The Government Lands Act, Chapter 573 of the Laws of Malta, was drafted to regulate the administration of land owned by the Maltese Government. This Act provides for a number of scenarios relating to the acquisition of land by the Government for public purposes, as well as providing for the eviction from lands and properties which are administered or held by the Maltese Government.
Legal notice 216 of 2019 provides for a number of amendments relating to the redemption of land which belongs to the Maltese Government or to the Lands Authority, and which falls under the title of revisable perpetual emphyteusis.
Under these revised rules, any person who holds a property belonging to either the Government of Malta or the Lands Authority under such a title, may request the Lands Authority to redeem that property at any time. However, for a person to be eligible for such redemption, the applicant must satisfy the following criteria in terms of Regulation 5 of these new rules, namely:
- He must be a citizen of the European Union;
- He must be recognised by the Lands Authority as an emphyteuta of the building or must have at least applied to be recognised as an emphyteuta and is still awaiting such recognition. It must however be noted that the application process for redemption may not commence prior to the recognition of the applicant as an emphyteuta by the Lands Authority; and
- He must prove that there are no arrears in ground rent payments which are due to the Lands Authority on the property in question.
A list of the documentation to be provided with the application for redemption is also enumerated under Regulation 9 of this Legal Notice. This provision states that the following documents are to be provided with the application: a copy of the latest receipt of payment of the ground rent; a copy of all the contracts which had been made ever since the emphyteuta was recognised by the Lands Authority, where the applicant has not yet been recognised as an emphyteuta of the property by the Lands Authority; a detailed plan of the property, along with a scanned plan which has been certified by an architect; a copy of the property or site plan issued by the Land Registry also duly certified by an architect; a survey showing the property and the existing road alignment; a copy of the applicant's identity card; and photos bearing the date and time, showing the present condition of the property.
All these documents are to be submitted together with a sworn statement whereby it is stated that the entire content of the application is truthful, and that the applicant has not omitted any information which, had they been known to the Lands Authority, would result in the application being rejected and dismissed.
There are also a number of provisions which cater for the application process of such redemption. One of the first provisions to note is Regulation 7 which states that any redemption of perpetual and revisable ground rent made in virtue of these regulations shall be made through a public contract. Secondly, Regulation 10 of these proposed amendments provides that before an application may be considered for the redemption of land, the applicant must pay all arrears owed to the Lands Authority. Furthermore, in terms of Regulation 8 of the Bill, it should be noted that once an application has been submitted, that applicant may not be changed unless it transpires from a causa mortis declaration that the rights to the property in the application have been transferred to the person requesting such change. It should also be noted that the redemption of perpetual and revisable ground rent shall not terminate the other conditions imposed on the emphyteuta in the original perpetual emphyteusis contract.
The Bill also delves into the calculation for the value for redemption. When the property in question has been granted under a title of perpetual and revisable emphyteusis, the emphyteuta has the option to redeem the ground rent as provided in these amendments, unless the emphyteusis contract itself provides differently. The sum which is to be paid when there is no method of redemption in the original contract of emphyteusis shall be equal to the amount of the ground rent thus revised, in terms of the index of inflation taken from the year preceding the submission of the application and the rate of ground rent from the year prior to the creation of the contract of perpetual emphyteusis, capitalised at a rate of 5%. However, if the revisable perpetual emphyteusis was made before 1946, then the index of inflation for 1946 as indicated in the Housing (Decontrol) Ordinance capitalised at the rate of 5% should be taken as the basis for determining the amount of ground rent due.
Finally, in terms of Regulation 15, the Lands Authority has the right to refuse and reject any application. However, such refusal or rejection shall be in writing and shall include detailed reasons for its decision. The Lands Authority also has a right to terminate the process of an application made in virtue of these regulations at any stage or to refuse to accept any application if, in the opinion of the Lands Authority, such property is located at a site of national importance. Where this is the case, the applicant shall only be entitled to receive the costs they paid to apply for such redemption. As provided in these regulations, the Lands Authority is exempt from any damages or any request for the payment of any kind of compensation made by the applicant in this regard.