Changes to the law meant to “safeguard” band clubs from eviction from their leased premises as a result of legal action by their landlords have come into force.
In a statement the Justice Ministry yesterday said these civil code amendments, approved by Parliament last month, were also meant to give a greater degree of recognition to the cultural contribution of musical societies.
The changes came in the wake of a judgment by a court last April in which the De Paule Band Club in Paola was ordered to vacate its premises following a 20-year legal battle with its landlords. In this case the owners of the building had taken the club to court over unauthorised structural works.
Apart from the furore created among the members of this band club, who feared their beloved club might have to be disbanded, the judgment was seen as a ‘worrying’ precedent for clubs that also had pending court proceedings instituted by their landlords.
Faced by calls to address the situation, and in line with the Labour manifesto, the government quickly took action and in days announced its intention to amend the law. Through the law, band clubs may continue to occupy their premises even after their eviction has been ordered by a court, as long as they meet a number of conditions.
However, this fuelled controversy and accusations by the De Paule club owners, who claimed the government’s action was tantamount to enacting a law to reverse a court judgment. They added that the course of action envisaged by the Bill had been repeatedly condemned by the European Court of Human Rights.
Criticism was also levelled by the Chamber of Advocates, which deemed the changes to be “totally unacceptable”.
In a statement the Justice Ministry yesterday insisted the changes had been planned “meticulously” and created a balance between the rights of landlords and tenants. It noted that clubs that had been established for more than three generations were being given protection in case they lost their title to the premises, on the condition that the rent increased at a “reasonable” rate.
Furthermore, landlords had the right to challenge conditions before the rent regulation board, the ministry said.
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