Tenant is legally bound to take care of his premises as though it were his own

The First Hall of the Civil Court held that the tenant of any rented property has a legal obligation to take care of that property

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Malcolm Mifsud
20 January 2017, 8:04am
From the evidence produced the lease was in fact terminated and the defendant left the premises by returning the keys to the plaintiff
From the evidence produced the lease was in fact terminated and the defendant left the premises by returning the keys to the plaintiff
The First Hall of the Civil Court held that the tenant of any rented property has a legal obligation to take care of that property, as a father takes care of his family, and is to pay for all damages caused. This was decided by Ms Justice Anna Felice on 10 January, 2017 in Eman Pace -v- Daham Al Hamad.

In his application, Pace explained that in December 2014, he rented a premises to the defendant, Al Hamad, in Hal Ghaxaq, who failed to pay rent from January to October 2015. He further failed to pay water and electricity bills and damaged the property. Pace asked the Court to order Al Hamad to pay for everything outstanding.

The defendant replied that he has nothing outstanding and had paid for all the rent and the electricity bills. He also denied that he had caused damages to the premises.

Ms Justice Felice went through the evidence produced, the first being the lease agreement between the two parties. The tenant was bound to pay the rent and a separate contribution for water and electricity consumption. According to the agreement, if these payments are not paid, then the rent will increase by €15 a day and the landlord has a right to terminate the agreement. If the tenant fails to vacate the premises once the lease is terminated, then a penalty of €120 per day is imposed upon the tenant.

From the evidence produced the lease was in fact terminated and the defendant left the premises by returning the keys to the plaintiff. It also resulted that the premises was rented to the defendant, but also to a certain Reqah Awad. 

Regarding the defendant’s claim that all the rent was paid, it is up to the defendant to prove this. In fact, the Court quoted a previous judgment, Malcolm Pace -v- Karl Azzopardi decided on 14 October, 2014, which held that in the normal course of proceedings, the person who alleges payment must substantiate this. Payment may be proved, not only by receipts but also by witnesses, other documentary evidence and circumstantial evidence which may convince the judge.

The defendant did not prove the payments made and therefore, the Court held that the plaintiff was correct in the claim of non-payment of rent and utility bills. As regard to the claim to charge the penalty, the Court commented that the penalty would have been imposed had he not vacated the premises. Evidence pointed to the fact that the defendant did in fact, vacate the premises. With regard to the penalty of €15 increase in rent per day, the Court held that this is legally unsustainable, since the lease is terminated, one cannot increase the rent as this would run contrary to Article 1120 of the Civil Code.

As regard to the bills of ARMS Limited’s bills, when the parties entered the lease agreement in December 2014, there was a pending bill. The plaintiff claimed that he had paid €1,000 for utility bills for 2015. The Court took into account the utility bills from January 2015 to the end of October 2015, when the defendant vacated the premises, and deduct €1,000.

With regard to the damages caused by the tenants to the premises, the plaintiff’s architect calculated €15,000 worth of damage. The Court quoted from Frances Cassar -v- B&M Supplies Ltd decided on 1 December, 2004, which said that the tenant must take care of the premises as though it were his and should carry out repairs in terms of Article 1556 of the Civil Code. Although the defendant denied any wrongdoing, the Court was not convinced and ordered him to pay for the outstanding rent and utility bills and the damage.

Dr Malcolm Mifsud, Partner, Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates

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Malcolm Mifsud is a partner at Mifsud & Associates.