The infamous “foreigner rate” for utilities, as it’s often (incorrectly) called, is perhaps one of the major nuisances of those renting property in Malta.
And a nuisance it is – one that can cost you thousands of Euros every year, for no good reason. According to an estimate by the Times of Malta, some 5,000 expats in Malta are paying nearly double for their water and electricity than they should be.
To understand the issue and how to solve it, let’s first look at how and why it exists in the first place.
Generally speaking, there are three different electricity and water tariffs in Malta:
- The “residential” tariff – the cheapest of all three;
- The “domestic” tariff – considerably more expensive;
- The “non-residential” tariff – even more expensive.
For now, let’s ignore the non-residential tariff, as that’s the one that applies for businesses, and look at the difference between the residential and domestic tariffs.
This is the “main” tariff and the cheapest of all three. It’s aimed for the majority of households. Specifically, houses and apartments that are the main home of its occupants.
This means that if you were to buy yourself a home and sign up for utilities, this is the tariff that you’d be paying. In an ideal world, at least.
The domestic tariff is significantly higher than the residential tariff and appears to be primarily aimed for secondary residences. The unfortunate reality, however, is that a very large number of expats are paying just this tariff.
To understand it better, if someone (your landlord) has more than one apartment or house, then unless they inform ARMS – the company that deals with utilities – that someone lives in their secondary apartment, the second one will be charged the more expensive rate.
And even informing ARMS isn’t enough if the person has more than two homes on their name, as the residential tariff can only be applied for two properties.
How and Why Tenants are Being Milked
“Thousands of expats and locals alike are left with the high tariffs and spending thousands of extra euros a year, many of them not even knowing it!”
It’s now (hopefully) clear where the problem comes from, but why does it exist in the first place?
Well, for a variety of reasons, actually:
- Several landlords, unfortunately, neglect to either inform ARMS that their “secondary residence” has been rented out, and is now occupied. That’s often for the simple reason that they avoid paying taxes on their rent income and therefore don’t want anyone to know of their tenants’ existence.
- Landlords also often neglect to switch the utilities over to their tenant’s name (the recommended procedure), both for the above reasons, but also from the fear of a lot of paperwork once the tenant leaves. This is especially true for shorter lets, and is of course perfectly justified.
As a result, thousands of expats and locals alike are left with the high tariffs and spending thousands of extra euros a year (literally!), with many of them not even knowing it!
And this applies to both locals and foreigners – with the only difference being that the latter are perhaps less informed and have less “pull” to sort things out.
But it Gets Even Worse
Whilst the domestic tariff is “only” about 30% higher than the residential tariff, in some cases it gets significantly worse.
In Malta, electricity and water tariffs also depend on the number of people declared to live in a household, with significant reductions in tariffs in case there’s more than 1 person residing in a house or an apartment.
This means that if you’re, for example, a family of four living in a property that falls under the domestic tariff, you can expect to pay 81.9% more than you would be if you were on the correct tariff with the correct benefits.
And with the utility bills of large families often being significant, this can easily amount to the price of a small car each year!
How to Fix It and Start Paying Less?
Luckily, there’s light at the end of the tunnel!
For years, the situation was fairly bleak, and many tenants were in a complete gridlock, as in order to change the tariff, one needed their landlord’s signature under the corresponding form – something that was often impossible to get in the case of dishonest, tax evading or simply lazy landlords.
Things have slowly started to change, though, and a month ago, minister Konrad Mizzi assured in an interview to TVM that “… from now on, even if the landlord does not sign Form H, a tenant can go to ARMS, show them the [rental] contract and start benefitting from the residential tariff immediately.“
Unfortunately, we haven’t had a chance to test this out in practice yet, but the fact that there’s even been development in this regard is very promising, and great news to many who have so far been out of luck.
In short, if you’re currently on the domestic tariff, you should do the following:
If the Utility Bill is in your name then you’re in luck. Simply print out and fill the ARMS Form H, which you can download from here, take it with you to one of the Contact Centres of ARMS, and making sure you have your (Maltese) ID/eResidence card with you, file it then and there.
