It has been law since 1 January 2020 that all private residential leases entered into, including their renewal, whether express or tacit, are to be registered with the Housing Authority. Through this registration, the Housing Authority is given notification as to the name of the parties, the property lease and the rent due, among others.
Indeed, article 15 (1) of the Private Residential Leases Act, Chapter 604 of the Laws of Malta states that: “Any agreement, whether verbal or in writing, determining any condition which does not result from the written and registered contract shall be considered as void.”
Therefore, any variation to the conditions of rent has to result from the written and registered contract; otherwise, it shall not be valid.
In the past few days, we have seen many landlord and tenants agree that the rent due is to decrease until this crisis is over.
Earlier today, the CEO of the Housing Authority told Television Malta that one need not register any temporary adjustment in the rent made in light of this COVID-19 scenario. While the parties still have to inform the Housing Authority with any termination of leases, there shall be no need for notification where there is an agreement for a temporary decrease in rent.
This notwithstanding, doubts lurk on the legal validity of this declaration, since at the end of the day, a declaration by the CEO of the Housing Authority does not make valid something which by law is null. One will therefore have to see whether this declaration will be followed by the proper legislative intervention allowing for non-registered agreements to retain validity.
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