A landlady, who happened to somehow be in our tenant support facebook group, was insistent that our group should also make sure that landlords were treated fairly by tenants.
Now, I have no problem with (some) landlords being in my group; I find it sometimes useful to sound myself out against their opinions. I can safely say that not once in any of these conversations I have had, have I wavered in my belief that the balance of power between landlord and tenant in post 1995 Malta, is heavily skewed against the tenant. Not once. It never ceases to amaze me however, how unable I am to persuade these landlords towards this firmly held belief.
The aggrieved landlord, who occasionally turns up in our group, regales us with stories of how the tenant did not leave the rental property when they should have done, and had to be legally evicted; of how they left without paying the Arms bill, the extent of the damage caused by the tenant and other such complaints.
Now, in no way am I condoning bad tenant behaviour. I was at the receiving end of bad tenant behaviour when my tenant left our old family home in a bad way without paying the rent for a few months. However, I went through the legal motions, served an eviction notice on her, bit the bullet, made good the damage and moved on. Yes, it was not pleasant seeing our old family home in a bad way. But every landlord knows, or should know, that there is risk, and that there are costs, associated with letting your property. You win some, you lose some.
But to argue that the tenant unfriendly status quo in Malta is to remain because you had a bad experience with a tenant or more, is ignoring the fact that 1) just like there are good landlords, there are also good tenants, who should not suffer from systemic discrimination (eg. the state sanctioned Arms/landlord scam), and from the complete lack of regulation and standards and 2) the damage caused by a bad landlord to a tenant and a tenant's family is much greater than the damage caused by a bad tenant to a landlord.
It never ceases to amaze me, even when I spell it out as clearly as I can, how few people understand that the rental property, while being a source of income for the landlord, is a HOME for the tenant and the tenant's family.
Why is it so difficult for people and Maltese landlords to see that the damage caused by insecurity, by substandard accommodation, by not being in charge of your own Arms bill, and hence being overcharged, by your deposit being unjustifiably retained, by not having any organisation to go to for help when you have an unreasonable landlord (except for Malta Tenant Support, of course), by wondering whether you will be asked to move yet again when the 1 year contract comes to an end... is huge? The helplessness and despair you feel - this cannot be switched off easily, even when or if you've managed to escape and finally buy your own home.
I just do not understand why many Maltese landlords want to continue with this status quo. Changing the way Arms deals with tenants would favour both the landlord and the tenant. Why should the landlord be held responsible for the tenant's unpaid Arms bill? Why should ALL tenants be regarded as absconders? Why should tenants pay up to twice as much as homeowners for their consumption of water and electricity?
I suppose most landlords think of many ways to salve their consciences, those who have one anyway. The number of landords who come up with the most ridiculous justification for keeping the deposit is uncanny. One landlord of a tenant in our group, with the straightest of faces, kept the entire deposit because two tarnished drawer handles meant that he, of course, had to change all the drawer handles. These cheap looking handles apparently cost 43 euro each, don't you know. And, no, they weren't made of solid gold or even gold plated.
I guess the answer to my own question is that most landlords want to keep the status quo: no regulation of any kind, no regularisation of the Arms / tenant debacle, no registration of the tenants on the Arms bill to continue the rampant tax evasion on rental income, no enforcement of standards or electrical safety certification, no independent third body holding on to the deposit until it is clear that there is no dispute... because it suits them. Simple as. And, of course, no rent stabilization or rent control measures - landlords want to earn as much from their properties as a teacher or a nurse earns from working a professional job.
So, to any future landlords who turn up in our facebook group, you are very welcome indeed. But, I would suggest that, rather than a useless attempt to persuade us that tenants should be kept in their place by the door to wipe landlords' feet on, just have a proper listen instead. Because I am always hopeful that a miracle might happen, and who knows, we may even have landlords demanding a tenant fair system. That will be the day, ay?