Court evicts tenants, awards compensation over requisitioned property

The First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction has ordered the eviction of tenants and awarded compensation by the State to the owner of a property requisitioned by the government in 1985

The First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction has ordered the eviction of tenants and awarded compensation by the State to the owner of a property requisitioned by the government in 1985.

The Attorney General, as representative of the State, was condemned to pay €15,000 to Joseph Camilleri over the rent of a residence in Tarxien.

Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti had been told how Camilleri had inherited the property after the death of his mother, only to have it requisitioned by the government in 1985 and then rented out to a third party.

The property had eventually been de-requisitioned, but the tenants had continued to enjoy the premises under special rent laws, protecting these rents. Camilleri had told the court how, over the years, the annual rent for the property had risen to the miserly sum of €211.66.

As the amount of rent was established by law and could not be changed, despite rising rent prices, a situation was created whereby there was a considerable discrepancy between the market value and that which he could charge.

Recent reports valued the potential rental value at €3,600 per year, noted the court.

Despite legal amendments introduced in 2009, Camilleri had no real hope of having effective possession of the property in his lifetime, argued his lawyers, as the rent was regulated by the Reletting of Urban Property (Regulations) Ordinance, which stipulates that landlords whose property had been rented out prior to June 1, 1995, had no right to refuse renewal of the lease and had to make do with what it established as ‘fair rent’ despite climbing market values.

The court also heard, however, that the defendant couple owned other properties, which they had sold, as well as a garage upon which they had built a duplex maisonette which they had rented out for three and a half years.

“Taking into account that the tenants have property and therefore sufficient means to ensure that they would not suffer any hardship….this court sees their eviction and the return of the property to the owner is a justified request in the circumstances.”

The court also ordered the State to pay €15,000 in compensation for the breach of the owner’s fundamental rights, saying that it was the duty of the State, not the tenant, to ensure there were no breaches of fundamental rights.

It upheld the request for the tenants’ eviction and ordered them to pay €300 per month until the return of the property to its owner.

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