A tenant’s right to access a rent control court when rent arrears and possession of the rented space are brought can be reviewed by the court. The tenant shall be entitled to apply for court leave to file a response stating that its purpose is not to abuse the procedure provided for in section 11(1)(a)(ii) and that there is no refusal on its part to pay rent or call unreasonable delay in payment. The court, in considering such an application, will decide whether there are grounds for assessing the tenant’s statements and whether they are a good reason for granting him permission to file a response.
The adoption of amendments to Law 3(I)/2020 links the right of the tenant to access to the court with his obligation to pay the amount demanded by the landlord. Although the amendment targets tenants who repeatedly miss delays and undue delay in pending litigation, the legal wording “the amount due on the application as overdue rent” suggests a debt, which makes the wording problematic, as the chairman said. The Rent Control Court in its decision dated 25.05.2022.
In a particular case, the landlord filed an application for the recovery of arrears on the lease of the premises and the rent. The tenant filed an application for court leave to file a response in default of its obligation to pay the rent. He argued that the lease was indefinite and that the termination of the lease was unlawful. If it were prohibited, it would be a violation of his constitutionally guaranteed right of access to a court, guaranteed by Article 30 of the Constitution.
The court, examining the Rent Control Act in connection with the amendment, emphasized that when rent is late, it’s usually simple. The consequences of issuing a repossession order range from radical to irreversible, so issuing it represents the most radical interference with the right to the inviolability of the premises. The right of access to a court is guaranteed in the first paragraph of Article 30 of the Constitution. Although it is not an absolute right, but subject to reasonable restrictions, it should not be degraded in such a way as to destroy its essence. The European Court of Human Rights, interpreting Article 6.1 of the Convention, has recognized that this right must be secured for effective exercise.
The Court held that the foregoing could only lead to the conclusion that the tenant was entitled to apply for leave to file his review without meeting the conditions for payment of the rent arrears. The absence of an explicit legal provision is replaced by the inherent powers of the Court deriving from its judicial function. The court ruled that the tenant’s application had been filed correctly, without violating the procedure under the new section 11(1)(a)(ii) of the Act.
On the merits, the court held that the tenant’s request for a right to file a response was not based on good cause. The presence, amount and non-payment of the declared rent are not disputed. No reason was given for the non-payment of rent, which confirms that the intention is in practice to cause undue delay. The allegation that the termination of the lease was illegal was also unsubstantiated. The mere assumption that the rejection of the application entails a violation of the constitutional rights of the employer does not create the necessary grounds for considering his claim, in connection with which the court rejected the application of the employer.
George Coucunis is a lawyer practicing in Larnaca and founder of George Coucounis LLC, Advocates & Legal Consultants