Malta House For Rent
Photo Credit: Elora Kask. Disclaimer: The house on the photo is in no way connected to the content of this article.

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:

  1. Signed by both you and the landlord, with two signatures on EACH version, not your signature on theirs and their signature on yours.
  2. All pages signed or initialised (not just the last one).
  3. Stapled together properly.
  4. Equipped with the FULL DETAILS (name, address, ID card number) of both you and your landlord.
  5. 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 !!!

Never!

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.

Bottom Line

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 🙂

UPDATE 01/08/16:

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!

22 COMMENTS

  1. You paint a very nasty picture of Malta and the Maltese, there are crooks in every European country even those mentioned by you above, you are not the only one who has travelled and rented property, you are a very welcome guest here but if you don’t like it you are free to move on!!

    • I do not think that he paints a bad picture of Malta. There are as you said crooks in every European country. He did not say there are more in Malta.

    • Haha. Thanks for your comment, Paul!

      In fact, I was counting hours before the first “feel free to move back to where you came from” comment/post arrives, and it happened!! 🙂 It took it 3 days though, so I suppose that’s good.

      I thought for a while whether to even comment on this or not, as at the end of the day any readers can draw their own conclusions, but figured I’d just quickly point out that having lived in 6 countries, I could put together a similar list about every single one of them – as there’s no place on earth that’s “all good”, and similarly none that are “all bad”. Every country has their own unique positives, along with the negatives, and at the end of the day it’s about pointing out both sides so that newcomers could make educated decisions, based on what’s important to them personally.

      What’s very sad is the narrow-mindedness that seems to be often abundant (not only here in Malta), and perfectly demonstrated by the “go back to your own country” group of people. If one can’t stand a notch of criticism (even if constructive, backed by facts, and coupled with equal positives) and instead prefers to close their eyes, repeating that “everything is fine. everything is great”, then how are we supposed to evolve and make things (even) better?

      Thanks again for your comment, though. At this early stage of the site, every comment helps us grow larger and gather more reach!

    • This man is doing his job and a very good job he’s doing too, I am Maltese married to an English man, and I am thankful for his write up, there is nothing wrong with what he said , but then again the truth always hurts maybe you are a landlord and that is why you are annoyed with what he has written

    • If we all took the same attitude and “moved on”, your country would lose hundreds of millions of euros in tax revenue, which pay for your roads, schools, transport,benefits,pensions and government infrastructure… or would you prefer to live hand to mouth like Greece?

    • I have yet to hear of a single landlord that does not insist on paying rent in cash only, I have only ever experience being robbed of my deposit in full, I also work with hundreds of non Maltese, I see nothing but fraud, tax evasion, strait up theft in a country that seems to hold ripping off the only people who pay tax as a normal thing to do. Don’t get me wrong I love Malta, just dont move here if it irritates you that you pay double for electricity (because your landlord has your building listed as empty due to tax evasion) or any other kind or normality while handing over bundles of cash to someone who will 99% of the time screw you at the end of your tendency. Favorite quote this year from somone living in a large shared house from the landlord “please do not sublet to any black people, I do not like them”

    • Paul, he is painting a very realistic picture of Maltese landlords. I am Maltese and have rented several places as long let contracts. EVERY owner comes with bullshit when you come to leave. Just this week I left a places in Gharghur. The owner confirmed that everything was in order ( I left the place btrand new as he gave it me) they were great landlords till the end now he won’t pay me back my deposit. contract was of 12 months and I have been there for 15.
      Owner in question is [personal details retracted by TRM team].

    • Trying to do my best! At this stage, all support is very welcome, and I’m hoping to make this site a useful resource. The sheer amount of positive feedback that we’ve gotten so far is truly nice!

  2. There are dodgy land lords/ladies and dodgy tenants. I suggest you follow-up this article with another on how to maintain a positive relationship with the person/organisation you are renting from. I’ll happily provide some useful pointers.

  3. If I was to add just one thing it would be, Pictures’ pictures, pictures!! Pictures from when you move in, (not just glossy album pics, but of mattresses, inside cupboards, under sinks, inside showers, walls, ceilings, upholstery, rugs, and water and electricity meters that show the meter numbers) Then take exactly the same pictures when you move out.

  4. Re. The paint job, why should the landlord go out and get 3 different quotes? You mention everything the landlord should do but you do not mention the responsibilities the tenants should have when renting. If a tenant damages the wall by sticking posters up or sticking nails to it, why shouldn’t the tenant be responsible to give back the apartment the way it was originally? Why can’t the tenant find somebody to do the paint job and he does the work himself and go through the hassle himself? Why should the landlord go out and get 3 different quotes as you specified? What happens if the damages incurred by the tenants are not covered by the deposit? If the laws are not enforced on landlords it is just as equal to the laws not being enforced in tenants. But it seems like ppl only like to complain to getting their 15 mins of fame

    • As you may tell by the title (or the contents) of this article, it’s meant for tenants to protect themselves from fraudulent landlords, not the other way around. What you’re asking is almost like posting “But what about the supermarket owner’s rights???” under an article that talks about how to not overpay for your milk.

      No-one is claiming that there aren’t ill-intentioned tenants around. There are, and plenty. And it may well be a subject for a follow-up article, but it’s certainly out of the scope of this one.

      As for the 3 different quotes, this is from a personal experience where the landlord (for an office though, rather than a flat) ordered a paint job for €450 and deducted it from the deposit. When I took out a few quotes myself, the price of it came to between €80 and €150. Needless to say, the job was actually done by someone whom the landlord knew who was ready to write out the inflated receipt – with the money probably shared evenly between the two. And sadly, this is not at all as uncommon of an occurrence that one may think.