If the Utility Bill is in your landlord’s name then your best option is to ask your landlord to fill the ARMS Form F, which you can download from here, in order to change the utilities to your name, and then proceed with the above.
If you and your landlord agree not to change the account to your name then fill out the Form H as if the bill was on your name, have your landlord sign it and provide a copy of their ID card, and take it to ARMS. If your landlord refuses to sign it, then take the form to ARMS together with your rental contract.
Regardless of whether the bill is in your name or on your landlord’s, if you’re a EU citizen then you should ALSO fill the Form H1, which you can download from here, and claim a refund on the excessive fees that you’ve already paid. You should also do this if ARMS refuses your Form F (which, according to some, is still happening), as the Form H1 clearly states that “EU citizens may exceptionally apply for redress in cases where no prior application was made, provided that they submit appropriate evidence of their primary residence in Malta at the address which is linked to the account, at the time in question.” Again, you need to couple the form with your rental contract.
And hopefully, this should be it!
How to Check Which Tariff You’re On?
But how do you even know whether you’re overpaying or not?
It’s actually quite simple.
Just look at your utility bill, and pay attention to where it says “No of residents” and “Consumer Scheme”. If the number of residents is wrong, or Consumer Scheme says something other than “Residential”, then it means you’re overpaying – simple as that.
There’s much more to all of this than you saw in this article – such as the whole scheme being likely against the EU regulations, a group of foreigners having taken ARMS to court in a class action lawsuit 6 years ago, and much more. Whilst it’s all incredibly interesting, I decided to keep the article as simple as straightforward as possible, so I apologise in advance for leaving out some details that could be of interest.
It’s extremely pitiful, though, that something like this is still happening, and in such capacity, but I’m hopeful that with enough information being spread around, the situation can change for the better.
The best thing you can do to do your bit, apart from making sure that you’re on the correct tariff yourself, is spread the word and make sure that as many people who are overpaying will stop doing it, as this is the ONLY way things will change once and for all.
What’s YOUR experience with electricity and water tariffs in Malta? Are you paying the Residential rate or are you overpaying? Let us know in comments below!
We live in Gzira. I’m English. We are on the domestic rate and the bill says 0 occupants. ARMS refuses to change anything without a signed form from the landlord.
So we are stuck paying too much. Konrad Mizzi should tell ARMS staff these things and not TV news!
Ryan Smith – 99773072
That’s such a shame.
The only other suggestion (apart from trying to speak to a different agent as the response may well vary between them), is filing the Form H1 instead and claiming a refund on the excess utilities already paid.
The Form H1 clearly states:
“EU citizens may exceptionally apply for redress in cases where no prior application was made, provided that they submit appropriate evidence of their primary residence in Malta at the address which is linked to the account, at the time in question.”
Make sure to bring your rental agreement with you, though!
Please keep me updated on how this goes, as I can then update the article and hopefully we’ll be able to also help out others in the same situation.
Thanks for the advice Janar!
I am going to see what I can do on Saturday.
Re the rental agreement it is now expired and I have a verbal agreement for an extension until January next year.
I’m sure they will use that against me. I will also take my I.D, Melita bill and bank statement with the correct address.
No worries Ryan.
I’m pretty sure you’ll run into issues because of the lack of a rental agreement, though, but luckily ARMS doesn’t specify that the proof in question needs to be a rental agreement – you just need to be able to “adequately” prove that you indeed live in that house. There’s of course the question of what the deem “adequate”, but with some luck, your Melita bill and other documentation might do the trick.
Good morning. It is not necessary therefore to be registered as residents. Is it enough to try our residence in the apartment? Our owner doesn’t want to sign any form. Thank you
Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. Like Ryan, our bill says 0 occupants and domestic, even though we are a family of four.
Landlords often do not want to change utilities to their tenants as they have to face the consequences if the tenant does not pay the bills and leaves Malta, ending either paying or else have the service disconnected.
On a personal level, I perfectly understand it, but it’s still no excuse to be breaking the law, as by both the Maltese law and the EU regulations, tenants are entitled to have their bills on their name, and to enjoy a non-discriminatory tariff.
