Posted Saturday, June 29, 2019
Tenant’s surviving relative ordered to vacate rented property

A brother of a tenant could not claim to have a title because his brother died and therefore, he could not argue that he took over the lease of a government property. This was held in a judgement delivered on 11 June 2019 by the Administrative Review Tribunal, presided to Magistrate Dr Charmaine Galea. The case is Giuseppe sive Joseph Perini -v- L-Awtorita tad-Djar.

Perini, in his application, held that he had received a judicial letter from the Housing Authority that he was to vacate his residence within 30 days. The plaintiff challenged the judicial letter since it did not contain any reason which is prescribed by the law. Furthermore, Perini insisted that he did have a title to live in his residence. He asked the Tribunal to order that the judicial letter would be declared null.

The Housing Authority filed its statement of defence, stating that the plaintiff does not have a right to hold on to the government property and this was explained in the judicial letter. It is not for the Housing Authority to prove that Perini does not have a title, but he should prove that he has.

The Tribunal analysed the evidence brought before it. The first witness was an official of the Housing Authority who explained that the property in question was rented to the plaintiff’s parents, Salvatore and Carmela Perini, but in 1980 the plaintiff’s brother and his wife, Emanuel and Marietta Perini were recognised as tenants. In 2016, the plaintiff asked the Authority to recognise him as a tenant, since his brother died in 2014. As part of the process, the Authority carries out an inspection, however, this at first, was not carried out because the officials did not find anyone in the property. Furthermore, the plaintiff’s wife had another property in her name. The two were married in 2015 and therefore, they were occupying two properties.

The plaintiff testified that he had told the Tribunal that he is 83 years old and that he always lived in this property with his family and after his brother died he still paid the rent to the government. He explained that he was not present for the inspections because he usually leaves early in the morning and also because he is hard of hearing and might not have heard the knocking on the door.

The Tribunal then took to task the legal issues put forward by both parties, the first being whether the judicial letter had any explanation as dictated by Article 10(1) of the Government Lands Act. According to Article 9 the Authority may ask for the removal of any person from government property if that person does not have a legal title over the property. The fact that the reason given was that this was according to law, did not require further explanation.

Then the Tribunal investigated whether the plaintiff had a legal title. The Tribunal agreed that it was the plaintiff who had to prove that he had a legal title, not the other way round. Once the plaintiff is claiming that he has a title, he has to show the Tribunal himself that this title exists. The Government Lands Act defines a lessee as a person on whom the lease is registered or is occupied by a title of lease. He explained that after his parents’ death, the lease was inherited by his brother. The Tribunal pointed out that in 1980 the Housing Authority recognised the brother as the tenant.

Furthermore the plaintiff argued that a letter dated 5 June 2018, which stated that from the inspection they found the plaintiff, the twin brother of the tenant Emanuel Perini registered as a tenant, this showed that he was the registered tenant. However, the Tribunal said that this was stretching the argument too far and if in the inspection report, the word lessee was used, then it does not mean that the plaintiff was, in fact, the lessee. However, the plaintiff received another letter that the lease was not to be renewed.

The evidence showed that the plaintiff’s deceased brother had a legal title and not the plaintiff. The Tribunal moved to turn down the application.

 
This article may also be accessed on Malta Today
 
Avv Malcolm Mifsud
 Partner
Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates 
 
 
 
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