On the 31st December 2019, a set of regulations were introduced for the purpose of registering private residential leases with the Housing Authority and in order to regulate the procedures to be followed before the Adjudicating Panel for Private Residential Leases in the event of disputes relating to said private residential leases.
Private residential leases can now be registered here:
A. Registration of Private Residential Leases Contracts Regulations, 2019
• Overview and scope
The Registration of Private Residential Leases Contracts Regulations, 2019 (Subsidiary Legislation 604.02) have been enacted by virtue of L.N. 355 of 2019, hereinafter referred to as “the Regulations”. The Regulations provide three model contracts that may be used by persons entering into a private residential lease contract as defined under the Private Residential Leases Act (CAP. 604). One type of model contract may be used when leasing shared residential spaces, another for short private residential leases and another for long private residential leases, as the case may be.
Letting of shared residential space means the letting of any separate space in an apartment or building, with shared amenities, such as kitchen and bathroom facilities. Short private residential lease means any lease, negotiated for a duration of six months (amongst other requirements). Long private residential lease means any lease, negotiated for a primary residential purpose for a minimum period of one year.
Model Contracts allow the parties to insert other clauses which may be deemed necessary by the parties to the lease provided that said clauses are in accordance with Maltese law.
• Standard Forms
In the event that the parties entering into a private residential lease refrain from utilizing the applicable model contract set out in the Regulations, then said parties shall be obliged to attach to their agreement the so-called “Standard Form” which is set out in Part IV of the Regulations. The Standard Form requires the parties to indicate the name and identification number, address and email of the Lessor and the name and email of the Lessee. It also requires the parties to indicate whether the agreement entered between them is in relation to the letting of a shared residential space, a short private residential lease or a long private residential lease. It further requires the parties to insert the address of the property being let, acceptance that it is being used for residential purposes, indicate whether lease may be extended and if in the affirmative, the manner in which the lease can be extended, the rent and the manner in which payment is made. It also requires the parties to insert whether a deposit was paid to the Lessor and if in the affirmative, the amount thereof and to attach an inventory of the movables. The Standard Form also contains authorization from the Lessor to the Lessee to access the details of the water and electricity account relative to the leased premises for the purpose of calculating the correct tariff applicable. It also requires the parties to indicate the number of persons that shall be occupying the leased property. The Regulations provide that in the event of conflict between the lease agreement negotiated between the parties and the Standard Form, the latter prevails.
• Data Protection
Further to the registration of the leases by the parties to the Housing Authority, the latter is entitled to retain personal data for a maximum period of 5 years from the date of termination of the lease provided that the said period may be extended for the purpose of the establishment, exercise or defense of a legal claim and for legal proceedings which may be instituted under any law.
B. Adjudicating Panel for Private Residential Leases Regulations, 2019
• Overview and scope
The Adjudicating Panel for Private Residential Leases Regulations, 2019 (Subsidiary Legislation 604.01) has been enacted by virtue of L.N. 354 of 2019, hereinafter referred to as “the Regulations”. The Regulations set out the procedure to be followed before the Adjudicating Panel for Residential Leases in the event of disputes in relation to private residential leases in respect of which the award may not exceed Euro 5,000.
• Acts filed before the Adjudicating Panel for Private Residential Leases
The Regulations have introduced the forms that would need to be used by the parties who are in a dispute in relation to a private residential lease and who decide to refer the matter to the Adjudicating Panel for Private Residential Leases for the latter’s determination.
The Regulations have introduced standard forms for the “Notice of Claim” to be made by the claimant; “the Reply” to be made by the respondent within 10 days of service of the Notice of Claim; and “the Counter-Claim Reply” in the event that the respondent wishes to make a counter-claim together with its reply.
Such forms may be filed in the Registry of the Adjudicating Panel to the Registrar of the said Panel either in person or electronically and in the latter case if they are filed outside registry hours as established by the Code of Organization and Civil Procedure, such acts shall be deemed to have been filed on the first following day of the opening of the said Registry.
• Service of the Acts filed
Service of acts may be made by the Registrar of the Adjudicating Panel by mailing same by registered post to one of the addresses of the persons to be notified or by hand by an officer or employee of the Housing Authority. However, where the registered letter is not accepted or cannot otherwise be delivered at such address for any reason, the Registrar may publish a notice in a local daily newspaper stating that the document to be delivered has been deposited at the Registry of the Adjudicating Panel and such document shall be deemed to have been received by the person indicated in the notice five working days after the date when such notice has been published.
Pleas as to the Jurisdiction of the Adjudicating Panel
The Adjudicating Panel itself has the power to decide on objections made by the respondent that the said Panel lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine the dispute at hand.
Evidence is brought before the Adjudicating Panel either viva voce or by affidavit. Where the evidence of any person is required, the Registrar of the Adjudicating Panel may issue writs of subpoena, in the form set out in the Regulations, to compel the attendance of a witness to give evidence or to produce documents before the Adjudicating Panel. The Regulations, likewise regulate the procedure in case that a rogatory commission or letters of request need to be issued in relation to a person who is not resident in Malta.
Hearings are to be held behind closed doors. Expert witnesses may also be engaged if the Adjudicating Panel deems it to be necessary. The Regulations provide that the Adjudicating Panel may proceed with adjudication of the claim if a party fails to appear at a hearing for which he was notified or fails to produce his evidence within the established period of time, without showing sufficient cause for such failure.
While all decisions of the Adjudicating Panel shall be made by a majority of the members of the Panel, questions of procedure may be decided by the Chairperson of the Adjudicating Panel. Decisions are made public.
At the start of the proceedings, the parties may be requested by the Adjudicating Panel to deposit with the Housing Authority an equal sum in advance to cover the costs of legal representation and during the proceedings the said Adjudicating Panel may request additional deposits to cover more costs and if a party fails to do so within 5 days then such party may be ordered to pay double the amount requested. The Regulations provide that any amounts not incurred shall be returned to the parties.
Costs of the expert advice and of other assistance to the Adjudicating Panel, costs for legal representation and assistance of the successful party (provided that they are claimed during the proceedings and are reasonable) and any fees and expenses payable to the Adjudicating Panel shall be determined by the Adjudication Panel and are normally borne by the unsuccessful party. However, at times such expense may also be apportioned between the parties.
• Retention of records by the Housing Authority
The Housing Authority shall receive a copy of the file of the proceedings from the Adjudicating Panel within thirty days of the decision and shall retain same for five years from the date of the decision and have same destroyed thereafter at the discretion of the Housing Authority.
This document does not purport to give legal, financial or tax advice. Should you require further information or legal assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Veronica Grixti.