This is what happens the world over.
But not in Malta. Not for everybody, anyway. Tenants in Malta are regarded as lowest of the low. This is very likely a hang up from the old pre 1995 rent laws when landlords were forcibly treated as contributors to the national social housing stock, and were paid a scandalously low rent by their tenants for decades. This still goes on with properties leased prior to 1995.
So, should the government of Malta exchange one injustice for another?
Ex Acting CEO of Arms, James Davis, said of tenants about a year ago: “tenants do not exist for Arms”. Other prominent people of the legal persuasion have said that the “consumer” referred to in the Electricity and Water Supply regulations is the landlord, even if it is the tenant doing the consuming.
I have noticed a tendency in Malta for people, who I would formerly have automatically put on a pedestal, to justify the most brazen of injustices, with statements like the above. When this happens, my jaw hurts from hitting the ground.
Is it possible that the great and the good in terms of law makers, policy makers and people in charge of the general running of Malta, do not see that this is another injustice in action? Are there no people in the Maltese administration capable of thinking critically and analytically about the abysmal state of Maltese governance? Is there nobody with a vision of where Malta should be getting to?
Or is it a case of people conducting a mental benefit/risk exercise and making decisions based on what suits them, rather than what is right or wrong?
I would have liked for the government of my country to do the right thing, no matter what. To look at the merits of a case, and decide on the merits of the case. How difficult is it to sort out the problem of Arms and its relationship with tenants? I must admit to being bitterly disappointed. Just as the landlords, denied a half decent rent for decades or the right to their own property back, must feel.
There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Well, let me rephrase, there is a glimmer of hope for tenants in Malta, on the horizon. The champion rescuing us tenants from the villainous Arms, and Arms’s shadowy puppet masters, is the EU. Naturally, what is fine for the people running Malta because “it’s the law” is not enough to convince the EU legal machine, which does not look too kindly at the 1984 style of hiding behind “it’s the law” to propagate obvious injustice.
This is a parliamentary question tabled by Emma McClarkin, MEP:
Written question - Maltese infringement procedure - E-008374/2014
I have been contacted by one of my constituents who has a second home in Malta. She is concerned at the discrimination experienced by non-Maltese residents. I understand the Commission began infringement proceedings against Malta on this issue; can it explain why these proceedings were halted?
This was the reply by Ms Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality
Answer given by Ms Jourová
on behalf of the Commission
The Commission is aware of the allegedly discriminatory tariffs applied to EU citizens residing in Malta.
The Commission initiated a formal infringement procedure against Malta by issuing a letter of formal notice on 12 October 2012 in relation to the discriminatory treatment of Union citizens residing in Malta.
In January 2014 the Maltese authorities informed the Commission about the steps taken to solve the problem. EU citizens who have their primary residence in Malta may as of December 2013 submit the "Change in number of persons declaration" together with a form of identification which include national identity cards and national passports and will thus be able to benefit from reduced electricity and water tariffs.
Regarding EU citizens who have their secondary residence in Malta, the Commission considers there is no discrimination in place by not allowing them to apply for the reduced electricity and water tariffs, considering the nature of the reduction and its eligibility conditions.
The reduction is, from design, reserved to service recipients in respect of their primary residence in Malta.
Both Maltese nationals and non-Maltese EU nationals alike who have their primary residence outside of Malta are not eligible for the reduced tariffs. Furthermore Maltese nationals and non-Maltese EU nationals with several places of residence in Maltese territory are only eligible to pay reduced rates on the primary place of residence in Maltese territory. Therefore, provided that EU citizens, both Maltese and non-Maltese, who choose as their primary residence dwellings in Maltese territory, are allowed to access the reduced tariffs, there is no discriminatory treatment in place of EU citizens based either on nationality or residence."
The pertinent part of the response is the following: “Therefore, provided that EU citizens, both Maltese and non Maltese, who choose as their primary residence dwellings in Maltese territory ARE ALLOWED to access the reduced tariffs, there is NO discriminatory treatment in place of EU citizens based either on nationality or residence.”
If you do some algebra and convert this piece of logic from the negative to the positive, you get this:
If an EU citizen, Maltese or non Maltese, lives in their primary residence and is NOT ALLOWED access to the reduced tariff, then there IS discriminatory treatment.
And there you have it.
There IS discriminatory treatment with regard to all tenants because:
Arms tells all tenants that they cannot access the reduced tariff without the express permission of the landlord;
Arms customer service staff do not understand the three tariffs and regularly give incorrect information to tenants or landlords;
Ex Arms CEO has stated that "tenants do not exist for Arms";
Arms does not have any information on their website to inform tenants of what they need to do to access the reduced tariff;
The Electricity and Water Supply Regulations refer to the consumer. But, according to Arms and the letter of the law, the consumer is the landlord, not the tenant, even though it is the tenant doing the consuming;
Arms knows that it is overcharging, and has overcharged tenants, but has a policy of no refunds;
Arms is deliberately overcharging all tenants, Maltese or non Maltese;
Arms is the sole, state owned utility billing company;
The government of Malta knows.
Shame it had to be the EU to put this incontrovertible piece of logic in black and white.
And not my country.