Valletta property owners seek eviction of Labour Party club

Republic Street property owners ask court to order the party’s eviction and award them compensation for a breach of their fundamental rights

The owners of a Republic Street property that has been used as a Labour Party club for nearly 70 years, have asked a court to order the party’s eviction and award them compensation for a breach of their fundamental rights.

The 13 co-owners of the building at 41/2 Republic Street, Valletta filed a constitutional application this morning, informing the First Hall of the Civil Court that the property in question had been leased to the Labour Party for the “ridiculous annual sum of €604.12.”

The amount payable in annual rent could not be altered without the permission of the Rent Regulation Board and the lease is subject to being renewed indefinitely under the 1931 Reletting of Urban Property (Regulation) Ordinance. That law also limits any increase in rent to 40% of the property’s rental value as at 4 August 1914. As it was listed as a commercial premises, that law also excluded the possibility of the owners taking back possession.

The plaintiffs also accused the Labour party of having, without their consent, carried out works and joined the two adjacent buildings, “totally denaturing the property.”

Under the conditions regulating the Leases of Clubs Regulations, the tenant was required to also pay the owners 5% of the annual income derived from commercial activity carried out in the premises, but even this amount paled in comparison to the potential rental income for a such a prime commercial location, argued the owners.

The 2009 amendments to Malta’s rent laws offered no protection to the plaintiffs either, as it expressly excluded leases of clubs entered into before 1995.

The fact that the law differentiated between commercial and residential leases and pre-1995 and post-1995 leases constituted a breach of the right to protection of property enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, argued the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Jason Azzopardi and Kris Busietta.

The court application requested the court declare a breach of the plaintiffs’ fundamental human rights, dissolve the lease, evict the occupants from the property and order them to pay compensation, after establishing the amount to be awarded.