A landmark judgement delivered by the European Court of Human Rights on the 11th of December 2018 in the names Franco Buttigieg et vs Malta has overturned the decision originally given by Malta’s Constitutional Court and declared that Chapter 158 of the Laws of Malta is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights even in those cases where a temporary emphyteutical concession was entered into after the coming into force of Act XXIII of 1979, irrespective of the fact that the landlords may have been aware of the consequences of the said Act.

Plaintiffs Franco Buttigieg, Maria Borg Costanzi and Alessandra Kirkpatrick represented by Dr Edward DeBono had argued that an emphyteutical concession entered into on August 4, 1981, violated their fundamental human rights, but the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional Jurisdiction and the Constitutional Court disagreed on the basis that the deed in question was published post June 1979 and therefore the landlords were aware of the consequences of their actions.

The ECHR has differed with the Constitutional Court’s interpretation and decided that the conversion of such deeds into indefinite leases through the operation of Chapter 158 of the Laws of Malta, even if entered into post-1979, run counter to the fundamental human rights of landlords.

The three siblings were awarded €22,000 in pecuniary damages, €4,500 in non-pecuniary damages and €9,000 in legal costs and more importantly obtained a declaration from the ECHR confirming that the continued occupation of their premises violates their fundamental human rights.