A lease of a commercial premises will be terminated if it is not being made use of. This was held in a Rent Regulation Board decision delivered on 27 January 2021 in Eamon Grixti et -v- Ronald John et.
Grixti filed an application before the Rent Regulation Board explaining that he and other family members are owners of two properties used as a bar in Bugibba. These two properties were rented separately in 2003 and 2004, but later joined as one bar. In 2009 the lease was then terminated and then given to the defendants. The lease was for 15 years, which may be extended for a further 15 years. One of the conditions of the lease agreement was that the property had to be used as a bar and that the defendants were personally responsible for the licences. Grixti complained that the property is now closed and abandoned and therefore, asked the Board to order the defendants to vacate the premises.
John contested these claims and held that the property was always used as a bar.
The Board presided by Magistrate Dr Josette Demicoli analysed the evidence brought before it, but criticized the applicants, Grixti, did not present a copy of the lease agreement. Grixti had told the Board that although he had never entered the bar in question, saw that there were tables and chairs outside the property, but today are no longer there, because the authorities ordered their removal. His son testified that the bar has been closed since Summer of 2016 and lives above the bar. Because the property is abandoned, it is causing damage to his residence. He denied that the defendants had asked his family to apply for tables and chairs to be allowed.
The person who took care of the bar, in the absence of the defendants who lived in the UK, held in 2018 that the bar was closed for three years previous to 2018. The defendants testified by means of an affidavit told the Board that they had problems with the owners because they wanted a higher rent, which they rejected. They also had problems with the drainage of the property and the part where they placed tables and chairs was dug up. They also had plans to renovate the property and showed the plans to the son, but instead of receiving a reply, they received this case. The defendants returned to the UK in 2010, but left the pub in the hands of another, but frequently came to Malta.
The Board in its decision, held that although it does not have a copy of the lease agreement, it was proved that this did exist, but could not comment whether there was any breach of the conditions. Saying this the Article 1555 of the Civil Code reads:
“If the lessee uses the thing leased for any purpose other than that agreed upon by the parties, or as presumed in the previous article, or in a manner which may prejudice the lessor, the less or may, according to circumstances, demand the dissolution of the contract”
Therefore, the non-use of the property is interpreted to be the wrongful use of the property rented. This is the case in this particular bar in Bugibba. The accumulation of evidence shows that the bar was no used for a considerable time.
The Board then moved to uphold the applicants request and ordered the defendants to vacate the premises within a month.
Av. Malcolm Mifsud
Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates
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