It’s kind of like me saying that I don’t want to drive only 100km/h on a Spanish motorway as my brand new car is MUCH more stable than the 25 year-old Fiat 500 which is about to break down. And it’s a valid argument (speed limits are set with the lowest common denominator in mind), but yet I’m still going to get fined if I exceed the speed limit!
So perhaps the solution for landlords is to simply be more selective when choosing whom to rent their property out? I used to rent out several apartments some time ago and remember ‘sending away’ a large number of potential tenants, as they seemed like ones that could potentially become troublesome. The same is the norm in the UK as well, where tenants are expected to pass a credit check, as well as a ‘tenancy interview’ to even be considered.
I 100% agree with you but the solution is to link utilities to a person and not to the property. This would resolve the issue of faulters and make it easier to switch utilities…
Hi Janar, thank you very much for this article, it helps a lot. Now, I’d like your input – or anybody’s input – on my situation. I have a short let apartment that I rent out to tourists. I’m therefore on a domestic scheme with 0 occupants (BTW, if I understood well, the number of occupants only makes a difference for the water price, not the electricity) and I don’t know if I could fill any of the forms you’re mentioning to lower the price of my bills.
ARMS told me once that if I wanted to change the number of occupants I would have to fill a form and provide a copy of each passport every time I have new guests (quasi impossible since they change every week or sometimes less than that!). Also I don’t seem to be entitled to have the business tariff as this is an apartment and not… a business (even though I pay VAT, tourist tax, etc.).
Anyway if anyone has a solution, I’d be happy to hear it. This year I’m going to pay about €2 500 for my utilities, this seems a lot to me…
I’m not a professional on this subject by any stretch of the imagination, so please take everything I say here as a grain of salt, but my personal opinion is that there’s little you can do (or should do, for that matter) about it.
At the end of the day, residences like yours are exactly what the domestic tariff is aimed for, and rightly so. The logic behind it, I believe, is actually sound – if you own more than one house for the purpose of either doing short-lets in the other (and profiting from it) or using it as a holiday/second home, you’re to pay higher utilities, and that’s perfectly fair an understandable.
The problem comes with the enforcement, as what meant to be a system that would make things more fair, ended up becoming a system that creates even more unfairness and discrimination, but in cases like yours I’m afraid it doesn’t apply, as you’re on the correct tariff.
So essentially, even if you found a way to switch your short let house to the residential tariff, it would be through some sort of a ‘loophole’.
Please don’t take any of this personally, though. I’m merely voicing my opinion.
Fair enough! Not exactly the answer I was expecting; but I suppose you’re right. Just one thing though, I never implied I should have the residential tariff which is namely for “residents”, but since this activity is considered as a “business”, we should be able to apply to the non residential tariff – which apparently we’re not entitled to since it’s not an office nor a store.
Thank you for your reply anyway.
Hi Janar, is this applied only for EU citizens or also for non-EU citizens residing in Malta?
What this is about has actually nothing to do with any nationality, or whether one is an EU or non-EU citizen (or whether they’re Maltese or foreign, for that matter).
The only reasons why it applies more to foreigners (of any nationality) than it does to locals are that foreigners rent far too often than the locals, and that foreigners are usually much more vulnerable / easily exploitable.
There is wrong information here. Please be careful.
“And even informing ARMS isn’t enough if the person has more than two homes on their name, as the residential tariff can only be applied for two properties.”
This is incorrect. The principle is that people living in their primary residences, whether they are tenants or landlords, are ENTITLED to paying for their consumption of water and electricity at the residential tariff with all occupants of the property listed in Section B of Arms Form H.
On this tariff, people are allowed 33 cubic metres of water at 1.40 euro per cubic metre and 1 750 units of electricity at 10c to 16c per unit, below which consumption there is also an eco reduction.
So a family of 5 on the residential tariff with all occupants listed on Arms Form H, is allowed 165 cubic metres of water (33 cubic metres multiplied by 5) and 8 750 units of electricity (1 750 units multiplied by 5) per year at these more favourable rates.
