The right to statutory tenancy as a right that affords the "status of irremovability" as against a contractual right is a principle that has been adopted by Cyprus Courts and codified into law pursuant to the Rent Control Law of 1983 (L. 23/1983) ("the Law"). It is a status that enjoys protection and can only be deprived if the particular, exhaustive preconditions of section 11 of the Law are met.

The Supreme Court of Cyprus has recently issued a judgment in a landmark case (Fisentzides v K&C Snooker & Poll Entertainment, Civil Appeal 30/2019, dated 1/6/2020) providing guidance as to the interpretation of the term "property" as defined in section 2 of the Law.

A property falls within the remit of the Law if it is "a property under lease or available for lease as a residence or shop that is located within the boundaries of a controlled area and has been completed by 31st December 1999". In its judgment, the Supreme Court emphasised that the fact that the property should have been "under lease or available for lease" by 31/12/1999 is a precondition for the tenancy to be regarded as statutory and fall under the provisions of the Law. It agreed with the interpretation of a District Judge in a case decided back in 1993, stating that, as a matter of interpretation of the legislation, words in a legislative piece are not used unnecessarily. As a result, it is now clarified that a property must have been both completed and leased or available for lease as a residence or shop for jurisdiction to be afforded on the Rent Control Tribunal. Accordingly, parties wishing to rely on the provisions of the Law, being either landlords or tenants, need to satisfy the Court that the property being the subject matter of the dispute duly meets these requirements.

Currently, the applicable controlled areas are defined in the relevant order of the Council of Ministers, published on 30/11/2007, including most areas within the boundaries of the main districts of Cyprus and other municipalities, with the exclusion of particular areas, as defined.

An additional requirement, necessary for a statutory tenancy to arise, is that the property shall be occupied by the tenant at the time of commencement of proceedings and that the first period of the tenancy has expired.

Statutory tenancy disputes are assessed by the Rent Control Tribunal in each district, which has exclusive jurisdiction to hear matters arising by virtue of the Law. District Courts do not have jurisdiction to hear such cases. Therefore, it is imperative for parties to determine whether or not a case is within the remit of the Law (i.e. whether there is a statutory tenancy), so that it is filed before the Court with the necessary competency and jurisdiction to hear the particular matter.

The Supreme Court decision is of particular importance as it provides much needed clarity to legal practitioners and the judiciary for ascertaining whether a property falls within the ambit of the Law and examining whether a statutory tenancy arises.

Originally published 16 June, 2020.

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