Finding a flat and renting in Malta is luckily incredibly simple, and in most cases, you can sign an agreement and move in even on the next day from your initial viewing.
The dark side of it, though, is that there are several ways for landlords to mess with you and cheat you – mostly when you’re about to move out.
This is a collection of tips that I’ve gathered over the years, living in various rental houses and having signed over 10 rental agreements.
“It’s not uncommon for landlords to “charge” 750 Euros for a simple paint job that would only cost €250″
I realise that many of this qualifies as “boring legal stuff”, but it’s boring legal stuff that takes 12 minutes to read through and might save you thousands of euros.
Tip #1 – Make Sure Your Deposit is Safe
Those relocating to Malta from more developed places like the UK or Scandinavia will be surprised to hear that there’s no deposit guarantee scheme in place. Deposit money is simply held by the landlord, which needless to say can lead to big issues.
Because of this, you need to make sure that your rental agreement covers your deposit thoroughly. The agreement needs to list specifically what falls under the deposit. Many “template” agreements essentially give the landlord the ability to reduce any amount for whatever they deem necessary from the deposit, leaving you with empty hands.
You should also make sure that the agreement specifies the actual process for determining the amounts to deduct. It’s not uncommon for landlords to “charge” 750 Euros for a simple paint job that would only cost €250. And most of them get away with it because – well – who would sue them for a measly €500?
Update 01/08/16 – These numbers are, of course, merely a random example to illustrate a point. I’m in no way claiming that a paint job – simple or not – would cost €50, as many commenters seem to have believed. For clarity, I’ve adjusted the figures.
“Contrary to most of Continental Europe, there’s nothing in the Maltese law granting tenants the right to terminate their rental contract before its expiry.”
Make sure the contract says clearly that any deductibles must be proven by a receipt from the company that has performed the actual work, and not a bullshit “price quote”. It’s also a good idea to require the landlord to take out at least 3 quotes first before ordering any service.
Tip #2 – Sign an Inventory & Check it for Accuracy
Equally important as the contract itself is the accompanying inventory document.
Since most landlords aren’t overly “at home” when it comes to legal paperwork, and most brokers are simply not interested in doing anything more than the bare minimum, it’s easy to neglect important papers like this.
But an inventory is an incredibly important document, as otherwise, it will be impossible to say what was and wasn’t in the flat when you moved in, and this can lead to long arguments that cost a lot of money.
Even worse are inventory lists that are wrong. It’s very possible that the previous tenant has lost or broken several items, but not noticing it, the landlord just copies over the previous list into your contract. Then, when you move out a year later, they’ll actually check the flat and charge you for the things that someone else lost or broke!
Tip #3 – Read the Termination Clause
Contrary to most of Continental Europe, there’s nothing in the Maltese law granting tenants the right to terminate their rental contract before its expiry.
In simple terms, this means that if you sign a 12-month contract, you will pay 12 months of rent, whether you live in the flat for 12 months or for 3. And that’s perfectly fine – you just need to plan the duration of your lease accordingly.
Luckily, one clause that it’s often added to contracts, is that if you have an emergency that requires you to leave Malta then you can terminate your contract with a 1-month notice, and only forgo your deposit money.
This is, of course, a very useful clause to have, and you should therefore always make sure that it’s in the contract. If it isn’t, insist on adding it in.
Tip #4 – Make Sure Your Rental Agreement is SIGNED
This might be like stating the obvious, but with most people’s legal knowledge being like it is, and with most estate agents being rather useless, it’s actually important to make sure your contract is:
- Signed by both you and the landlord, with two signatures on EACH version, not your signature on theirs and their signature on yours.
- All pages signed or initialised (not just the last one).
- Stapled together properly.
- Equipped with the FULL DETAILS (name, address, ID card number) of both you and your landlord.
- Signed and stamped by the Estate Agent (some banks require this, for instance).
Just the other day, a good friend of mine showed me his rental agreement. It not only lacked his name on it, but it wasn’t stapled together (basically making it possible for you to edit anything you want before going to the court with it!), had hand-written corrections on it (with no signature to accompany them), and didn’t have as much as the landlord’s address or ID number on it!