Whereas on the misleadingly named ‘domestic’ tariff (summer residence tariff), you are only allowed 33 cubic metres of water at 2.19 euro per cubic metre, beyond which you will be paying an eye watering 5.14 euro per cubic metre. Also you will be paying more per unit of electricity PLUS there are no eco reductions on this tariff.
So, to summarize, it’s nothing to do with the number of properties a landlord owns. It’s to do with everyone’ unalienable right to pay at these favourable rates IF they are living in their primary residence.
For further information, please see my blog on Malta Tenant Support Which tariff is just right?
Malta Tenant Support
Just to point out that even on Residential tariff the Water rate increases after the Eur 1.40 rate , to the eye watering Eur 5.14 rate , that a family of 4 (occupants 4) regularly exceed !
Don’t move when you manage to get the correct Tariff
I got from ARMS !
Enquiry Ref No xxxx
Reply Ref No xxxx
From J—–A RU–H
Company Arms Ltd
Reply Dear Customer
First of all please accept our apologies for replying this late to your e-mail.
Please note that, it is not possible to register a person on another account unless a year is passed from the last registration on a particular account.
Should you require further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Original Message Hi !
I just got the tariff corrected from domestic to Residential and 4 number of residents on account number xxxxxxxxxxx
03-01-2017 we moved to another Flat that have Domestic Tariff and we need to change it to Residential and 4 number of residents.
The new Account number is xxxxxxxxxx
How do we do ?
My answer to arms !
ah but that is not answering my question how do we do ?
So if I understand you correct we going to pay domestic tariff and after one year fill form H1 or do I need to send H1 after every Bill ?
“EU citizens may exceptionally apply for redress in
cases where no prior application was made, provided that they submit appropriate evidence of their primary residence in Malta at the address
which is linked to the account, at the time in question.”
First of all thanks for such an explanatory article.
What if the landlord has utilities bills on his/her name and then, based on meters calculation, asks for the monthly utilities expenses?
Hi can anyone please tell me if you need to have your eResidence card to get the residential tariff. Our landlord is hopefully dropping the form off for us today but worrying we won’t get the residential rate with the card.
Is there a way to check the tariff on the electric meter display?
Holy water.. i thought its 33cubic metre per month.. turns out its per annum.. im in my first month rental of 2 years, at domestic rate and 0 resident.. have used about 150kwh 6 cubic metre for one person.. lol.. im gonna cry and wash clothes with my tears soon unless the claim also applies to non eu citizen with maltese residence card.. :/ + i dont wanna get my landlord into trouble with tax authorities if i go and submt forms without his consent.. :/
My landlord do not show me the electricity bills. We are three persons with Residenz cards. He said I can only after 5 years pay less.
And what if you are not an EU citizen? Can you still go to ARMS?
Nice article though all examples given are for premises registered as domestic. I moved recently to an apartment which is registered with ARMS as a non-residential property. During my visit to ARMS office today I inquired about the way of changing the tariff plan from non-residential to residential. The answer was that I have to get form R signed by landlord along with form H (not necessarily signed by the landlord) along with photos of: water and electricity meters, premises. By time of application need to present ID of residents along with ID of landlord (I doubt that someone would be able to get that). I was in shock from the reply on my question: “Why a residential apartment is registered as a commercial/business property?” their answer was: “Renting apartments is a business of my landlord”. Can you imagine how odd the entire situation is? I would really appreciate any advice on how to proceed…………
Forgot to mention that ARMS is not refunding any amounts for EU or Non EU citizens – it was stated by their official today. If at all anyone is able to change the tariff, change in rate will occur only and after application is approved. This is for your info.
Hi Janar. thanks for the write up. please I need your assistance. Am not resident in Malta but am working on a project that involve electricity. It involves display of some electricity bills of which malta’s bill is among. Can you pls scan a copy of an electric bill to my email for my project?… (you can black out the persons name on it if you so wish).
