A statutory tenancy relates to the premises, presupposing a tenancy and is connected with the right of the statutory tenant to remain in possession and not be evicted as long as the provisions of the Rent Control Law are met. The aforesaid right can be acquired by the surviving spouse or child of the tenant, provided they resided or worked at the premises at the time of the tenant’s death. This status and personal right may be acquired, but not the obligations of the tenant cannot be transferred upon the surviving spouse or child.

The obligation for the payment of rents in arrears of the deceased tenant is not transferred upon the surviving spouse or child because they remain in the demised premises, but it continues to be a personal obligation and payment can be claimed from the administrator of his estate. The surviving spouse or child who remains in the premises becomes a statutory tenant and the obligation to pay the rent arises thereafter.

A question arises in the case of a statutory tenant who dies while proceedings are pending against him before the court to recover possession of the property, whether the actionable right survives, whether there is now a tenant and by extension a statutory tenancy and whether the Rent Control Court has jurisdiction to issue a decision. The president of the Nicosia Rent Control Court decision issued on January 4 examined this question and whether the procedure had become pointless.

According to the decision, the owner claimed recovery of possession of the house as the reason for eviction was the alleged systematic delay in the payment of the rent. The statutory tenant, who was an elderly person with serious health problems, claimed that the landlord was refusing to collect the rent and that he was acting in bad faith. The case proceeded, the written testimonies were filed, there was cross-examination of the affiants and the decision was reserved. Before the decision was issued, the tenant died. The court was informed and reopened the case and summoned the parties.

The court held that the issuance of a court order requires the existence of an actionable right and that there are actionable rights that survive the death of the party and others that do not. The case belongs unequivocally, to the second. The Rent Control Court deals exclusively with statutory tenancies. A constituent element of the statutory tenancy, as the court stated, is the ‘tenant’. In the present case the respondent, before she passed away, had become a statutory tenant following her husband’s death. Having passed away, the question that arises is whether there is still a ‘tenant’. The answer is clearly no.

According to the court’s decision, only the respondent was defined as the statutory tenant and in the reply, it is not claimed through a counterclaim to recognise the existence of another statutory tenant, besides the deceased. What is protected is the case where the death of the statutory tenant occurs, leaving a spouse and/or children permanently in the property. This is a completely reasonable provision in legislation of a social nature. Which, however, is neither directly transferred, nor inherited, nor does it create a right of use.

It decided further, that the final conclusion of the court the case lost its actionable right, there is no tenant and by extension a statutory tenancy over which the Rent Control Court acquires jurisdiction to issue any substantive decision, the case lost its object and the court dismissed it.

George Coucounis is a lawyer specialising in the Immovable Property Law, based in Larnaca, [email protected], Tel: 24 818288