Two general elections in two different countries that I feel attached to are over. The two of them were called for similar reasons - as an endorsement of leadership - and yet the outcome of each was very different. Teresa May spectacularly failed in her mission to increase her mandate before the Brexit negotiations. On the other hand, Joseph Muscat and PL surprised everyone - not by the victory, but by the size of the majority.
I am so very glad that Teresa May has been stopped in her increasingly authoritarian stance towards Brexit, but not only. There is a glimmer of hope in consistent Jeremy Corbyn, who has held the same democratic socialist principles for decades. I see it as a victory of Jeremy Corbyn’s willingness to serve over Teresa May’s ruthless determination to be in power, no matter the cost to the common good.
The common good. Where does PL’s resounding election victory leave the common good of Malta?
Lately I’ve been asking myself this question:
Why are certain minorities feted and looked after by the PL administration, whilst others are not?
Now please note that I am not in any way resentful of any group getting what’s fair and just. Not at all. I’m just asking why a distinction is made with how different minority groups are treated.
The current administration has focused on advancing the cause of civil liberties, notwithstanding the conservative stance of much of the electorate.
These further examples are what I would call the opposite of fair and just: Prior to the recent general election, hunters were told that sanctions for illegal hunting will be reduced. Also law breaking drivers will not have to pay fines for traffic contraventions. Developers can build in ODZ. High rise buildings are given the go ahead without as much as a by your leave.
So with all this grandesse, all this generosity with most minority groups, how is it that tenants paying 70% of their income on rent; living in substandard, third world accommodation; overpaying by 43% to 103% on their Arms bills; walking on eggshells in case they upset their landlords, who are only too keen to evict their tenants in favour of those who are able to pay more; on contracts of 1 year, at the end of which the rent goes up by 200 euro per month or you’re out on your ear, no matter that you have children who you would like to live stable, secure lives; who have no chance in hell of ever seeing their deposit back... – how is it that tenants are ignored?
Deep down, I’ve known the answer to this question for years. And yet, I have grasped on to straw after straw, refusing to believe that my government could be so cynical and cruel.
It hurts when my friends, my family get upset with me for speaking up about tenant rights. This, right here, is the answer to my question. PL (and PN) knows that there are many landlords out there. If helping the minority group of tenants in Malta did not mean stepping on the toes of the many Maltese landlords, the lot of tenants would have been improved long ago, in my opinion. People aspire to let a property or two. They like not having to bother about regulation and standards and their tenants’ well being. People want the status quo to continue.
After all tenants have a bad press. You know, they all pay 200 euro a year. They live the life of Riley. At our expense. Yes. Let’s punish all tenants. Because all tenants have it this good.
Let’s punish all tenants. It’s the tenants’ fault. Not the fault of successive administrations which have allowed the pre 1995 renting situation to continue, notwithstanding ECHR judgements against them.
Also, let’s ignore anyone who points out that tenants stopped having it so good in 1995, when the rental market was completely liberalised. After all what’s the point of no longer having as good a grudge as this to nurse? Leave us be – we don’t want to listen to facts.
From September 2010 to April 2016, I lived the life of a tenant with my family. It was awful. Now, we were relatively well off compared to many tenants. And we left the Maltese rental market just as rents spiked incredibly high. But it wasn’t just the amount of rent we paid that was a problem. It was the fact that we were regarded as second class citizens by everyone. These are some of the issues we experienced:
- Not being able to have our own account with Arms. Overpaying on our Arms bill. Hardly ever seeing an Arms bill.
- Paying 600 euro in cash every month – I cannot begin to describe how sordid I felt every month having to pay this amount in cash.
- Not having our deposit returned.
- Finding out that an Arms bill for a family of 5 doesn’t cost 1200 euro per year – It costs 800 euro per year. And that’s for a large 4 bedroom, three storey house – not a tiny 3 bedroom flat.
- Ancient plumbing and electrics.
- Badly insulated walls.
- Furniture out of a sixties ex holiday let.
And throughout your stay, you daren’t criticise or ask for anything. Because the landlord might not extend the contract. And then you’d have to find somewhere else. Somewhere else, of worse standard, more expensive...
Tenants’ only hope, it would seem, is that non Maltese tenants will leave Malta in droves as more and more of their disposable income is swallowed up in rent.
It’s a huge pity that the Maltese tenant, unable to work because of ill health; the separated person having to rent; the single parent; the pensioner – all these have to continue their lives of despair, waiting for the rental market to crash so that our ‘socialist’ government will finally look out for them.
Will Malta's version of Jeremy Corbyn please stand up? We need you.