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A broad collective of 17 organisations ranging from leftist groups like Moviment Graffitti and Żminijietna to advocacy groups like aditus foundation, Caritas Malta, and the Maltese Association of Social Workers, published a statement highlighting their concerns about the government’s proposed amendments to the Private Residential Leases Act.

Previously, this website had published a brief article in which a representative of the recently formed tenants’ union Solidarjeta’, president Matthew Attard, flagged similar concerns. In fact, the new union is also one of the organisations who signed the statement which was published earlier on Tuesday, and had previously cited a clause that would triple the window of time in which a landlord is allowed to register a contract as one example of a long list of problems embedded within the proposed legal amendments.

In their collective statement, the organisations argued that, while proposals that seek to limit overcrowding in rented properties are welcome, other provisions will weaken the already precarious position of tenants and strengthen the already powerful position of landlords.

“The enactment of the Private Residential Leases Act in 2020 was a small step forward in regulating a rent market characterised by greed and abuse. However, while this legislation introduced very basic rules concerning contracts and their registration, it stopped short of mandating longer-term contracts and prohibiting abusive rent prices. Thus, the rent market is still characterised by widespread precariousness for tenants, most of whom are forced to renew contracts from one year to the next without any limits on price increases,” the statement reads.

As things stand, the law states that tenants can leave a property with a one-month notice period during the last six months of a one-year contract without suffering any damages. The law allows for the kind of flexibility that is needed should a tenant need to find another property if they are unsure whether the contract will be renewed with a price they afford, the organisations argued, adding that the present legal system offers the possibility to leave properties with substandard conditions and abusive landlords.

“If the proposed amendment goes through, tenants who leave the property at any point during the contract – even in the last six months – will lose their deposit and make themselves liable to legal action from the landlord for loss of income. This will completely tip the scales against the tenants and create a situation where – while landlords can practically do whatever they want – the minimal flexibility afforded to tenants is eliminated,” the statement continued, highlighting another questionable amendment by pointing out that the amendments would also allow landlords to increase the rent price even when they forget to legally terminate a lease.

While the organisations acknowledged the accommodation ministry’s efforts to address the highly unregulated, abusive rental market in Malta, they expressed their disappointment at the problematic nature of the amendments, accusing the ministry of caving in “to strong pressures from the developers’ and landlords’ lobby, prioritising the maximisation of profits rather than social justice and wellbeing” and appealing for the “anti-tenant” proposals to be withdrawn.

The signatories of the statement include Moviment Graffitti, Solidarjeta’, aditus foundation, Caritas Malta, Young Progressive Beings, Dance Beyond Borders, the Paulo Freire Institute, Żminijietna, the African Media Association of Malta, Blue Door Education, the Maltese Association of Social Workers, Victim Support Malta, Migrant Women Association Malta, the Students’ Philosophical Society, the Earth Systems Association, the European Studies Association, and Kollettiv Żgħażagħ EkoXellugin.

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