Tenant must prove all requisites of Civil Code to prove a valid title

The contracts presented left no doubt that the plaintiffs are the owners of the property in question and they had received the rent before the Apap couple died

malcolm_mifsud
Malcolm Mifsud
3 December 2015, 7:58am
The First Hall of the Civil Court, in its judgement of 25 November, 2015 in the names Rose Bezzina, Martin Baldacchino, Rita Fenech, Giorgia Zammit, Carmen Cassar, Marvic Baldacchino and Antonia Debono -v- Stefan Apap, held that the party claiming he/she has a valid title of lease over a property must prove that he/she has all the requisites mentioned in Article 1531(f) of the Civil Code.

The plaintiffs in their application explained to the court that they had transferred a property in Qormi to Charles and Anna Apap by way of emphyteusis. Public registry searches showed that this contract was not registered and therefore the emphyteusis does not exist. However, after their death, the property was transferred under the title of emphyteusis to the defendant, Stefan Apap.

This, according to the plaintiffs, was not done by a public deed and therefore was invalid, according to Article 1508 of the Civil Code. The defendant was called upon in two judicial letters to return the property, but he failed to do so. The plaintiffs asked the court to declare that the defendant was occupying the Qormi property without a valid legal title and to order him to vacate the premises. 

Stefan Apap pleaded that it is the plaintiffs who have to prove that they transferred the property in question to Charles and Annie Apap under the title of emphyteusis. He also claimed that he was occupying the premises according to law.

Mr Justice Joseph Azzopardi in his judgement held that this action was one where the plaintiffs are claiming that they have the original title. The contract signed by Charles and Annie Apap was in fact presented in court and the court commented that the plaintiffs’ application was not precise, since the contract in question was in fact registered. Notwithstanding these errors, the court pointed out that the action may proceed even if the premises are different and as long as what is asked from the court is clear. Although the premises of the application were not correct, the requests to the court were clear. The plaintiffs were asking the court to order the defendant to vacate the premises. 

The facts of the case showed that the Apaps had acquired the premises by temporary emphyteusis for 19 years. When the concession was terminated in 1990, the ground rent was still being paid.

This meant that the emphyteusis was converted into a lease and the receipts reflected this. The contracts presented left no doubt in the judge’s mind that the plaintiffs are the owners of the property in question and they had received the rent before the Apap couple died.

Stefan Apap is claiming that he has a valid title to live in the premises in terms of Article 1531 of the Civil Code. Here the Court had to analyse whether he satisfies all the requisites listed in this Article. The tenant died after 2008. Furthermore the law also imposes a means test in accordance to Legal Notice 463/2011. Since the defendant is claiming that he has a legal right to occupy the premises, he has to prove that he satisfies the means test. Since he is alleging this, he has to prove it, however, in this particular case he failed to do so.

As a consequence Mr Justice Azzopardi upheld the plaintiffs’ requests and ordered the defendant to vacate the premises within three months.

malcolm_mifsud
Malcolm Mifsud is a partner at Mifsud & Associates.