Property owners awarded €31,000 in case over protected lease

The tenant was paying a €221 in annual rent when the actual market rent value stood at €1400 per month

The First Hall Civil Court in its Constitutional Jurisdiction has awarded compensation to the owners of a Sliema property for having to endure a protected lease for the past 40 years, in a decision embracing the teachings of the European Court Human Rights.

Judgement was delivered on Thursday confirming the sum of €31,000 including €6,000 in non-pecuniary damages, due to laws which breached their fundamental rights.

The Court made reference to a recent judgment by the European Court in Cauchi vs Malta and the considerations it made about the legitimacy of the restrictions suffered by the owners of such protected leases.

Although in most cases, justification stemmed from a social policy aimed at the protection of tenants, the needs and general interest which may have existed in Malta in 1979, when the law in question was put in place, must have decreased over the three decades that followed.

In its judgment, the Court presided by Judge Grazio Mercieca made it clear that notwithstanding that the European Court For Human Rights clearly pronounced itself that the Maltese Constitutional Court should evict tenants, the Maltese Courts opted to allow such procedure to be implemented by the competent Tribunal.  

The lessee, who lived in the property, had resided there since 1970 and paid an annual rent of €221.16 per annum when the actual market rent value for such a house was €1400 per month, It was observed that the rent increase in terms of the 2009 legislative amendments was still “inadequate” and did not provide owners with a “decent rent,”.

The breach of the owners’ fundamental property rights under Protocol I to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights “alone” was enough to justify the pecuniary compensation, said the judge.

Lawyer Natalino Caruana De Brincat represented the owners.