Conflicts between landlords and their tenants can be a particularly ugly affair, a high stakes contest between individuals who both feel that their basic rights have been disrespected. However, aggression, on either part, is never justified, say real estate professionals, who call for such relationships to develop in a more professional manner.
On Thursday, a video emerged of a landlord almost coming to blows with his tenant while his wife urged him to calm down and leave the tenant alone. The tenant was in the property to retrieve her furniture after having cancelled the lease – though she claims that argument occurred on the final day of the rental agreement.
When she turned up, she found the landlord couple in the apartment, and in no mood to let her take her belongings away, after they allegedly found several broken items, including a sink and a shower tray.
The tenant had previously informed them, through her lawyer, that she would be cancelling the lease and that they could keep the deposit as payment for the final month of rent. This would have left the owners without a deposit from which to recoup the expenses related to the damages.
This was not the first incident between the landlords and tenant in question, with the latter often subletting the apartment to the chagrin of the owners, who say that such subletting was in breach of their rental agreement.
The matter has since been referred to the police as well as to the Housing Authority, but it is far from the first such incident to be recorded, largely showing landlords in a bad light.
Police data shows an increase in the number of reports filed about abusive practices by landlords, rising from 183 in 2019 to 280 in 2021. In the first six months of 2022, 163 cases were reported of a landlord unlawfully interfering with property leased to a tenant – setting up another record-breaking year for such conflict.
Speaking to BusinessNow.mt, Michael Stivala, president of the Malta Developers Association, which also represents landlords, said the organisation always encourages professional behaviour and demeanour to its members, ostensibly in response to what is often seen as freewheeling and a gung ho attitude by many in the sector.
Mr Stivala also pointed out that landlords whose tenants leave prior to the end of their agreement have no protection at law, being left instead to lose rent until they find someone new, often with the involvement of an estate agency, which itself takes half a month’s rent (from both parties) – exacerbating the negative repercussions.
He declined to comment on the incident reported on Thursday, saying it is impossible to judge what happened – and who is to blame – based on the video. He also pointed out that the matter is now subject to investigation.
“Best leave it in the police’s hands,” he said.
Meanwhile, QuickLets Zanzi Homes brand manager Marc Zammit Lupi said that “irrespective of the dispute or incident facing tenants and landlords over a lease agreement, there is never any justification for an individual to behave in an aggressive and unsavory way”.
He said that people “always have the choice to approach a situation in a civilised manner, and still get the right outcome”.
He continued: “Hostile language and behaviour is never the solution and ultimately it will only amplify the problem. I strongly advise that in these situations, tenants and landlords should go through the proper channels and authorities in order to come to a solution. “
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