A licence expires and is terminated upon the death of the licensee
The licence to use a property gives the licensee only the right to use it but does not grant exclusive possession. The Republic or local authorities often conclude agreements with people to use property as a residence or business premises. The terms of the licence define the nature of use and include prohibitions, such as the licensee not allowing its use for any other purpose without prior permission and not assigning, subletting or granting its use by any other person.
Upon expiration of a licence, the licensee is obliged to return the property in question with any improvements made or buildings erected on it, without the owner being obliged to compensate them for their value. The licence explicitly states that the licensee acknowledges that the owner’s action to allow them and their family members to use the property in no way creates an owner-tenant relationship or any right of possession or compensation.
Primarily in the case of a residence, no consideration is paid, since the purpose of granting the licence is social. The legal relationship created does not constitute tenancy and the licence is revocable and terminated upon the death of the licensee. The Republic or local authorities may face the refusal of members of the licensee’s family to leave a property claiming that they have a right to possess it. It is up to the authorities to grant a new license to them. Any refusal of the authorities to approve their application on the grounds that the relevant criteria are not met, entitles the applicant to apply to the administrative court to review the correctness of the decision, since the refusal falls within the scope of public law.
The Supreme Court in a unanimous judgement issued on February 15 examined such a claim, disputing the correctness of the judgment of the court of first instance. The Republic, as owner of the house in question, obtained an order of the court against the family member ordering them to cease illegal detention of the house, stop trespassing and deliver its possession to the Republic. They argued that the Republic’s decision to take measures for their eviction without first revoking the licence was illegal and violated their right to the peaceful enjoyment of the house. The Republic’s position was that they did not have any right to the house and the right of license granted to the licensee ceased upon their death.
The basic argument of the appellant that based on the licence he was also its beneficiary was not accepted by either court. The Supreme Court held that the licence was personal and existed between the Republic and the appellant’s father. The right of the other members of the family, who were named, to live in the house did not give them an independent right, but depended on the beneficiary.
It was also emphasised that the court of first instance correctly observed that it was up to the Republic to grant a licence to another member of the family after the death. The appellant had applied to the competent authorities but his application was rejected.
As to the argument that no notice was sent to revoke the licence, the Supreme Court upheld the judgment that the licence ceased with the death of the licensee. Consequently, the Republic had no obligation to revoke it. It was clear from the content of the licence that it was not transferable. The Supreme Court concluded that the court of first instance correctly decided that the Republic had proven the appellant was trespassing and dismissed the appeal.
George Coucounis is a lawyer practicing in Larnaca and the founder of George Coucounis LLC, Advocates & Legal Consultants, [email protected]