Relocation to Malta seems on paper very easy. But there are always the hidden extras that only an insider can let you know about. Patricia Graham, of ‘Up in Arms‘, an expat advisory and campaigning group, gives us some Top Tips on what to look out for when taking on a rental property in Malta. The contract is only part of the bargain; it’s the utility bills and rates that get expats here ‘up in arms’!
Vacation living isn’t like residency
You probably based your decision on relocation to Malta on many visits to these beautiful Islands. Vacationing and living in Malta are two entirely things so don’t base your choice of home on what suited you when here on holiday.
Furnished vs unfurnished
Finding a property is simple enough, though if you are planning on bringing your own furniture that can be tricky. Unfurnished properties are few and far between. So expect to haggle or expect to stash the unwanted furniture in a valuable spare room!
There are no standard letting contracts in Malta and there are no regulations governing the letting business. Caution and common sense will guide you well.
Agents & Companies
Be strict in your requirements. If you should choose to rent via a letting agent or Company be advised that there are no legal requirements for agents and many are not licensed, or required to hold a license.
Renter beware & know your rights
Always have your contract read through by a third party preferable a Lawyer and pay strict attention to your rights as tenants. Again since there are no regulations, tenants find that letting contracts are quite biased towards the Landlord. Check if the property is heated, cooled, well maintained and checks for tell-tale signs of mould. Check if heating/cooling appliances are part of the furnishings, for a furnished property.
VERY Important: before you sign
Before signing on the dotted line, it is important to know exactly what charges you will be paying for your utilities.
a) Ask to see the most recent bills regarding the property.
b) Ask if the property is billed at residential rate. Domestic rate is NOT residential. A slight play with words, but if you read nothing else of this article, this paragraph is the most important. The Domestic/non-residential rate is almost double the price of the residential rate.
c) Check the rate for yourself by noting the ‘consumer scheme’ on the right hand side of the bill. If it says ‘zero residents’ you are on, or will be on the wrong rate.
i) The Domestic rate is designed for second homes, rarely used homes. The rate is not designed for a Primary residence.
ii) The Domestic rate is NOT what all Maltese nationals pay and it is NOT what all non-Maltese Nationals pay.
iii) Many landlords will try to convince you of (ii) above as will many agents. They will also try to convince you that you need a residency card or have lived in Malta for a year in order to obtain the residential rate. This is wrong. All you require is a copy of your passport, your landlord’s signature and a copy of his ID card and all details entered onto Form H, (available for download on the Smart Utilities website (Automated Revenue Management Services portal). All of this can be sent by email.
iv) If do not have the above and the landlord refuses to endorse the Form H, then I personally would be tempted to find another property.
v) Read your own meters at least once a month and budget for the bills as billing is quite erratic and no one likes a surprise bill at the end of 3-4-5 months. There is a calculator on Smart Utilities website.
Remember, relocation to Malta can be great decision but while most of it is plain sailing, issues over property rentals can be the hardest to sort out. The confusion over utility charges is one of the most stressful. Don’t get yourselves on the wrong rate. If you have any further questions about this or any other topic relating to setting up a home here, please contact Patricia Graham.
Times of Malta (12.02.15) ‘Overcharged Consumers‘