The owners of a property in the heart of Sliema’s centre have been awarded €175,000 compensation by the government after a constitutional court found that the old rent laws breached their right to the enjoyment of property they had inherited.

Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff, presiding over the First Hall of the Civil Court in its constitutional jurisdiction, ruled that the owners’ human rights had been violated when they were forced to continue receiving a paltry amount for the property first rented out in 1948 for a period of 99 years.

He was ruling in a case filed by Louis Bianchi, Madeleine Aquilina, Veronica Rossignaud, Philip Bianchi, Adrian Bianchi, Anne Pullicino and Ganado Trustees and Fiduciaries Limited against the state advocate and Martin Micallef, who runs Victor’s Pharmacy at The Strand.

The Bianchis told the court that the property and a number of adjacent ones had been leased to their grandmother, who subleased it to Emanuele Micallef to run a pharmacy. They were receiving €412 annually in rent.

They said they had approached the tenant, Micallef, who insisted that he had title over the property, which he had inherited from his grandfather. He said he always paid the rent, even when this was increased slightly over the years.

The owners said that as compensation for him giving up the property, Micallef had demanded €40,000 a year for the remaining 17 years as well as a €100,000 token payment.

His rent agreement expires in 2037.

The owners presented an expert report drawn up by architects who valued the property at around €740,000 while the lease of similar properties in the area was between €130 and €150 per day or between €50,000 and €60,000 annually.

The judge said the amount the owners could have potentially made from the rental of the property in question was around €480,000, which was disproportionate to the amount they were receiving annually.

“As a consequence of the state’s legislative intervention, there was an obvious imbalance created between the applicant’s private interests and the purpose for which certain laws had been introduced,” he said.

“The applicants are still in a state of uncertainty as to when they may regain possession of the property and that appropriate compensation should be paid for these breaches.”

The judge ordered the state advocate to pay the property owners €175,000 as compensation for the human rights breaches they suffered over the years, including €5,000 in moral damages.



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