In non-legal terms, this contract is basically as good as a piece of toilet paper. Should it ever end up in the court, the judge would all but laugh at it, and then dismiss the case.
Tip #5 – (Half way there!!) – ALWAYS Pay Your Rent by Cheque or Internet Banking!
I can’t stress this enough.
NEVER. EVER. PAY. YOUR. RENT. IN. CASH !!!
The ONLY exception to this is if it’s really necessary, in which case you must demand a signed receipt in exchange for every payment, and make sure that the receipt states the amount, the landlord’s name, and has their signature on it.
The reason why many landlords insist on cash payments is because they’re not paying taxes on their rental property. But that’s fine. At the end of the day, whether they pay their taxes or not is none of your business.
Your reason for caring about it is different. Without a convincing paper trail on file about your rent payments, the landlord can at any time claim that you’ve actually not paid any rent, sue you for the whole amount of money (that you’ve actually already paid), and win!
Sure, “no-one would ever do it”, you might say. But wait until the deposit returning time comes and you enter into an argument with your previously nice and quiet landlord.
There’s just no reason to risk it.
Always insist on either direct bank payments or cheques if you must – in which case you should, of course, retain a copy of every cheque that you issue.
Tip #6 – Understand the Agreement
I realise that there’s a lot of “legalese” in agreements, and they’re not exactly the easiest documents to read.
But unless you run the agreement past a professional (which not many people do), you need to make sure that you understand everything that’s in it. Read the agreement, Google search and ask around until you understand every single word in it.
Only this way can you be sure that you’re not putting your signature under something that might make you liable for tens of thousands of euros of damage, or feature any other nasty terms that are hidden in the “legalese”.
Tip #7 – It’s Only the Written Word that Counts
This is something that again falls into the “stating the obvious” category a bit, but it’s oh-so-simple to forget.
It’s easy to enter into “gentlemen’s agreements” and agree on things that aren’t written in the contract. This is especially true when dealing with seemingly nice people.
But let’s say that your verbal agreement that the landlord will get you a washing machine ends up with the landlord losing his job tomorrow and not being able to buy the washing machine any longer. It’s not in the contract, so it doesn’t exist. And you? You still have your 12-month lease, but without a washing machine, costing you hundreds of euros in laundry bills.
This is just one example (admittedly, a pretty poor one). There are many more situations like this, which is why everything that matters to you should be fixed within the contract.
Remember – you’re paying the estate agent a lot of money – let him earn it by making changes to the contract up until the point where everyone’s happy.
With the way the economy was a few years ago, banks were giving out home loans left, right and centre. This has led to a lot of people owning houses and flats that they can no longer afford, and has therefore turned a lot of “ordinary people” into landlords overnight.
Because of this, you’ll notice a lot less professionalism and experience from landlords in Malta than you would in some other countries, making it incredibly important to make sure that your paperwork is sorted out and solid.
Do you like what we’re doing? If so, please help us grow by sharing our content on Facebook – this way we can keep putting out good content 🙂
One of our readers, Doris, added a number of additional tips on Facebook. Some of these are very useful indeed, so we’ll publish the list here (along with our comments), hoping she won’t mind:
- Take photos of all the inside and outside of the building; (indeed very helpful, especially in cases where there are already damages present when you move in)
- Mention the brand of all the kitchen utensils For example Electric Bosch Oven, AEG washing machine, Toshiba TV, etc;
- Mention the general condition of the building and all its contents;
- Ensure that every page of the contact and the inventory is not just signed by the owner and the tenant, but also by a witness; (this is usually done by the estate agent – at least when insisted)
- Ensure that the Deposit is kept by the Letting Agent; (I’m personally unaware of any letting agents in Malta who would do that, but I suppose it’s worth asking!)
- And lastly, have the Water and Electricity changed into your name. (indeed an incredibly important step – see our recent article about many foreigners being charged double the normal utilities rate for more information as to why it’s important)
Thank you, Doris!