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Malta - Renting Property
Because Malta is a popular holiday destination, and tourism is an important part of its economy, it has an abundance of short term lets. These tend to be most sought after during July and August which is the peak of the tourist season. If an estate agent has arranged the lease, which could be up to six months, then the tenant and landlord will each pay the estate agent a fee of 10% plus VAT at 18%. However, many landlords now advertise online for a one-off fee, which means the tenant does not pay an estate agent’s fee but equally must act cautiously to protect their own interests.
Despite its small size Malta also has a good supply of long-term rental properties. This means they would be leased for more than six months, but in practice it is normal to have an annual lease signed by both parties. The monthly rental price should be lower than that for a short term let during the tourist season June to September.
Rental costs vary significantly according to the location and the degree to which the property is furnished. Small apartments in Goz can be found for a little as €300 per month, whereas apartments in Silema, Malta or with good sea views will average €1,800 per month.
For those looking for a rural retreat, traditional Maltese villages in the central locations of Msida, Naxxar, Attard and Balzan may be a good option. The rental costs will be lower and you have ready access to open space. Traditional houses and farmhouses in remote locations will require access to a car so you can visit the shops and other local amenities, although Maltese bread can usually be delivered fresh to your door. Before committing to an annual lease in a rural idyll, consider how you would manage if sudden illness were to prevent you from driving.
The tourist areas of Qawra, Mellieha and Bugibba, especially along the coast, are busy from June to September. They will become very quiet out of season. As a result rental prices can be very reasonable, even though they are only 40 minutes away from Sliema. Public transport is present but with a more limited service, whilst local amenities should provide everything you need for day to day living. Gozo also offers accommodation at a reasonable price.
Furnished apartments will normally include all bathroom and kitchen fittings, and a range of basic essential furniture in each room which would allow you to immediately live there. Because of the climate, floors are usually tiled. Apartments often include a small balcony as their outside space, but some houses may offer access to a small garden. Swimming pools are not a normal feature of rental properties, especially in built up urban areas, unless you are looking at the premium end of the market where prices can reach €10,000 per month.
In 2016 the government in Malta issued a White Paper called “Malta’s Property Code And Regulations”. It proposed a new system of compulsory registration for estate agents operating in Malta. Licensing would require satisfactory completion of initial and ongoing training, registration, and adherence to codes of practice. A new complaints system is also proposed, allowing action against individuals who are shown to have acted against consumer interests. The timescale for implementation is not currently publicised, so in the meantime consumers should seek recommendations and exercise caution when choosing an estate agent to help with a property search.
Some of the online sites which may help find your rental home in Malta include:
Before signing a rental contract or making any payment at all in connection to the rental property search, make sure you have visited the property in person and that the people you are dealing with are genuine. This can be hard to do if you are dealing with the landlord directly.
Make sure both parties are signing the rental contract. Do not move into a property on a verbal agreement, as you may unwittingly become liable to terms you did not understand or did not agree to.
Most landlords and estate agents will give you a contract in English. Many will be happy to forward this document to you in advance of signature so that you have time to consider the terms and conditions. Please make sure you are happy with all them, as once you have signed the document you must legally comply with all points within it. Consider the implications of unexpected events, such as your employer sending you to another country or the illness of a loved one requiring a prolonged visit home, and whether the contract would allow you to terminate the lease early.
When paying the deposit and all subsequent rental payments, only pay via bank transfer. Never pay in cash as the payments cannot be proven should a later problem occur. If you are making international transfers the SWIFT method of payment involves a lot of ID checks which should provide some protection, although your bank will charge you for this service.
Estate agents will normally charge the tenant a fee equivalent to half a month’s rent, plus VAT at 18%. The estate agent will receive an equivalent fee from the landlord.
It is usual for the tenant to pay the first month of rent in advance, and to continue this throughout the tenancy.
All tenants will be expected to place a deposit against damages and other losses, equivalent to one month’s rent. If the rent is paid in full and no identified loss or damage occurs, then the deposit will be returned at the end of the rental lease. It is best to place these funds into a client account or a bank account which requires both the tenant and landlord to sign for withdrawal. If you just transfer the funds directly into the landlord’s account then you will have to start legal procedures if the landlord unfairly fails to return the funds.
The monthly rental payments will only cover the cost of using the accommodation. Utility bills such as water and electricity, internet and TV services are additional costs paid by the tenant.
The Times of Malta recently estimated that foreigners were paying nearly double for their water and electricity than they should be. This is because primary residences should be charged the Residential Tariff, but many expats are paying the higher Domestic Tariff, which is aimed at secondary residences. This usually occurs because the landlord has not transferred the registered name for the utility company, saving them the paperwork when tenants change. The situation is then exacerbated because the tariffs are further adjusted according to the number of people living in the property. So if you have just taken out a lease, one of the first things you must do is register yourself with ARMS as the account holder for utilities, by filling out Form F and taking it to a contact centre with your ID. Also, ensure you are paying the Residential Tariff, by asking at the contact centre and then checking your bill for the word “Residential”. Ideally the landlord should complete a Form H, but the statutory requirement for them to do so has been removed so you can now obtain registration even if the landlord fails to complete and return the utility paperwork.
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