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Letters • January 25 2004

Unfair situation

A Farrugia

I would like for the umpteenth time to highlight the unfair situation, which our archaic rent laws are causing to owners of rented premises. I do not intend to go into the problems of rented houses which are utilised for domestic purposes, even though also here injustices are continually being perpetuated, but at least in these situations one can say that they are fulfilling some form of social purpose.
But what about unjust problems related to commercial premises? What social functions are our rental laws fulfilling in these situations in this day and age when everybody talks of liberalisation?
Most of the commercial premises involved had been rented out in days of old and over the years ended up being inherited from one generation to another, but with no appropriate rise in rent.
The profits, which the lessees reap, have increased over the years, while the income for the owners has remained static. Is this fair and just? We have now reached the tragicomic situation when the lessees of these premises in most cases are paying more in rent for water and electricity meters than in actual rent, not to mention the trading licenses.
Most of these premises are located in prime locations and while adjacent newly set up commercial establishments are rented out at exorbitant rents the rents of the ‘old’ premises are stuck. Owners are thus being legally robbed of an adequate return from their properties.
One can also surmise that, as things stand, the owners of the properties are subsidising the businesses of the lessee. Their businesses flourish while the owners get a pittance in return.
Good luck to the people who run the premises and who are reaping benefits, but I do expect to have an adequate fair return for my property. To further rub salt in the wounds, for inheritance purposes these premises are valued at the going commercial rates. To further complicate matters if these properties were to be put on the market the prices they would fetch would not be the going price because they are occupied premises. Even if they were offered for sale to the lessee he, or she, would expect to have it at a low price. This situation has recently been further aggravated by the new inheritance tax measures announced in the last budget.
It is unjust and unfair in this day and age for our elected members of parliament to continue to perpetuate such an unjust and sad state of affairs. I implore and ask them to wake up and get sown to business and in unison to try to terminate this injustice by liberalising the rent laws vis a vis commercial properties.
After all if the rents of these properties are adjusted to present rates, government will also retrieve its share in taxes.


Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 02, Malta