[WATCH Chamber takes issue with Authority’s power to enter private residences

Chamber of Commerce takes issue with power of Housing Authority to access private residences being rented out, under proposed amendments to rent law

Malta Chamber of Commerce reacts to newly published Rent Reform Bill

The Chamber of Commerce is opposing the right to the chairperson of the Housing Authority to delegate the power to anyone to enter a private residence under the proposed amendments to rental laws.

While saying the rules were in the right direction, the changes were too cosmetic. “A serious situation can’t be fixed in a cosmetic manner,” the Chamber said, adding that the rules failed to tackle the main social and economic objective to safeguard the right to adequate and affordable accommodation for all residents.

Chamber President David Xuereb said that while the proposed unprecedented access to the Housing Authority “might be a mistake”, if the law is enacted it will go against the individual’s fundamental right to privacy.

“This part of the bill needs to be re-thought, and re-presented with proper and better drafting to meet the declared objectives without infringing on the individual’s right to peaceful enjoyment with their property, and without being harassed by authorities.”

Xuereb also said that while capping the increase in rental rates to a maximum of 5% per annum, the Bill fails to provide any traditional measures on increases in rental rates between now and the date on which the contracts need to be registered.

He also said the new rules fail to address the issue of shared bedrooms, which according to the Chamber, is a big contributor to the spiralling of rental costs. “In an ever-growing economy, it is unacceptable that such rental set-ups are not properly regulated by law,” Xuereb said.

Xuerbe said there was a need for detailed regulations on room sizes, the maximum number of tenants permitted per square metre, and also health and safety regulation. “We appreciate the fact that the act addresses long-term and short-term rent, but we fail to see any policy that addresses rents between six to twelve months.”

The Chamber said the Bill “superficially distinguishes” between short-term and long-term residential contracts, but leaves contracts running between six to twelve months ‘in limbo’.

While establishing a register of lease contracts, it is limiting the government’s access to lease contracts without contributing to the betterment of the rental market in making it reasonable and affordable.

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