Fifteen organisations have expressed their bewilderment that the Nationalist Party and the Malta Developers Association were “pushing to remove basic obligations on landlords” which are being proposed in the Residential Leases Bill.

The concern was raised in the wake of the objections raised by PN against a particular provision of the bill which would empower Housing Authority officials to search any private property arbitrarily.

This provision has already been harshly criticised by the Chamber of Commerce and the Notarial Council, and was deemed as being in breach of the fundamental right to privacy by former European Court of Human Rights Judge Giovanni Bonello.

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Moreover, the Bill has also come under heavy fire by landlords themselves during a meeting organised by the MDA.

One provision of particular concern was an obligation to give tenants three months’ notice in writing in case they would not be renewing the rental contract, as it was feared this might give rise to a loophole for tenants to extend their stay.

In a statement, the 15 organisations said such obligations were found in almost all European countries, and would not result in rent rates being fixed or imposing leases beyond contract periods.

“They simply stipulate rules such as the obligation to register contracts that include an inventory and the amount of money deposited, allowing access to utility bills and informing tenants before contract expiry whether the lease is to be renewed or otherwise,” the organisations remarked.

They added that opposing these rules meant defending the status quo of “total non-regulation” which was placing thousands of vulnerable people with low income living in an extremely precarious situation.

“If the Housing Authority will not be empowered to carry out inspections to verify that landlords are adhering to the conditions agreed with the tenant, and to ensure that contract is being registered, the reform will be pointless,” a spokesman for these organisations told Times of Malta.

If the Housing Authority will not be empowered to carry out inspections to verify that landlords are adhering to the conditions agreed with the tenant, and to ensure that contract is being registered, the reform will be pointless- NGOs

He added that they had no objection in rewording this particular provision to address certain legal concerns, as long as there would be a measure to empower the Housing Authority do inspections, he added.

The statement was issued on behalf of Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar, Forum Komunità Bormliża, Għaqda għall-Ġustizzja Ugwaljanza u Paċi, Integra Foundation, Isles of the Left, Malta Gay Rights Movement, Malta Humanist Association, Malta Tenant Support, Men Against Violence, Millennium Chapel, Moviment Graffitti, SOS Malta, Spark 15, Women’s Rights Foundation and Żminijietna – Voice of the Left.