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Property

Disputed amount and substantive jurisdiction of the Court

The civil jurisdiction of the District Courts is determined by article 22 of the Courts of Justice Law, 14/1960, following the general and specific instructions issued by the Supreme Court. The President of a District Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and decide in the first instance any action, and every Senior District Judge or District Judge shall have jurisdiction to hear and decide any action in which the amount in dispute does not exceed in the case of a Senior District Judge €500.000 and in the case of a District Judge €100.000. It is further provided that the District Court shall have jurisdiction in relation to any action for the recovery of possession of any immovable property, or any action based on a tort committed in relation to immovable property in which the remedy claimed includes the issuance of an injunction and in which the title to the immovable property is not disputed, notwithstanding that because of the value of the immovable property in dispute, the action would not be within the jurisdiction of a Senior District Judge or a District Judge, as the case may be, as specified above.

It is also provided that the disputed amount, will be the amount that is actually disputed between the parties as revealed by the written pleadings or admitted by the parties at any stage of the proceedings or upon application has been decided by the Court. Any amount of interest payable shall not be taken into account in determining the amount in dispute or the value of the dispute.

An issue related to the substantive jurisdiction of the Court was raised and decided in the context of a decision issued by the District Court of Famagusta, dated 31.10.2022, where the defendant put forward the position that the Court does not have jurisdiction to adjudicate the case, as the scale of the action is determined based on the market value of the property in dispute, which the plaintiff pleaded in the Statement of Claim at €128,000. Therefore, he submitted that not only the action could not be categorized as a fast-track case, but should be referred to a Senior District Judge. He referred to Οrder 2 rule 10 of the Civil Procedure Rules which stipulates that in actions for the recovery of possession of immovable property the endorsement in the summons must set forth the value of the property in dispute sought to be recovered, and in actions for unlawful interference the value of the part where the trespass takes place.

The Court, examining the legal aspect, referred to the provisions of article 22 of Law 14/1960, emphasizing that it follows that the substantive jurisdiction of the District Court is determined by the disputed amount, which does not exceed €100,000. The Court referring to case law which related to an action for the recovery of possession of a property and rent claims and in the context of which an application for an increase in the scale of costs had been filed, it stated that the disputed amount is determined in the pleadings and it is on the basis of this that the substantive jurisdiction of the Court is determined. Regarding the costs scale, it pointed out, the jurisprudence emphasizes that it is not part of the pleadings but a consequence of them. It arises as a matter of numerical calculation and is primarily a matter of concern to the Registry, since based on the scale the case will be referred to a specific jurisdiction and the relevant fees will be paid.

It concluded that the disputed amount concerns the amount of rents due, based on the rental value determined by the plaintiff, who pleaded the value of the property in dispute, but he did not endorse it, as provided in Order 2 rule 10. This means, based on the general endorsement, as it pointed out, that in case of payment of the amount of the rents claimed plus the costs claimed, within 10 days, the present procedure would be terminated.

The Court finally stated that it does not escape my attention that the way the Statement of Claim has been drafted does not seem to be limited to the allegedly due rents, since recovery of possession of the property in dispute is also claimed. However, the endorsement limits the subject matter of the action and consequently determines the value of the dispute, thus providing substantive jurisdiction to the Court to hear the case. After all, based on the current jurisprudence, the plaintiff is free to determine the scale of his action and therefore, issued directions to the parties to file their written evidence.

George Coucounis is a lawyer practicing in Larnaca and he is the founder of GEORGE COUCOUNIS LLC, Advocates & Legal Consultants, email address: [email protected]

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