A tax regime that incentivises long-lets through lower tax rates for longer leases
  • The creation of a state registry of properties on the rental market as well as the establishment of a public entity responsible for rent regulation
  • The registration of properties that are up for rent, where the first price set in the first contract will be considered as the ‘initial price’
  • The possibility for landlords to increase rent-prices yearly during the duration of a contract by a percentage that does not exceed the cost-of-living-increase percentage. Once a contract expires, the landlord is allowed to draw-up a new contract with the same, or a different, tenant. In either case, the price set in the new contract cannot be higher than 10% of the last monthly rent paid under the previous contract. Besides the 10% limit, the price set in any new contract cannot be more than 25% higher than it was five years earlier. This is to avoid having landlords entering into short-term contracts in the knowledge that following each contract, they would be able to increase the rent by 10%
  • The establishment of a Rent Price Index that lists prices in 1) different areas and 2) for different classes of property according to their size and quality. Landlords would input in the state registry specifications pertinent to their property. An initial price should not exceed 10% of the price listed for that particular category within the Rent Price Index. This would prevent abuse (such as setting unrealistically high initial prices) whilst giving landowners ample leeway in setting initial prices, since the Rent Price Index would in itself reflect market prices, and the initial price can even be 10% higher
  • A system for the termination of contracts similar to that outlined in employment law
  • Provisions for clear rules on deposited money, payment of utility bills and upkeep of property
  • Protection for persons on existing lease agreements
  • The regulation of Agencies and a legal standing to a Tenants’ Union
  • A tax on empty rentable property that disincentivizes rent on the black market and increases the amount of properties for rent.

Rent regulation, which is the focus of our proposal, should only constitute one dimension of a strategy on affordable housing. Our country still lacks a comprehensive Housing Policy that aims to ensure the availability of affordable housing, including both affordable properties and affordable rent prices.

Affordable housing depends also on other factors, such as the availability of social housing and the overall strategy with regards to property and construction. Thus, it is being suggested that rent regulation is placed within a broader National Action Plan on property and affordable housing.

The following organisations are putting forward the Proposal for Rent Regulation in Malta:

Moviment Graffitti, Alleanza Kontra il-Faqar, Forum Komunita’ Bormliża, Malta Tenant Support, Malta Humanists Association, The Millennium Chapel, Żminijietna – Voice of the Left, aditus foundation, Malta Gay Rights Movement, The Critical Institute, Spark 15, Mid-Dlam għad-Dawl, Women’s Rights Foundation, African Media Association Malta, Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust, Integra Foundation and Third World Group Malta.



‘This is Home’ campaign launch

On Saturday morning (16 December), aditus foundation, Integra Foundation and Jesuit Refugee Service Malta (JRS) officially launched the ‘This is Home’ campaign.

The aim of the campaign is to call on the government for a legal pathway to regularisation for all rejected asylum seekers who have lived in Malta for 5 years or more, and have not been returned to their country through no fault of their own.

Concretely, the campaign calls for this legal pathway to be ‘fair and impartial’, inscribed in law and publicly available, with the applicant’s integration efforts and links to Malta taken into consideration, not just their employment status.

The campaign is borne of the long overdue need to regularise those people living a precarious existence in Malta for many years, though all the while working, building social ties and contributing to Malta as their home. Many people in this group hold THPN, however this status is shrouded in secrecy since the criteria for obtaining it is not publicly available, and it is not even regulated by law.

This means that the Ministry can, seemingly arbitrarily, choose to stop renewing it, thereby throwing an entire community into panic. The fact that THPN is also directly linked to employment also means it is an unstable status, while failing to grant it to a family as a unit creates further problems for spouses and dependents.

Meanwhile, another cross-section of this group comprises a number of people living in Malta without any documents, who have succeeded in spite of these obstacles in building a life here.

This campaign is a very important step towards regularising a community that is already thriving in Malta. As Stella David, living in Malta since 2005, succinctly puts it:

Maltese people already know about us, it is the government that needs to recognise us and our efforts.

This campaign also has a wider impact that benefits Maltese society more generally. As Dr. Francois Mifsud attested at the launch, democracy subsists on encounters with diversity and bringing into the mainstream those people previously pushed towards the margins, and providing them with a pathway to regularisation, can only strengthen our democracy.

In line with its community-building nature, this campaign seeks to engage the efforts of the entire community. Anyone may sign the petition so as to help light the fire under a campaign that seeks to make Maltese society stronger for all.

Post by Helena Agathangelou, Legal Intern


How can I help Malta? Our tips.

The brutal assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has shocked us all, and whilst many of us (and you) have been attending marches, vigils and protests there’s a lingering feeling that it’s just not enough to bring about the changes we all think Malta needs.

