There are good, bad and ugly sides to renting property wherever you put your bag down the world over. To get an idea of what to expect in Malta though, we asked two tenants – Rhi, from the UK, and Kevin from Canada – about their experiences. Both have moved twice in their relatively short time in Malta. One praises real estate agents; the other found them almost useless. While experiences are hit and miss, and highly individual, they’ve a good list of insider tips and insights to bear in mind if you’re renting in Malta. They both find Malta’s rental properties large and cheap. But damp and disappearing deposits are two downsides to watch out for!
Q. How hard was it to find suitable property to rent here in Malta? What mix of sources did you use: agents, classifieds, online sources, word of mouth?
Rhi: I find property hunting in Malta a very quick and easy process. I would contact agencies with a list of requirements (area, number of rooms, any other preferences) and usually within 24 hrs I’d have an appointment to spend a day viewing anything up to 7 properties! There are so many buildings and developments, new and old, in Malta that there is never any shortage of places.
Kevin: We used the website VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) to find accommodation – a holiday apartment in Birgu for our first month, which was fairly easy as it was only for a one month stay. For the longer let we used the main paper’s classifieds and an estate agent for the house we’re in now. We wish we’d known of websites like MaltaPark (Malta’s auction site) as it has many more private offers and no agency fees.
Most agencies never returned our emails and properties they listed for rent were often not available. About 90% plus never got back to us. The one agent who did take us out showed us 4 properties. We and the landlord both paid the fee in cash (half a month’s rent each) to the agent who never gave any receipts and then quit or was fired leaving us and the landlord to finalise and make arrangements directly.
Q. What surprised you about the types of places you saw? Were they good value? What about their overall standards and facilities?
Rhi: I am always surprised by the value here in Malta. In England I was paying GBP 540 a month (plus 90 extra in council tax on top!) for a one bedroomed hell hole, no heating, tiny, mouldy and damp. Here in Malta our first flat was Eur 450. It wasn’t huge but had two bedrooms, a long corner balcony, aircon and was really modern and stylish inside. It is possible to get a lovely flat for a fraction of the price of the UK.
Kevin: The places we saw were quite reasonable overall with respect to rental value and availability of furnished properties was abundant thankfully. The houses and furnishings were well above standard. The houses were huge! We came expecting to rent a one-bedroom apartment and ended up in a three bed-, three-bathroom house with a study, laundry room, roof terrace and courtyard, and all for Euro 650 a month….Wow!
Q. What about the landlords?
Rhi: Landlords are really hit and miss. We’ve had two; our first was friendly but useless during our tenancy. If anything went wrong she was in no rush to fix it and the place had no kettle or iron and she wouldn’t pay for them herself. She would begin calling us constantly the week before rent day even though we were never late or caused any issues. Then when we moved out she kept our deposit, and we’ve not been able to get hold of her since.
Our current landlord is much better ‘If I look after you, you look after the flat!’. If anything goes wrong, big or small, he has someone round within 24 hours. When another flat complained about us having a BBQ he really went out of his way to resolve it, even contacting the complainant and telling them, on our behalf, that he permitted us to have BBQs.
The real proof will be when we move out but I don’t think we’ll have any problems. It’s a shame there is no middle man like in England. Definitely be wary, ask around about a landlord before signing anything.
Kevin: Very good attitude from all landlords really as we could sense they would appreciate renters like ourselves who would be little trouble as far as paying rent and looking after their property. Some landlords even offered us lower rent upon meeting us. The owner of the holiday rental in Birgu supplied us with groceries for the first day and took us out to Pavi to get groceries. Also these owners tried to assist us in finding a long-term rental property. Our current landlords have socialised with us and constantly been checking in with us to be sure we had everything we needed at all times.
Q. Hidden extras? Things to beware of if a first-time tenant here in Malta?
Rhi: Definitely landlords. You will almost certainly get ripped off at some point during your stay here. Be wary of any landlord asking for more than one month’s rent as a deposit and consider it gone the moment you hand it over. If you do get it back it should be a nice surprise, but don’t expect it.
Before you move in or sign anything, get them to print an inventory and go around with them and the agent confirming you’re happy with it. Any burnt pots, chipped glasses, marks on the wall – anything- make sure it’s on there and signed by the landlord so they don’t try and pin it on you and keep your money when you leave!
Kevin: Be aware of the lack of central heating as it does get cold here in Malta in the winter and we were quite shocked at the idea of placing a gas appliance inside the home, for heat, which is actually illegal where we come from because of the fumes.
We signed a one-year lease and in hindsight we could have acquired a property with only a six-month commitment, but agents told us we had to sign a one-year contract or pay two times the rent. A year is a long time to commit if you have never been to the island before, or lived in a stone house.
Utilities are very expensive, although we asked several people what we should expect for utilities they were ultimately twice the highest quote we were given. Unless you get permanent residency in Malta you will also not receive any of the subsidies.
TV, phone and internet are two-year contracts and month to month is very expensive. The large internet package was good but the medium TV package was terrible for English channels and it seems SKY would be a better option.
Q. Old house or new?
Kevin: A house of character does have its challenges. We wondered in a newer place would have been better but as there is no central heating we could not see how this would have any benefits over the character and beauty of the old stone houses. The mould in the winter was also a surprise and learning that clothes, towels or anything damp or wet cannot dry inside the house, but overall we find living in the old place a great opportunity and new experience.
Photo: Jaina J