The First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional Jurisdiction, by means of a judgement delivered by the Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti decided, once again, that Chapter 69 of the Laws of Malta as amended by Act X of 2009 breaches the fundamental human rights of the owners as no balance has been kept between the rights of the owner and those of the tenant.
In the case of John Pace et vs. Avukat Generali, the Pace & Sant Cassia family had leased to the family Montebello the British Hotel in Valletta over 100 years ago, a property with stunning views overlooking the Grand Harbour. The lease of this hotel, due to the rent laws was renewed annually at a paltry rent which currently does not exceed €1700 annually. According to the technical expert appointed by the Court, the current rental value of the property should be at €250,000 per annum, whilst the value of the property itself runs over 5 million euros.
The Court stated that this lease violates Article 1 of the first Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights and liquidated €500,000 in pecuniary damages and €10,000 in moral damages. This is yet another instance where the local courts have stressed the necessity for the State to ensure that the rental laws are duly reviewed and amended so as to respect the rights of all the parties involved, be it the lessor or the lessee.
After the filing of an appeal from both the State Advocate and the defendants Montebello, the Court of Appeal in its Superior Jurisdiction, presided by Judges Giannino Caruana Demajo, Joseph R Micallef, and Tonio Mallia, confirmed the initial decision by the First Hall Civil Court by means of a judgement delivered on the 28th of January 2021. The Court amended the initial judgement vis-à-vis the payment of expenses, however confirmed the judgement with regards to the liquidated damages of €500,000 in favour of the plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs were assisted by Dr. Edward DeBono and Dr. Karl Micallef.