Proposed amendments to the rent law, explained

The rent law amendments currently being discussed in Parliament are generating significant debate. Here’s a clarification of the main points.

Since its inception in 2020, the Private Residential Leases Act has been instrumental in shaping Malta’s rental market. But the dynamic nature of housing needs and the challenges faced by both tenants and landlords have necessitated updates.

In this light, Government is looking to amend the Act, a critical move for the country’s rental housing market. The proposed changes, presented by the Ministry for Social and Affordable Accommodation in collaboration with the Housing Authority, reflect a commitment to addressing the evolving needs of landlords and tenants.

The proposed amendments are the result of extensive market research and three years of observations and dialogue, aiming to create a more balanced, efficient, and fair rental environment.

Here’s a closer look at the eight significant proposals that form the backbone of the Bill:

(1) Limit on tenant numbers

The new law reinforces the already existing Planning Authority ‘Use Class’ regulations, which cap the maximum occupancy at six individuals per rental property if said occupants do not form part of the same family. This rule aims to ensure adequate living conditions and manage over-occupancy issues. Exceptions are made for larger families and properties licensed by the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA).

(2) Ease of tenant substitution

Landlords can now easily replace tenants within an existing contract through an online addendum. This process avoids re-registration and additional fees, provided all parties, including the outgoing tenant, consent.

(3) Blacklist for non-compliant parties

A significant step towards accountability, this online public register will list individuals who fail to comply with the Private Rental Adjudication Board decisions. It aims to deter abuses and foster responsible behaviour in rental transactions.

(4) Simplified addition of tenants

Similar to tenant substitutions, adding new tenants to an existing lease will be streamlined through an online addendum process, requiring unanimous agreement from all current tenants and the landlord.

(5) Introduction of administrative penalties

The Housing Authority is empowered to impose fines for illegal activities, with penalties reaching up to over €2,000. This measure targets quick and effective action against rental abuses.

(6) Enhanced powers of the arbitration board

Building on its success, the Arbitration Board’s scope is broadened to include a wider range of disputes, including those related to property damage, deposit issues, and utility bill arrears, for claims up to €5,000.

(7) Photo inventories for contracts

To streamline the registration process, detailed photo inventories will be accepted for contract documentation. This move aims to reduce bureaucratic procedures while maintaining accurate property records.

(8) Stricter enforcement of contract registration

Emphasising the importance of legal compliance, the Housing Authority mandates the registration of all private rental contracts within 30 days of lease commencement. Failure to do so will attract penalties, though tenants are empowered to register contracts if landlords do not.

These proposed amendments mark a significant step towards modernising Malta’s rental market. By simplifying processes, enhancing transparency, and strengthening enforcement mechanisms, these changes aim to create a more stable and equitable housing sector for all parties involved.

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