A recent Supreme Court judgment placed a limit on the application of the general Civil Procedure Rules in cases filed before a rent control court (RCC). RCCs have jurisdiction to determine matters regarding the recovery of possession of controlled rented property and the determination of a fair rent, as well as any other incidental matter. They comprise a president, who is a member of the judiciary, and two lay members nominated by tenants' and landlords' associations. The lay members have a purely consultative role.
The RCCs follow a streamlined procedure aimed at doing justice speedily and effectively. The procedure is governed by its own rules and not the Civil Procedure Rules applied by the civil courts. However, there is a provision in the RCC rules stating that if the rules are silent on a matter which is regulated by the Civil Procedure Rules, then the latter apply.
In the case in question, the landlord of a commercial building presented a petition to the RCC for the eviction of tenants from the premises due to failure to pay the rent.
After the landlord filed the petition and before any opposition was filed, the landlord filed a further application requesting the issuance of a summary judgment on the grounds that no opposition existed. The application was based on Order 18 of the Civil Procedure Rules, which, the landlord contended, applied in the absence of any specific provision in the RCC rules. Following the hearing of the landlord's application, the RCC issued a summary judgment ordering the tenants to leave the premises without allowing them to put forward their defence. The tenants appealed the decision.
In its judgment on the appeal, the Supreme Court stated that the purpose of the summary judgment procedure is to speed up the resolution of disputes, taking into consideration the typically slow progress of the trial of a regular civil case. However, the trial of a petition before the special jurisdiction of a RCC is by nature simpler and faster. As a result, the Supreme Court decided that the provisions of Order 18 of the Civil Procedure Rules are not extended and did not apply in the procedure before the RCC. Further, the Supreme Court stated that the right of a tenant to file an opposition is a right provided for by the law and that it is not within the RCCs' discretion to allow or disallow such a filing.
Concluding, the Supreme Court ordered the retrial of the petition by a different judge.
For further information on this topic please contact Marina Joud at Elias Neocleous & Co LLC by telephone (+357 25 110 110) or email ([email protected]). The Elias Neocleous & Co LLC website can be accessed at www.neo.law.