Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Renting Property in Malta

We filmed an episode of House Hunters International in Malta in January 2012. You can read all about our latest rental experience - coming to a TV near you - in a series of blog posts here.

A note of warning - in the blog post below the word 'rent' is used canada but 'let' is also used in Malta to mean 'rent', so we tend to use the two words interchangeably. Sorry for any confusion.

The content below was last updated in October 2011.


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Between the two of us we've rented five properties in Canada and one in Malta. And if you've ever rented you know - it's a mixed bag of experiences and opinions. With that being said, we can share some insight about our experience renting property in Malta that may be helpful to current or prospective renters. During our first year living in Malta we rented a two bedroom penthouse flat near the University of Malta.

Our first piece of advice: If it's your first time living in Malta rent - don't buy. It appears to be a renter's market in Malta right now with low rental fees for excellent quality properties (large, very modern, and almost all come furnished).

tigne point, sliema - one of the most upscale property developments in malta

In Malta renting property is mainly done through a real estate agent. They are all very easy to contact online. We had no shortage of replies when we emailed several agencies with our requirements for a property (and our requirements were fairly strict). Once you find a property you put down a deposit (for us, a month's rent). Also expect to pay a real estate agent's fee (another half a month's rent).

We had a rental property arranged before we arrived in Malta, but in this respect we were the exception to the rule. We looked at pictures of properties online beforehand and wired a deposit to a real estate agency to secure a flat. Our agent and landlord met us at the flat as soon as we got off the plane. Easy.

However, you can easily arrive in Malta and plan to stay in a hotel initially while working with an agent to find a suitable property within the first few days of your stay. The best time to get in touch with an agent is about a month before you plan to arrive. We will be taking this option when we return to Malta in January 2012 since we now know how good the rental market is in Malta right now.

You may want to consider signing a short (six month) lease initially, especially if this is the first time you've rented property in Malta. You may decide you need more space, or less, that you want to be in a different location, etc. If you do want to sign a longer lease you should be able to negotiate a better rental rate with your landlord. Did we mention they negotiate rent here? (They do not negotiate rent where we lived in Canada.)

Leases can start any day of the month in Malta. Where we lived in Canada leases began on the 1st day of each month, regardless of when you need or want to move into the property. The system in Malta is much more convenient. The abdunance of properties available to let on a short term basis was also a nice change - in our hometown most properties are leased for a minimum of one year.

Our first Maltese landlord was good to deal with. He sent in servicemen in a timely manner when we needed things repaired and, when we purchased a small dishwasher, he very kindly had a plumber come in to hook it up for us. We did have some problems working out utilities with our landlord, and in light of this we would recommend that you do your homework about utility rates for non-residents in Malta.

Water and electricity can be quite expensive in Malta. There are separate utility rates in Malta which depend on how your rental property is registered with Enemalta (the power company). Your landlord may have already registered your rental unit at the lowest rates and it may be easier for you to re-imburse him/her for bills that are issued to them. But there are known issues with the billing provider (ARMS) and some landlords (ours included) do not always register their properties correctly. This results in the tenant paying significantly higher rates for their electricity than they should. To avoid any confusion our advice is to make sure that the electricity bill is set up and registered correctly in your name from day one. Furthermore, you should be aware that billing for utilities (water, electricity) is not monthly, or even bi-monthly in Malta, so the system is probably different than what you are used to. As a last word on utilities, communication with your landlord is key.

We have found rental properties in Malta to be very good in size and quality of furnishings and finish. We've heard lots of complaints from Maltese people about how small rental properties are here (compared to a terraced house) but for us, coming from a Canadian city, they are very spacious. Plus there is outdoor living space that is actually usable for more than two months of the year. Bonus.

You won't need a Maltese residency permit, a work permit, or Maltese ID card to rent property in Malta. You may need references from past employers or landlords (we provided them without being asked to).

Most rental properties in Malta come furnished. Haven't rented a furnished flat before? The following items were included the first property we rented in Malta: bed linens and pillows, iron, ironing board, basic kitchen utensils and cookware, sofa, dining table and chairs, foot stool, TV and stand, three full bedroom suites, clothes washer and drying rack, gas cooker and fridge.

Renting a furnished flat made our lives much easier when we initially moved to Malta. But now that we know more about buying furniture in Malta we would definitely consider renting unfurnished the next time. Furniture and household goods are not very expensive in Malta (the same or slightly cheaper than in Canada). Plus if you love cooking you'll end up buying a lot of kitchen gadgets anyway, and if your dogs love burrowing in blankets you'll have to buy a lot of linens, and if you have fifty books for school you'll need a shelf to put them on, and if you want to sit outside you might need a deck chair, and if you don't want to get skin cancer you might need a sun umbrella... you get the point.

