1. Deposit Details
There is a no ‘deposit scheme’ in Malta (that’s where a third party holds the deposit money and helps to settle disputes). That makes your deposit very vulnerable. Before you hand over the cheque (and it should be a cheque or electronic transfer, never cash), ask for a receipt and a detailed explanation of the T&Cs for the deposit. For example, normal ‘wear and tear’ should be acceptable. A kicked-in door or trashed bathroom is something you’d have to pay for. There’s a grey area in between - it is in your interests to clarify as much as you can.
2. Inventory Ideas
An inventory will protect you as well as the property owner, but only if you go through it with a fine toothcomb on the day you move in, down to counting how many spoons there are in the drawers. Ensure you and the homeowner initial each page, and both sign at the end. Look at the condition of the walls, windows, ceilings, fixtures, fitting, kitchen and bathroom suite etc. Take pictures and video of everything, even stains on the carpet and grubby marks on the walls. It’s dull to do and the landlord/lady might grumble, but persist – this is very important.
Science of Appliances
Check that all the appliances work, from the fridge and washing machine to the cooker and fans. List any problems on the inventory and request that they be fixed within a certain time period.
Don’t forget to turn on all the lights and check that the electrical sockets are working and bulbs are all replaced.
Make sure the water pressure is adequate to shower with, that the toilet flushes well and that the drains aren’t backed up. Ask if the property has ever flooded. Be wary about renting if it has.
3. ‘Get out of House Free’ Card
Unless you negotiate a ‘get out’ clause, you will need to pay rent for the duration of the tenancy in your contract (usually six months or one year). Foreigners sometimes negotiate a clause which allows them to break the contract if they have to return to their country for certain reasons (which should be specified in the contract); they will usually forgo the deposit. It’s generally better to start with a short rental to make sure you like the place, the landlord/lady and the location. You can try to negotiate a ‘get out’ clause (with notice) either way.
4. Rent Day
Don’t be late with your rent but if you can’t avoid it, pay what you can and catch up as soon as possible. Pay your rent by cheque or electronic transfer. That way, there is a paper trail. If the property owner is insisting on cash, ask yourself why… they may be avoiding tax and no matter how nice the place is, you probably don’t want to be colluding with that. If they are tax dodgers, you are more likely to have problems with utility bills.
5. Contract Killing
You absolutely must have a contract and it absolutely must say certain things and be signed. We tell you all about contracts here. Do not pay anything or move in without one.
6. Other Tips
Is there Wi-Fi or at least a connection? What about TV? Sometimes your landlord/lady can get an extra TV or cable box at a cheap rate so it’s worth enquiring. Be very careful about how long you sign up for; if you move, you need to be able to cancel.
Visit the area around the property at different times of the day and night to make sure it’s not noisy.
Parking is at a premium in some locations. Check that you will have access to a parking space/garage or can find street parking relatively easily.
If you have a pet, be upfront about it. It will be harder to find a place but you could offer a slightly larger deposit.
Up, Up and No-way
If you are about to rent an apartment on the sixth floor, make sure there is a lift. Lugging groceries and gas bottles up dozens of stairs is not fun.
Breath of Fresh Air
Find out if there is an outside space (garden, balcony or roof) and ensure that access is included in the contract. Unless you have a dryer, you will also need somewhere to hang out washing.
Sniff for a damp smell and look for mildew marks on the walls. This is not a deal breaker (lots of properties in Malta are a little damp due to the climate), but ask the landlord/lady to deal with it before you move in - there are specialised paints and treatments that can help. Check for airflow and make sure you can open the windows and, ideally, that they have insect screens.
It’s very important to check that there is a fire extinguisher, a fire blanket and working smoke alarms in a property. It could save your life. You should have at least two exits (you might need an emergency rope ladder – if the landlord/lady won’t buy one, invest yourself). Fire doors in common areas should be openable, kept clear and have emergency lighting.
The property owner should have buildings insurance, but you need to insure your own contents and valuables.
The property owner will probably want references from you; you might consider asking them for the same. Former tenants will be able to reassure you … or warn you off!
Check back to this article soon for new information regarding the recent changes to tenant rights in Malta!