I’ve done lots of posts over the years, touching on the rental process in Malta, but I thought it was about time I collected all the information and my experience in one handy guide for those looking for quick tips on how it all works. There are a number of different avenues you can go down and it’s a huge market over here so there is always plenty of choice when it comes to agents, flats, locations and so on.
Below I will detail some general tips about renting, how the different methods work (via an agent, direct via landlord, or via flatscanner) plus at the bottom I will give my personal recommendations on services and agents.
To read all of my posts about renting you can visit my Renting in Malta category.
Renting in Malta through an Agent
Things to Know
Renting in Malta via an agent is probably the most popular method as, in theory, it should make the search quicker and easier. The agents know the island, know the market and have lots of properties on their books. However, don’t expect smooth sailing.
Most estate agent websites are not updated– the properties shown are most likely not on the market. They upload pictures of the best ones and just leave them there. I’ve lived in my current flat for almost a year and it’s been on the site the entire time.
Agents will often ignore your requests. Give them a budget, an area and desired finish and most of the time they’ll ignore everything you say. They’ll encourage you to go over budget by claiming there’s nothing in your price range, they’ll show you apartments way outside of your desired location and they’ll show you decrepit old mould holes when you asked for modern. If this happens simply say ‘Sorry, not what we asked for’ leave and don’t use them again. There are enough good ones out there that you don’t need to waste your time and money on these less than helpful characters.
How Finding a Flat Works
- You will contact the agent and give them specifications such as location, how many bedrooms, budget and finish (modern/not fussy).
- They will check their listings and arrange viewings with those they think are suitable. Most agents don’t work weekends (insane, I know) so you’ll either need a day off work to do 5/6 viewings, or can fit in a few in your lunch hour. Some agents will take you out in the evenings too. If you’re looking in a fairly small location (e.g Sliema and St Julians) then you should be able to fit 3 or 4 flats into a lunch hour.
- If you see one you like always do a second viewing. Look in more detail at the finish, see it in daylight (if you only saw in the evening before). Check things like water pressure, check for damp/mould, is there sufficient aircon etc.
- Agree on a price and lease term and sign the relevant papers.
What it Costs to Rent in Malta
Agent Fee: When renting in Malta, the agent will take a fee which is usually 50% of a months rent (this is why they try and convince you to go higher on budget). You pay 50% and the landlord pays 50% so the agency gets one months rent as a finders fee.
VAT: On top of the agents fee you’ll also have to pay VAT, which I think is currently 17.5%.
Security Deposit: This really depends on the landlord, but you can have a say too. Most landlords will ask for one months rent as a security deposit (this is what they should give back when you leave- minus anything you need to pay for such as breakages- but that they always end up keeping). Some will try and ask for more, maybe on more flashy apartments but my advice is don’t do it. You’re never going to see that money again (OK, there are probably plenty of legit landlords who will give it back, but you’ll never know until it’s too late anyway so my advice is to consider that money lost) so don’t end up handing over 3 months rent or something you really can’t afford to lose.
In all, going through an agent is how we’ve always done it and once you know how to handle them, it is easier and quicker. They draw up all the paper work, arrange all the appointments with landlords and here, listing your flat with agencies is free, so all agents generally have all the available properties. If you find a good agent, stick with them and use them every time!
My Agent Recommendations
There are so many different estate agents on this island that you’re bound to find one you get along with, and everyones experience with them will be different. My personal recommendations would be Perry Real Estate and Belair Malta.
Perry Real Estate (the last time I checked) only like to deal with properties of a rental value over €800 per month. This is because they’re a very small company, so each job has to be ‘worth their while’, however they have amazing relationships with landlords on the island and I found them to be one of the only agents who listened to what I asked for and showed me exactly that on the first go. However, a friend of mine went out with the same agent and didn’t like them so much, so it really is all about personal preference.
Belair Malta are perfect for people renting on all budgets, big and small. They were the first agency we ever had any luck with, after being messed around or ignored by Dahlia and Frank Salt, and we continue to use them to this day. They are honest, helpful and will listen to what you want and do their best to get you a place that fits your needs.
Renting in Malta Direct via Landlord
Things to Know
There are a few ways you can do this. As a tenant it’ll be much cheaper as there will be no agency fees, however you’re likely to have less choice and you have to arrange viewings with them all yourself, which can be a big task. There are services to make this easier though, such as Flatscanner and Maltapark.
Direct Rental Services
This is an auction site for people in Malta where you can find all sorts of things, one thing being rental apartments. However please note that most of these adverts are actually estate agents. They say things like ‘direct from owner’, but they’re not. We’ve contacted people directly through Maltapark ads for tens of different apartments and not once has the advertiser actually been the flat owner, so you’re not saving money as they’ll still want the agency fee.
Flatscanner is an amazing concept. It’s already doing really well, but it’s still quite new so at the time of writing (Jan 2015) there isn’t a huge amount of choice, but I think this is going to blow up this year and be huge. It’s an apartment listing site where landlords and agents can list their properties, but they have to clearly mark whether they’re actually the landlord or an agent, and if you want to go direct, you can choose to only view landlord properties.
It’s completely free for tenants, so if you end up selecting a flat directly from the landlord there is no fee whatsoever. If you end up going for an agent listed flat, you might need to pay the usual agency fees (although I’m not sure on that, as they didn’t actually FIND it for you?) but there is no fee from Flatscanner.
It’s a super easy to use search site, where you can pick the location, type of apartment, number of bedrooms and so on, to find the flat you’re after. As I said, at the moment there isn’t a huge amount of choice, but keep an eye on it and I always recommend it as the first place to look.
Quick Rental Tips in Malta
When renting in Malta it’s important to be aware that landlords in Malta are renowned for being cheats. Chances are, they’ll be nice enough whilst you’re living there, but when it comes to moving out and getting your deposit back, you’ll meet a monster. They will do anything and everything to get out of giving you the security deposit back, usually because they simply don’t have it. There is no protection in place for tenants in Malta, even if you go through an agent. The deposit goes straight to the landlord and you can pretty much kiss it goodbye.
For this reason you must do all in your power to protect yourself. They’ll often claim things are missing (that never existed) or broken when you leave, as justification for keeping the deposit. So follow these simple steps to increase your chances of getting your money back;
- Do an inventory when you move in. Have the landlord come over, go over everything together and both sign to say you agree with the list of items + condition. Possibly have a witness.
- Keep it up to date. If things break and are replaced, if new things are added, ensure the list is updated and signed again by all parties.
- Stick to it. When it comes to moving out, have the landlord come round again and physically go over and check every item. Agree on what needs fixing (if anything) and how much will be charged. Have them sign a paper confirming the amount they’ll keep (if any) and confirming the amount that will be returned. Have a witness sign also.
The fact is that the landlord has your deposit and unless they give it to you there and then when you move out, if they refuse to give it back, no matter what they signed, there’s very little you can do- you can’t physically take it from them. But at least these inventories give you some clout if you take it all the way and get the small claims court involved, or at least you can hold this over them and the fear of court (as most landlords aren’t declaring their earnings) will make them give you the cash back.