July 17, 2024

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‘Band club lease’ law declared unconstitutional

A controversial law introduced in 2018, which prevented landlords from evicting band club tenants for breaching their lease agreements, was contrary to elementary rights, a constitutional courtroom has dominated.

In a ruling handed down on Thursday, Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti said that there was no powerful public fascination to justify the legal amendment to the Civil Code promulgated in July 2018, which blocked any evictions of band golf equipment owing to structural alterations produced without the need of the landlord’s authorization.

The judgment also recognized that the State did not possess ”unlimited power to introduce laws that impacts the outcome of pending court docket conditions.”

This emerged in a selection to a constitutional reference in the civil court case about the Stella Maris band club in Sliema which has been ongoing for the past 12 decades.

The landlords experienced filed an motion right before the Rent Regulation Board, arguing that the tenants, the Stella Maris band club, experienced carried out structural alterations to the premises devoid of the landlords’ consent or understanding.

On its element, the band club retorted that the performs were vital as part of the regular servicing of the premises, which it had held on lease given that 1959.

The landlords had obtained the premises beneath a short-term emphyteusis dating back again to 1876 and set to expire in 2026. The immediate owner of the assets was the Joint Office environment.

In 2017, the Hire Regulation Board experienced dismissed the landlords’ scenario, leading the plaintiffs to file and appeal.

But in 2018, whilst the attractiveness was even now pending, the authorities experienced introduced lawful variations, relevant retroactively, which prohibited the eviction of band golf equipment when they  carried out structural is effective with no landlords’ consent, delivered the performs have been connected to the “philharmonic or social activities…..or activities done by the band club” or when these performs consisted of “improvements to the premises.”

The court of attraction had afterwards dominated that it could not approve the non-renewal of the lease, even with discovering that the landlords’ assert need to be upheld.

The landlords subsequently requested a constitutional reference on the make any difference.

The defendant Band Club and the State Advocate had submitted that the 2018 amendment had a authentic, philanthropic aim.

Minister Michael Falzon, who has been the Stella Maris Band Club president considering that 2006, testified that the club had paid for upkeep works and reported the web page was utilized for philanthropic pursuits and absolutely free songs classes. 

A club official instructed the court docket that structural interventions ended up deemed required in 1995 and 2003 in purchase to replace hazardous aged wood beams and other structures. An architect also verified that the roof had been reconstructed in accordance with setting up permits.

The court docket was explained to that short term buildings at roof amount experienced been replaced with a larger sized area and two bathrooms. Section of the spiral staircase had also been taken off. 

Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti, in his judgment on the constitutional reference mentioned that though the law envisaged the retroactive application of new regulations, this experienced to be justified by a “compelling general public interest”. 

Though band golf equipment played a part in Malta’s cultural heritage and contributed to the financial system, there was no this kind of public curiosity in this scenario, mentioned the choose. 

The court docket noticed that the 2018 amendment was not developed to guard non-financial gain organisations from rising rents, but alternatively in opposition to all those “repercussions brought about by way of their personal mindful failure to abide by the obligations expressly laid down in the lease agreement.”

“In the view of the court docket, the Point out failed to keep the necessary harmony among the legit aim of guarding the tenancy of band clubs and the interests of the personal plaintiffs…” stated the court, ruling that subarticle 5 of post 1531J of the Civil Code breached the elementary legal rights of the plaintiffs to tranquil satisfaction of their house and that the introduction of that part of the legislation breached their ideal to a good hearing.

As a final result of the ruling Stella Maris Band Club could not declare protection beneath that part of the regulation in the ongoing dispute right before the court docket of charm, said the decide.

Prof. Ian Refalo appeared for the plaintiffs. Lawyer Christian Falzon Scerri was the defendant’s lawyer.