Kappara flyover tenants get court reprieve on €200,000 compensation bid

Operators of a 32-year-old restaurant expropriated for Kappara flyover win court appeal to have compensation case heard by Land Arbitration Board

The Calleja family, which ran The Cottage restaurant, were offered a mere €13,000 compensation in court despite having paid their rent for two years up-front when the restaurant was expropriated
The Calleja family, which ran The Cottage restaurant, were offered a mere €13,000 compensation in court despite having paid their rent for two years up-front when the restaurant was expropriated

The operators of a 32-year-old restaurant expropriated for the Kappara flyover, have won a court appeal to have their case for compensation taken back to the Land Arbitration Board.

The Calleja family, which ran The Cottage restaurant, were offered a mere €13,000 compensation in court despite having paid their rent for two years up-front when the restaurant was expropriated.

The Calleja family had been the tenants operating the Cottage Restaurant since 1988. In July 2015, eyeing the land for the €39 million EU-funded flyover, the government offered landowner Eugenio Bartolo €835,000 for the 335sq.m property to take possession of the land.

The Callejas had subsequently made an official request for due compensation under the Land Acquisition (Public Purposes) act but they were offered just €12,762. They argued that under the Act, they were entitled to compensation of the amount of two years’ actual rent. The Calleja family contended that, given that the restaurant was covered by all the necessary licences for a restaurant and lounge bar, they were entitled to €200,400 – a sum calculated as an annual 12% of the €835,000 value of the property for two years.

The Commissioner for Lands had insisted that the €12,762 figure was the right one, however.

The case ended up before the Land Arbitration Board, which however, declared that it was not the competent body to hear the case and so abstained.

The Callejas then filed an appeal, requesting a revocation of the LAB decision.

Judges Giannino Caruana Demajo, Tonio Mallia and Anthony Ellul, presiding the Court of Appeal noted that the Commissioner for Lands had failed to reply to the appeal.

The question arose as to whether the Rent Regulation Board or the LAB was the competent forum. The judges disagreed with the LAB’s decision that it lacked the competence to hear the applicants’ requests, as they did not fall within the parameters of the law which dealt with administration of government land. Under that law, the term ‘owner’ also meant “the person to whom the land is leased”, said the judges.

“It follows that because of the fact that before the expropriation took place, the appellants had the right to tenancy over the private property, the competent authority had the obligation to compensate the appellants on the strength of the expropriation carried out on the basis of that right and not under the provisions cited by the Board.”

Ruling that calculating the amount of compensation due to the applicants “certainly fell within the remit” of the LAB, the court sent the acts back before it to continue to hear their claim.