Air conditioning is a must have in Malta and most flats do have it. But generally there is no central heating in most homes in Malta. We thought this wouldn't be a huge deal for us thick skinned Canadians but it did get uncomfortably damp and cold during the winter. We ended up buying a gas heater (which is essentially a BBQ propane tank hooked up to a heating element) for €65 to use inside our flat. Gas cylinders for the heater cost €15 each, with a 25 refundable deposit. It was cheaper to heat our flat with gas than with electricity. However, it was a pain to make sure we had enough gas cylinders for heating and for our gas cooker (stove). And it still weirds us out that we are running a propane tank inside the house. In Canada this is a big no-no.

Interested in heating a home during a Maltese winter? MaltaInsideOut has an informative (and entertaining) article about it here.

Because it is so damp in Malta in the winter it was a nightmare to get our laundry to dry. There are not usually clothing dryers in rental properties in Malta and laundry is hung to dry on a rack inside the flat or on a small terrace outside. Neither option was very effective in the damp winter weather. It would sometimes take three to four days to dry a load of laundry. And be warned - laundromats in Malta are few and far between and very expensive. Up to 10 a load! But in the summer - bliss - it only takes an hour or two to dry our laundry outside.


Related to cold and damp weather is the stone construction of the houses in Malta. In Canada houses are mainly constructed of wood and brick and are well insulated against harsh winter weather. This means that the interior walls are made of gypsum. In Malta houses are generally constructed of steel, concrete, and limestone, with plastered interior walls. You would think, with no central heating, that they would be insulated, but they most certainly are not. And limestone soaks up water like a sponge. How do you hang a picture frame on a plaster wall? How do you mount shelves? How do you keep mould from growing on everything during the damp winter? Answers? We still have no idea.

Another strange feature (to us) of buildings in Malta is that there is a lot of the wiring and plumbing on the exterior of the buildings. In Canada this would never happen - frozen pipes!

If you have a car, parking can be an issue in Malta. Some buildings have underground parking available, but in many cases street parking is the only option. We normally use street parking, which is usually not a huge problem, but in our first year living in Malta we did live near the university so we had to compete with other students for parking spots on a daily basis. Parking on the street in Malta is safe, however our car has had a few nicks and dents caused by other drivers hitting our car while it was parked and driving off. It happens.

We are currently living in Canada but we are returning to Malta in January 2012 and beginning a new property search. We will keep you updated on our second Maltese rental experience. Cross your fingers for us that we are able to find something good!

- Mike + Jess


Want to learn more about renting property in Malta?
Read about our second rental experience, which we filmed for TV show House Hunters International, here.

3 comments :

  1. Hi Mike + Jess,

    Just came across your family blog researching Malta, kudos to you two!!! Not only fun but quite useful too.

    My wife & I are from the US and are seriously considering retiring in Malta. You made some very important discoveries with your rental experience.

    Have you been able to find out if there are other more practical ways to heat with propane? Electric baseboard is cheap to install but as you mentioned a killer on the utilities bill.

    I also wondered if you had any suggestions about villages to live in that might be more quite, but still offer the common amenities; restaurants, food shopping and excellent internet service?

    Keep up the great blog its fun to keep up with.

    Bruce H

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  2. @Anonymous Hello Bruce, thank you for your comments and questions! That is very exciting that you are considering retiring to Malta. We would definitely direct you to two very useful resources for potential expats to Malta, http://www.expat-blog.com and http://www.blogexpat.com. On these sites you will find lots of knowledgable people who can give you great advice.

    It is pretty common to heat using propane heaters or electric space heaters. Some flats and houses have built-in electric heating but it's certainly not standard.

    Our electric heaters are also dual air conditioners and fans. They are mounted near the ceiling in two rooms in our flat. If you're handy you could definitely look into installing your own heaters or solar panels (becoming more common here due to expensive utilities and government subsidies) although we (and other Canadians we know) have trouble with DIY here since the construction of houses/building supply stores are so different than what we are used to.

    Also, we find many houses in Malta to be quite drafty so using a propane heater indoors doesn't seem as much of a health concern as you might expect (lots of air flow). One last thing about heating - if you are using electricity make sure you do some research about utility rates & come to a clear agreement with your landlord (if you are renting) about rate types, who pays, and how much.

    As for villages, we are slightly biased as we spend most of our time in the central and northern areas of Malta. All villages have the common amenities, restaurants, and good internet is available country wide. Most villages have very quiet residential areas with the exception of Sliema, St Julian's, but even in these villages quiet neighbourhoods do exist. Most, if not all, villages have a butcher, a baker, and many places to buy fresh and cheap produce as well as the basics. For a 'big' supermarket experience you might have to travel to a bigger village. We normally shop between three 'big' supermarkets in Birkirkara, Qormi and Sliema (sometimes you do have to go to multiple supermarkets to get everything you're looking for - there's not much one-stop shopping in Malta!)

    We hope this helps, if you have any other questions please don't hesitate to get in touch with us again.

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  3. Excellent tips - I would not have thought about a heater. I currently live in Austin, TX and even here heat is provided. Nice tip. Thanks!

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