Landlords will no longer be able to register rental properties with more than six tenants that are not part of the same family, Housing Minister Roderick Galdes announced on Friday.

Launching proposed amendments to rent laws, Galdes said the ministry is seeking to curb unique cases of landlords abusing the system while also stabilising the rental market.

The amendments, he told the media, were aimed at helping landlords and renters understand their rights and obligations while simplifying the process, Galdes said.

New legislation in 2020 defined the legal and regulatory framework for the private rental sector.

The act introduced systems for landlords to register their leases with the housing authority and defined when either party can give notice of a lease termination.

Three years later, the ministry and the authority are proposing to simplify the systems while introducing new regulations alongside higher levels of enforcement on abusive landlords.

Although leasing to more than six unrelated people is already not allowed under planning legislation, it is not prohibited in the Private Residential Leases Act, which is now being amended together with the Civil Code. The proposal, will now get the different laws in line with each other.

In June, Times of Malta reported how foreign workers were paying up to €250 a month each to share a single apartment in Sliema with 40 other people. Following the report, the Planning Authority had said it was “issuing an enforcement notice” against the contravenor. 

Housing Minister Roderick Galdes announcing the proposals on Friday. Photo: Chris Sant FournierHousing Minister Roderick Galdes announcing the proposals on Friday. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

The Housing Authority also raised the issue in a recent study, noting that some migrant workers could be resorting to shared accommodation in cramped conditions because they were being discriminated against. 

It will now be given the tools to enforce regulations, such as handing out fines of over €2,300, in cases where a landlord misleads or lies on their registration application. If the fine is not paid, the case can be taken to court, Galdes added.

The proposed amendments will also change when tenants can give notice that they are leaving the property.

Landlords must inform tenants that their contract is not being renewed at least three months before the rental agreement ends. 

As the situation stands, tenants can hand in their own one-month notice for year-long lease contracts after at least six months.

Under the proposed amendments, tenants will now be able to immediately hand in their own notice as soon as they are informed that their lease will not be renewed.

A simpler system

Alongside the new regulations, the housing authority’s registration portal will also be simplified to ease the process for both tenants and landlords.

Currently, if one tenant wishes to withdraw from an agreement but other tenants do not, a new agreement has to be drawn up.

In future, landlords will be able to access an option to change, add or remove tenants midway through an agreement without having to starting a new one, Housing Authority CEO Matthew Zerafa said.

Landlords will also be able to use new tools when registering their tenants. They will, for example, be able to create an image catalogue accompanied by captions of the property’s inventory. Currently, this is submitted in list form, Zerafa said.

Properties licenced by the Malta Tourism Authority, such as those rented over platforms like Airbnb, will be excluded from the amendments.

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