The law provides the right for owners to visit the rent property after reaching an agreement with the tenants. This was held in judgement delivered from the First Hall of the Civil Court presided by Mr Justice Francesco Depasquale on 25 January 2022 in David Pace et -v- Mary Anne Callus et.
The plaintiffs explained in their sworn application that the parties are co-owners of a property in Valletta. The main door and internal doors are locked and the keys are kept by the defendants. There were attempts to settle the issue, however, they failed. The Plaintiffs asked the Court to order that they be allowed in the premises.
The defendants replied by filing a statement of defence by stating that although they are also co-owners of the same property, they are also renting the premises.
The plaintiffs are ¾ owners of the property, while the defendants own ¼. From the evidence produced this property in Valletta was used as a store and a shop by the defendant’s father by the end of the Second World War. In 1971 the father died but none of the children took over the business and the shop was closed and remained closed from then onwards. The property is abandoned and not used. There is no electricity, and the property is need of repairs.
The defendants presented the court with copies of receipts showing that they paid the rent from 1962 to 1995. In 2010 some of the plaintiff wrote to the defendants asking for an increase in rent. The Plaintiff are claiming that the Defendants have abandoned the property and therefore the lease. The Defendants’ father had purchased ¼ of the property in 1962 and the con-tract was presented in Court. There is no action before the Rent Regulation Board for the termination of the lease, once it is a commercial lease regulated by Article 1531D of the Civil Code.
The Court made reference to a judgement Azzopardi -v- Attard decided on 24 May 2006, where the Court had confirmed that Article 491 of the Civil Code allows co-owners to make use of the property held in common. The defendants are objecting to this because they are renting the property.
The Court pointed out that the validity of the lease is within the competence of the Rent Regulation Board.
As to the access that owners have to rented property, the court made reference to Article 1548A of the Civil Code states:
“During the running of the lease of an urban, residential or commercial tenement, the lessor has right of access to the tenement in such times and in such manner agreed upon with the tenant in order that the lessor may fulfil his duties or to verify whether the tenant is performing his obligations, as well as to show the tenement to prospective buyers.”
If there is no agreement, it is the Rent Regulation Board, which would decide on the day and time when the visit can take place. The Court pointed out that as owners the Plaintiffs had a right to visit the premises, however, this has to be done after reaching an agreement with the defendants. Although the Plaintiff do not have a right for the copy of the keys, since there is a valid rent agreement, they do have a right to access the premises.
The Court also held that it did not believe that the defendants did not know who the owners were. The problems seems to have been caused by one of the defendants. When evidence was brought of the Plaintiffs’ title, then the defendants came up with the lease agreement, although the property was abandoned in 1971. The Court commented that the defendants are trying to squeeze more rights than they really have and may be exposing themselves to damages, since the property is in need of repair.
The Court then moved to dismiss the case against the plaintiffs.
Av Malcolm Mifsud
Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates
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