From January, tenants will no longer require a landlord’s permission to change their utility tariff.

After a six-year struggle, it has been announced that as of January 2017 both Maltese and EU tenants will no longer have to obtain the permission of their landlord in order to change their home electricity tariff.

The issue was brought to light when a group of some 100 EU Citizens residing in Malta presented a class action suit against ARMS LTD, the company responsible for issuing and collecting revenue resulting from the consumption of electricity and water. It was noted that the majority of foreign nationals renting property in Malta were not only paying a much higher domestic rate per unit for their utilities but were also finding difficulty when trying to make the transition to the lower residential tariff. In short, the domestic tariff was designed to apply to second home owners and non-residents and the domestic tariff, a significant 30% lower, to all residents. An issue arose when tenants discovered a disproportionate amount of difficulty around the process of transitioning to the lower rate, an issue that resulted in the group citing discrimination as they were unable to benefit from discounts that citizens could.

To date, the tenant requires the permission of their landlord to benefit from the cheaper rates, a request that was often refused due to the landlord in question not paying tax on their income derived from rentals and resulting in tenants paying high amounts for their water and electric. There have even been reports of tenants having their supplies cut off only to discover that they had been paying their landlord money meant for utility bills, yet the landlord had not been passing it on to ARMs. It is hoped that this new legislation will reduce the number of unscrupulous landlords taking illegal advantage of rental tenants and avoid people being hit with extortionately high bills that they might struggle to pay.

After the last election, the group, headed by Ms Patricia Graham, met with the then-energy minister, Dr Konrad Mizzi who agreed that presenting a tenancy agreement or contract to ARMs should be sufficient evidence to benefit from the lower rates. After many meetings, discussions and negotiations a decision has now been reached and the new rules are set to be implemented into force in January meaning that upon presentation of a valid rental contract and ID card/passport, a tenant can benefit from the lower rate, with or without the permission of their landlord.

Ms Graham stated that “This will not only help the EU nationals in our group but lots of families renting in the private sector who are struggling with their electricity bills.” Dr Mizzi’s office, when contacted added that a system of redress would also be available to those who have been on the wrong tariff in the past.

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