Court ends legal protection on Sliema property's €240 annual rent

A Sliema couple said that antiquated rent laws saw their €700,000 property being rented out for €240 a year

File photo
File photo

The government has been ordered to compensate a Sliema couple after their right to enjoy their seafront home was breached by antiquated rent laws which saw their €700,000 property being rented out for €240 a year.

The Cachia family, which owned the ground floor property, had filed their case against the Attorney General, as representative of the Government and the Mazzola family who were tenants for 70 years, arguing that the protected lease was a pittance and that they could not pass on the property to their children or grandchildren.

A court-appointed expert reported that the value of the property exceeded €400,000 at current market rates if sold as a home and over €700,000 if sold for office or shop space, or €22,000 annually if leased.

The plaintiffs also complained that works had been carried out on the property without their knowledge or consent.

Cynthia Mazzola, who is 65 years old, told the court that she had lived in the property for her whole life, as had her mother, grandmother and other antecedents. There had never been any problems with the payment of the rent, she said.

She said that when the case was filed, she and her husband - who she said was a company director and was paid €7,120 gross every month - had bought an apartment as they feared they would end up homeless.

The Constitutional Court, presided by Madam Justice Miriam Hayman, said it would not be evicting the Mazzolas as a Constitutional case was not the right forum, but fell under the remit of other courts. However, it ordered that the Mazzola family could no longer enjoy the legal protection of the amount of rent.

The court also ordered the AG to pay compensation of €20,000 to the Cachias, owing to the State’s passivity in creating an adequate legal framework to regulate the property rental market.

Lawyers Prof. Ian Refalo and Stefan Meilak appeared for the Cachia family. Lawyers Dominic Cassar and Lara Cassar appeared for the Mazzola family. Lawyer Maurizio Cordina represented the office of the Attorney General in the proceedings.

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