Court halts Xemxija penthouse construction to protect flat owners' rights

Two couples applied to the court to stop the construction of a penthouse on top of their block of flats as this would reduce the roof area to which they were contractually entitled

A court has stopped the building of additional penthouses atop a Xemxija apartment block, despite MEPA having permitted the development, holding that the construction would breach the rights of other owners.

Couples Attard and Zammit filed court proceedings against the Sliema Chalet Company Ltd and Ian Sultana before the First Hall of the Civil Court arguing that a permit to construct a penthouse on the roof of the building was in breach of the contracts through which they bought the property.

The two couples had been contractually granted use of the roof when they had bought the apartments in St. Paul's Street, Xemxija from D.D.R. Company Ltd. The rest of the block was eventually transferred to the Sliema Chalet Company Ltd and Sultana had applied for, and was granted, planning permission to build two penthouses above the top floor.They asked the court to put a stop to the construction.

Sultana and the company argued that the previous owners had sold the apartments, reserving the right to develop the airspace above the block. The contract stipulated that the couples would still be allowed to use the penthouses' roofs, however.

Having heard submissions from both sides, judge Mark Chetcuti also took into consideration a report by a court-appointed expert which posited that the roof would no longer be usable for the purposes intended by the couples, namely that of drying clothes. Neither would there be lift access to the penthouse's roof, the expert noted.

Judge Chetcuti concluded that the proposed construction would drastically reduce the space available to the couples. Sliema Chalet Co. Ltd and Sultana did not have the right to build the structure described in planning permit PA04628/09, said the court as it ordered a cessation of the works.

Lawyer Claudio Zammit appeared for the Attard and Zammit families. Lawyer Beppe Fenech Adami represented the company and the developer in the proceedings.

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