We also understand that you’re not all actively involved with NGOs, but would anyway like to do more to be part of this significant time in Maltese history.

So we thought we could you some ideas on how we think you can actively push Malta towards being a better place for us all, knowing that this is ultimately a process that will take time, effort and commitment.

1. Understand what it is that aditus foundation, and other like-minded NGOs and activists actually think Malta needs.

For us, Daphne’s murder is part of a far bigger context of failed governance in Malta, successfully fabricated by successive Parliaments and Governments. Our full views on this, and what we think should happen, can be read in this short statement. Read it. If you like it, share it. If you don’t like it, tell us why.

2. Support an organisation that is actively working to improve governance in Malta.

Going to every single demonstration can be tiring, and life’s demands might simply not allow you to be as active, vociferous or rebellious as that activist inside you wants you to be. It’s OK, don’t guilt yourself.  Remember that you are surrounded by organisations whose mission is to make Malta a better place.

They need your support, and through them your inner activist can be fulfilled. They need donations (money, or anything you don’t need and can pass on…computer? office furniture?), in-kind support (what are you good at? do you run a company that can offer a needed service?).

Need a list? Head to the list of Member Organisations of Malta’s only human rights platform…a network of NGOs working to promote human rights in all their forms. Pick one, or more. It’s really easy.

PHROM_logo

3. Reveal malpractice and abuse!

Start your own whistle-blower blog calling out corrupt practices, abuse of power and lack of transparency.

Pissed off at the amount of petrol station permits issued? Illegal zoos being sanctioned? Dodgy promotions in the public sector? Maddened by the lenient punishments given to perpetrators of rape, domestic violence? Or judgments with a racial bias? List them, research them, start a blog.

Just keep in mind that getting out there also requires responsibility, sensibility and an understanding of potential implications. For a quick starter you can check our this article on the risks of sharing stuff on social media…if in doubt, call us.

©️ Alexandra Pace.

4. Report crimes when you see them!

Report hate speech online through the online Crime Report system. Do not allow anyone to bully you, or anyone else, into silence by using speech or published text that is illegal.

If in doubt, call us.

5. Put your thoughts on paper and send them to who should be listening!

Organise a group of friends or colleagues and discuss what you think is wrong, and what you want to happen to make Malta a better place…then send your thoughts to the Prime Minister. Or to a newspaper. Or to a Member of Parliament. Or to the European Union. Or to the Council of Europe.

If you’re going to get angry, then make sure someone’s hearing you!

6. Follow us, we’ll be revealing our own plans soon…

In the coming days we will be publicly announcing our own strategy/campaign to deal with the terrible situation the country is in. Follow us (subscribe to our News, visit our Facebook page, get our Tweets) so that you’ll be kept updated..we’ll be needing your input and support!

©️ Alexandra Pace.



From assisting British lawyers in Greece to a standalone initiative: Know Your Rights!

Recently, we’ve been requested by the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association* (ILPA) to provide specific information about various elements of Malta’s asylum system.

*ILPA is a UK-based organisation aiming to promote and improve the advising and representation of immigrants, to provide information on domestic and European immigration, asylum and nationality law and finally to secure a non-racist, non-sexist, just and equitable system of immigration refugee and nationality law practice.

In 2017, ILPA started a pilot project aiming at sending volunteer experienced UK immigration and asylum lawyers to Greece to support refugees and Greek lawyers on-site. The lawyers sent to Greece are focusing on the initial stages of cases: preparing statements, advising on evidence and applications for family reunion.

So as to ensure a more effective implementation, ILPA asked several lawyers and/or organisations in Europe to provide detailed information about the specificities of national asylum systems, to help the lawyers in Greece with their work. This information is particularly useful for those asylum-seekers who might be relocated to Malta, and for those who – having family members present in Malta – might applying for family reunification under the Dublin III Regulation.

Acting in solidarity with our British and Greek colleagues, we are very committed to this project and have been developing several thematic Fact Sheets that cover essential elements of Malta’s asylum process.

We started developing #aditusFactSheets in our ATLAS project, since we understand that the starting point to securing human rights is knowledge of their existence and of the steps needed to enjoy them.

Topics covered include the asylum procedure, rights of beneficiaries of international protection, long-term residence status, Malta’s court system (civil and criminal), equality bodies, etc.

Our Know your rights! initiative is now in full swing, and we’ve churned out a number of useful, accessible and user-friendly documents that are not limited to asylum or migration.

All our #aditusFactSheets are publicly available on the Know your rights! page.

Please go ahead and download them…if you’d like to suggest further topics, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!