The licence is personal, non-assignable and non-inheritable and expires upon the death of the beneficiary
As part of its refugee housing policy, the state grants licences for the use of houses or apartments, with the aim of housing refugees and their family members. The licence is granted to a specific person and contains conditions for the use of the property by the licensee, his/her spouse and their children. Members of a family who have already been granted a property, do not have the right to use their parents’ property after they pass away. The licence expires upon the death of the parents, it is not inherited and the property is returned to the state so it can go to someone else. If a child withholds the property instead, they act unlawfully and interferes with the property.
The offence of illegal trespass by unlawfully occupying an apartment in a government-owned settlement was committed by a child of refugees, who refused to hand over its possession after the passing of his parents. The administration rejected his application to grant him a licence for its use and had filed a lawsuit against him. The district court in a lawsuit by the attorney general issued a declaratory judgement that he had no right to use the apartment in any way. Moreover, the court issued orders for his eviction and that he and/or his representatives were prohibited from trespassing.
He filed an appeal against the decision of the court and the Supreme Court in its judgement issued in C.A.12/2015, dated April 3, pointed out that the offence of illegal trespass is based on article 43 of the Civil Wrongs Law, Cap. 148. In this type of case, it was held that the plaintiff and in this case the Republic of Cyprus as claimant has the burden of proving that the defendant demonstrated behaviour that amounted to unlawful entry into immovable property or caused damage or interfered with the said property. Once the unlawful interference with the property is proven, which the Republic of Cyprus successfully did, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant to show that his interference was not unlawful.
The Supreme Court emphasised that the granting of use of the property falls under the state’s policy for housing of the displaced persons. It is therefore a function that promotes a public purpose and, as such, falls within the ambit of public law. It agreed with the trial court that the licence did not create any proprietary or ownership rights to the licensee. Reference was made to the licence agreement, where it stated that the property should be used exclusively as residence by the licensee and his family and that it could not be assigned or sub-leased to any physical or legal person and that upon the expiration of the licence, the licensee is obliged to surrender the property to the owner with the improvements made thereon.
The action of the appellant, after the death of his parent to go to the administration to grant him a licence to use the property, before he was even sent an eviction notice suggests that he himself did not consider that he was a licensee. He was not a party to the licence agreement and it had not been shown that he changed his position, as a result of the behaviour of the administration, to his detriment. The claims made by the appellant regarding his application and the failure of the administration to respond to him, were matters of public law which could not be considered in the context of the lawsuit.
Consequently, the Supreme Court concluded that the court of first instance correctly decided that the licence had automatically been terminated with the death of the appellant’s parents and that there was no requirement by the administration to notify him of the revocation of the licence. His appeal was dismissed.
George Coucounis is a lawyer practicing in Larnaca and the founder of GEORGE COUCOUNIS LLC, Advocates & Legal Consultants, www.coucounis.law, [email protected]