Hi Janar. thanks for the write up. please I need your assistance. Am not resident in Malta but am working on a project that involve electricity. It involves display of some electricity bills of which malta’s bill is among. Can you pls scan a copy of an electric bill to my email (gboy68677(at)gmail.com)for my project?… (you can black out the persons name on it if you so wish).
I am under residential with 4 persons but still the rate is high-paying 129e
Hej Janar ,
I am on Residential tariff since Dec 2017 and I pay more then before. Last bill , meter reading for 17 NOV 18 – 25 Jan 19 was 1449 KWH ! which is extremely high for 1 person , specialty during this months , I was working from 8:00am to 6-7 :00 pm .I made 2 complains to ARMS , I did not received any reply only automatic answer.
When I called and asked to send someone to check the meter , they told me the landlord have to call . He called and ARMS told him that we have to pay 70 EUR and they will come to check but we will loose the 70 EUR .
Also , on all the bills are major mistakes in reading , calculation of the cost , etc . I dodn t know what to do anymore. I don t have money to take them to court.
If you have an advice , will be welcome .
Check that it is not due to previous ‘N’ No readings. Try and get hold of the bills previous to Nov 2018. It could be that previous No readings have now been dumped in your Nov18-Jan19 bill. Make sure to consolidate over the whole year with the annual tariff allowances. Then send that information (eg. excel sheet) to ARMS for a bill correction.
My landlord filled in Form H after 5 months of our asking (after firstly saying we were already on the cheaper tariff), however ARMS rejected it because his signature never matched the passport copy.
Somehow our landlord is also not the person whose name is on the ARMS bills…
So we’ve been going around in circles even though we’vre prepaid €75 per month since day 1 as stipulated in our lease.
This is my 3rd landlord in a year in Malta…
The industry needs serious regulation to stop landlords raping their tenants like this!! Not just with the bills…
Just to point out that even on Residential tariff the Water rate increases after the Eur 1.40 rate , to the eye watering Eur 5.14 rate , that a family of 4 (occupants 4) regularly exceed !
The other major issue with ARMS is the ‘N’ No reading , this becomes a dangerous situation if the estimate usage is low and then when ARMS wake up (some 2-3years later) and take an actual reading ; they then bill you all the difference in one 2 monthly bill , which only includes your tariff allowance for those two months and not the last 2-3 years. So keep all bills and/or download them , make yourself an excel sheet to help you calculate back to the last actual reading and distribute the tariffs correctly bill by bill, upto date and you will potentially find a huge difference because of ARMS not consolidating with your whole allowance (for those 2-3years of ‘N’ No readings).
IMPORTANT: Remember your allowances are per annum , but the billing is cut up into 2 monthly chunks. Most peoples usage peaks in mid-winter & mid-summer , probably at these peaks you fall into a higher tariff band or maybe 2 bands, but averaged over the whole year , you should of been charged at the lower rate. Usually this hits high occupancy (families) hardest , but still even if you are a couple I would check this out , it might be only Eur20 difference for you , but for a family, believe me it can be Eur400 incorrect due to this lack of ANNUAL CONSOLIDATION by ARMS.
You can submit meter readings online , BUT the window of submittal is only open for 2 weeks per 2 months and by the time you Actually receive the bill (some 2 weeks to 4 months later) the window of submitting readings has already been and gone !!! So you can try and pre-empt this reading window , if possible and you can remember.
August-2020 when I entered into a new apartment, the electricity + water were on the Non-residential service. I have asked the landlord ever since to do the transfer to the Residential-service. Initially the landlord ignored me, thereafter I have applied myself on the website but each time ARMS would ask for something more or for an update of the readings. In February-2021 the transfer was still not accepted – and recently the landlord announced she did the transfer. But I cannot trust it until I will see it on the ARMS invoice. The difference in prices & service-fees is huge – and 1st invoice I paid it fully – I paid 58 EUR more than what I should have had to pay. For the 2nd I calculated what I should have paid had the apartment been charged on the residential-service, and informed the landlord about it. I have not received yet the 3rd invoice but I expect it to still be on the non-residential given the period it will cover. I am nervous for the moment I will leave the apartment -I hope I will have no bad surprises with the deposit.