ECHR Judgement On The Re-letting Of Urban Property Regulation (Ordinance)

On the 30 June 2020, in the names Ellis & Scilio vs Malta, the European Court of Human Rights (“ECrtHR”) delivered another judgment, declaring that the provisions of Chapter 69 of the laws of Malta, dealing with the Re-letting of Urban Property (Regulation) Ordinance, to be in direct breach of the fundamental rights contemplated under Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”).

Saliently, the case related to an immovable property located in Sliema which had been requisitioned in favour of a third-party back in 1957. Throughout the years, the applicants had, on various occasions sought to increase the amount of rent payable and due to them as lessors, as well as to redeem the property in question. Notably, both actions sought by the applicants are prohibited under the Re-letting of Urban Property (Regulation) Ordinance. The applicants instituted domestic proceedings before the First Hall Civil Court (“FHCC”) back in 2015, seeking redress for damages suffered and requesting the FHCC to evict the tenants occupying the property. The FHCC awarded the parties to the claim €20,000 arbitro bon viri, by way of compensation for the period between 1987-2010 but failed to take cognisance of the applicants’ second request. Both parties appealed the decision rendered by the FCHH before the Constitutional Court in 2016, where despite finding of a breach of Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR, the Constitutional Court held that awarding non-pecuniary damages (moral damages) as was being requested by the applicants, fell outside the remit of its competence. Consequently, the Constitutional Court reduced the compensation initially awarded by the FCHH to €10,000.

As a result of these unsatisfactory state of events, the applicants sought the intervention of the Strasbourg court on basis of Article 13 of the ECHR. The ECrtHR established that the compensation awarded by the domestic courts in light of the experts finding was hardly sufficient. The ECrtHR stated that ‘an award for pecuniary damage made by a domestic court must be intended to put the applicant, as far as possible, in the position s/he would have enjoyed had the breach not occurred’. In addition, with reference to Article 41 of the Convention (Just Satisfaction), the ECrtHR awarded €148,000 in respect of pecuniary damages together with the sum of €10,000 initially awarded by the domestic court.

To find out more, please contact Dr Christian Farrugia

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