An expat lobby group is “desperately” trying to inform resident EU citizens about the new rules on energy and water bills, after utilities company ARMS said it would not contact customers about the changes.
“How on earth are we meant to contact every single person?” asked Patricia Graham, who was particularly concerned that pensioners eligible for lower rates would not hear about the changes.
Ms Graham is a representative of Up in Arms, which has initiated a class action against utilities company ARMS over its two-tier pricing system for energy and water. It argues this system is in breach of EU regulations.
Under the two-tier system, non-Maltese residents have been made to jump through hoops in order to pay the ‘residential’ tariff, which is lower than the ‘domestic’ rate.
Following a meeting last month between the group, ARMS chief executive James Davies and Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi, it was announced that ARMS would now accept the ‘A’ ID card or e-residence card from EU foreigners as proof that they should pay the lower tariffs.
Since customers have to apply for the lower rate and ARMS will not be communicating the new requirements directly to eligible clients, Ms Graham plans to meet with estate agents on ways to help tenants make informed choices before signing their lease.
“Even if one EU national is still paying the higher rate, it kind of takes away from what we achieved, so I am not at all happy,” Ms Graham said.
The decision to accept e-residence and ‘A’ ID cards will only benefit home-owners and tenants – local and foreign – who have utility bills issued in their name.
Landlords who do not declare their rental income are reluctant to register their tenants’ names on their properties. This results in tenants living in ‘summer residences’ or ‘second homes’, and paying the higher rates as a consequence.
Up in Arms is continuing its fight to have the two-tier system abolished altogether.
Meanwhile, members have floated the idea of establishing a tenants’ charter among stakeholders to ensure their rights in the letting market are not abused.
Separately, one expat has started an online petition asking for more protection for tenants. The petition claims that some landlords rarely return security deposits at the end of a lease. It called for deposits to be held by impartial estate agents, rather than property owners.
The petition, which had nearly 100 signatories yesterday, can be found at www.change.org/petitions/estate-agents-in-malta-offer-more-protection-to-tenants-in-malta.
An e-mail sent yesterday asking the Federation of Estate Agents for a comment was not answered by the time of writing.