“I just want to pay what I owe – not a penny more, not a penny less” – this is what a tenant said to the overbearing bully of the landlord browbeating him.
This particular tenant had succeeded at the Herculean task of deciphering the Arms bill first page; of course, the landlord never gave him the second page of the Arms bill, with further useful information.
But no, the landlord was adamant that the Arms bills for this tenant were too low and that therefore he was within his rights to demand more money. He produced a screen shot of an online Arms calculation showing the cost on the non residential tariff, which he claimed Arms had given him when he visited the Arms office.
“No", I told him, "Arms couldn’t have given you that. Firstly, it’s on the non residential tariff and secondly it’s not an Arms bill.”
The bluster wavered and a look of uncertainty in the eyes told me that I had hit the mark.
The tenant had noticed that even though he had paid the landlord the amounts of the previous bills, these amounts were always carried over to the next bill. The landlord insisted that he had paid the bills. Clearly, he was trying to pass off the next bill (which included the amount of the previous bill) as the amount due.
“You are the only tenant who makes a fuss about the Arms bill – everyone else just pays. You are trying to cheat me”, he bellowed, with his face inches away from the tenant and a finger poking his chest.
More inconsistencies in the landlord’s story: The bill was in the previous tenant’s name. This means that the previous tenant had paid a deposit of 466 euro. I asked why the landlord hadn’t put the account back on to his name.
“Because I was a gentleman and paid my tenant the 466 euro so that he wouldn’t have to wait for Arms to refund him the deposit .“
“But that was 8 months ago. Why haven’t you got the account back into your name yet?”
Unconvincing, resentful replies followed.
The most upsetting aspect to the Arms / tenant scam is that the tenant never feels certain that they are paying the correct amount for their consumption of water and electricity. Of course, this applies to homeowners too. But, if you factor in all the other variables of the landlord / Arms interface, the scope for overcharging is hugely magnified.
So many examples of this systemic casualness when it comes to the accuracy of bill payments or even salary payments.
There’s a certain dignity to the statement – I just want to pay what I owe, not a penny more a, not a penny less. In other words, I want to pay for the services rendered. I would be mortified if I didn’t pay all the bill but, on the other hand, I don’t want to over pay.
Why is this so difficult for many in Malta to understand?
Same with my salary. Oh, we’ll give you three years’ arrears. But the first three years’ – no, we won’t. We want to have had the benefit of your 15 years’ teaching experience for free for the first three years but not for the second three years. Yes, we know that this underpayment has cost you circa €20 000. But we feel that we can be cheeky and not have to pay you. That’s how dignified we are.
Same with all the teachers who moved sector, et voila - it was as if all their years of learning on the job had vanished. They were NQTs again, all those years of teaching experience completely valueless. Meanwhile teachers who stayed in the same school went up the salary scale every year.
Same with Arms - tenants overpay for their consumption of water and electricity as a matter of course. Arms insists that 'it does not do refunds'.
'Not a penny more, not a penny less' - I would so like it if everyone in Malta - employers, Arms, landlords... would live by this dignified statement.