Co-owners cannot block the use of other co-owners

Co-owners must make use of the property in common as long as it is done in the best interest of the co-ownership

Co-owners must make use of the property in common as long as it is done in the best interest of the co-ownership. This was held in a judgment delivered by Mr Justice Toni Abela on 14 March 2024 in Joseph Vella vs Brendan Degiorgio.

The Plaintiff, Joseph Vella explained to the Court in his application that he owns a block of four floors in the Tal-Handaq Industrial Zone. The block includes a number of industrial garages and warehouses. The Defendant owns one of the garages and works aluminum windows from there. For the past years, the Defendant Brendan Degiorgio, blocked the common passageway with his merchandise. This is being done in the common passageway which is his property. The Defendant even put shelving in the common passageway. Vella asked the Court to declare that the Defendant’s decision to block the common passageway is illegal and should be ordered to remove the merchandise and other items.

Degiorgio filed a statement of defence, in which he pleaded that there were other co-owners who store in the common areas. He did not accept that the common property was the Plaintiff’s common property and that the fact that he installed a hoist was an inconvenience.

The Court quoted Article 491 of the Civil Code, which reads:

“Each of the co-owners is entitled to make use of the common property, provided:

(a) that the use be made according to the destination of the property as established by usage;

(b) that  it  be  not  made  against  the  interest  of  the community, or in such a manner as to prevent the other co-owners from making use of the common property according to their rights”

The Court held it disagreed with the Defendant that the action should have been instituted against the other co-owners. The Plaintiff should have a right to choose a co-owner who is not obeying the rules. Article 491 states that the co-owners have a right to use the common property as long as it is used according to its destination. He does not need to have the authorisation of the other co-owners, but cannot use it exclusively. This is why there is no need to take an action against all the other co-owners.

On the other hand, the Court agreed with the Defendant that the Plaintiff was not the owner of the common parts, because the contract of February 2022, the Plaintiff acquired half the undivided share of the common parts. But this shows that the Plaintiff is a co-owner with the Defendant. This establishes that he has a juridical interest in the common property and has a right to file this action.

The Court held that there was an in site sitting in May 2023 and the judge observed that there was a hoist which is now removed, there were shelves and corridor full of material.

The Court held that no co-owner may make use of the common property against the interest of the other co-owners. The Court pointed at shelves and material in the common area, which should be considered as being taken over. Therefore, the Defendant is depriving the Plaintiff from the use of the property. The Defendant is bound to use the common area according to its destination. The corridor was indicated as a fire escape passage and leads to the emergency door.  It was never intended to be used as storage.

The Court ruled by upholding the Plaintiffs claims and ordered the Defendant to remove everything within two months.