      But thanks for your comment regardless! Every comment makes the site more popular, widens its reach and extends the “15 minutes of fame” that I’m apparently looking for by “complaining” 🙂 (I’m quite happy, though, that your stings don’t hurt and that your comment was largely buried among a ton of both comments and messages from people who actually found the content useful). Ah, and VERY happy that you spent at least 10 minutes of your life (that you’ll never get back) reading through this horrible article and even drafting a reply! 😉

  5. We lived for one year at: Tal-Lanc, Triq il-Maxrabija, Ghasri, Gozo, (property owned by a Doreen Aquilina) for the year that ended August 2016. We were on a long term contract and had to stump up a hefty deposit at the start of the tenancy. We paid our rental directly to her by Bank Transfer every month, on time and with no hassle. Once we moved away from this property, we attempted to reclaim our deposit, however, this woman has decided to resort to common theft and steal our deposit. She refuses to answer our calls or emails. DO NOT RENT THIS PROPERTY!!!

  6. Hi! We are leaving a flat,and the landlord showed up with his mother-in-law to inspect it,
    And claimed there are damages that exceed the deposit. Besides keeping the deposit,he wants 400 more euros (utility bills already paid), producing a list of damages made up of guessed and in my opinion inflated prices (like a chipped door to be replaced completely, costing 300 euros). Repaint jobs prices guessed too. Should I pay? Thanks

  7. Frustratingly we have all heard the horror stories in Malta of Landlords keeping the deposit with no valid reason, but I knew it could not happen to me, Except I’m just going through an issue with my previously very nice landlord !
    We have lived for 1 year in an apartment, we wanted to move somewhere quieter BUT could not find the right place, the whole time we were there the landlord was very nice, although there were some problems with damp, water leaks and termites that were never really fixed satisfactorily.
    a couple of months before our contract was due to end, he mentioned that it would be due for renewal soon and asked if we were staying, at the time we couldn’t find a new (pet friendly) place that met our requirements, so I said “yes I THINK we will stay”
    However 2 weeks before the end of the contract we were told about the perfect place that met all our needs and was also 200€ cheaper per month.
    My wife went to speak to the current landlord and told him we were thinking of moving, and that ideally end of the month would be better for us and the new landlord.
    He told her this was no problem, so she went to the new landlord and signed the agreement and paid the deposit.
    The following day the old landlord called her and said he hadn’t realised what the date was when she came to see him, and the notice was too short, so due to this he would be keeping our 750.00€ deposit
    I have argued with him and actually as far as I am concerned we had no legal obligation other than to vacate the property by the last day of our existing contract, We even left it in a MUCH better condition than when we moved in.. AND I even agreed to him keeping 50% as the notice was a little short, even though we never signed a new contract and he had initially told my wife it was fine to move out at the end of the month !
    But he is adamant he will keep it all as he now says I am in breach of agreement ! according to him because I said “yes I THINK we will stay” it is considered a verbal agreement and is binding.

    Maybe I am wrong, maybe someone more knowledgable of the law can enlighten me ? but I believe that whilst in some cases a verbal agreement can be binding, It is not the case when dealing with sale of property or a tenancy lease ? these MUST be in writing.

    • The fact that you’re still on the island makes this so much easier for you. The reason why, in most cases, landlords gets away with stuff like this is because the tenant is leaving the country, making it very difficult (and expensive) to do anything about it.

      But in your case – contact an attorney, threaten with legal action, then sue. Simple as.

      You saying that you think you’ll stay most certainly doesn’t constitute an agreement, which ever way you look at it. If you didn’t sign a new agreement then your agreement ended when it says on the paper it did, and that’s the end of the story.

      From the moral standpoint I can of course understand your landlord’s frustration, but keeping your deposit is still not justified. If your landlord wanted a formal 2-month notice then he could’ve signed a rolling contract with a 2-month notice with you, rather than a fixed 1-year contract …

    • The fact that you’re still on the island makes this so much easier for you. The reason why, in most cases, landlords gets away with stuff like this is because the tenant is leaving the country, making it very difficult (and expensive) to do anything about it.

      But in your case – contact an attorney, threaten with legal action, then sue. Simple as.

      You saying that you think you’ll stay most certainly doesn’t constitute an agreement, which ever way you look at it. If you didn’t sign a new agreement then your agreement ended when it says on the paper it did, and that’s the end of the story.

      From the moral standpoint I can of course understand your landlord’s frustration, but keeping your deposit is still not justified. If your landlord wanted a formal 2-month notice then he could’ve signed a rolling contract with a 2-month notice with you, rather than a fixed 1-year contract …

  8. Thank you very much for this article! There were really good points raised and since we are going to sign a contract later today, we really needed this.
    I have experience from renting 13 places in Singapore and 2 in Sweden and well, it is never easy as a tenant to get a fair contract.
    Forget about the haters and the nasty comments, new or prospective expats NEED to hear the good and the bad! We have been lured here because we could only find huge positive comments on forums and people downplayed the negatives a lot.
    Don’t get me wrong, we absolutely love Malta so far but if I knew some things I knew now, we would never have moved here. I feel like people are way too scared to share their honest opinions and as a result many come, get disappointed and end up trying to leave asap.
    No country is perfect unicorns and rainbows and people should be allowed to hear the good and the bad before taking a leap of faith.
    So thank you again for this :)!!!!!!

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