The tenant has the right to peaceful enjoyment and unobstructed use of the property rented without any interference by the landlord, regardless of the type of the tenancy whether it is contractual or statutory. This right may arise from an expressed or implied term of the tenancy agreement and the tenant is entitled to the property from the commencement of the tenancy and to remain in peaceful possession for the whole of its duration. Where there is a breach, the landlord may be ordered by an interim prohibition order to cease any interference that hinders the tenant’s freedom in exercising his rights and to restore him in the situation he was prior to the breach. The term peaceful enjoyment operates in favour of keeping the tenant in possession and enjoyment of the property for all purposes, and there is a breach where ordinary and lawful use is violated even by actions taking place outside the property. For example, placing a scaffolding in front of a rented shop that prevents the tenant from carrying out his business, placing a vehicle or other obstacle at the entrance of the shop or at the emergency exit or in the parking area of the shop, constitute acts of breach of the right to peaceful enjoyment of the rented premises.
The protection of the above right of the tenant implies safeguarding the lawful possession and use of the premises and that the landlord or his representative will not carry out any acts that substantially interfere with it. It does not extend to acts of third parties or relatives of the landlord who is beyond his control. The matter was dealt with by the Supreme Court in a judgment issued on 27.3.2018, where the decision of the Court of first instance to issue a perpetual prohibition order against the landlord and/or his representatives and/or any other persons who take authority from him and/or act on his instructions and/or authorisation and/or at his orders and/or on his behalf, to prevent in any way the peaceful enjoyment and use of the premises by the tenant. The tenant claimed that the landlord’s son executed certain actions inside and outside of the premises, such as placing a pot, bricks and a net on the ramp to be used by disabled persons. The Court of first instance held that landlord ratified his son’s actions, violating the tenant’s right for peaceful enjoyment and use of the premises; it also considered that persons who are close relatives of the landlord act on his behalf or with his consent and knowledge. The Supreme Court held that the Court of first instance did not justify its judgment and it only ascertained the actions, without giving any explanation how and why these actions interfered substantially with the tenant’s right to lawfully enjoy the premises.
The Supreme Court observed that the right to peaceful enjoyment and use of the premises consists not only of the undisturbed and uninterrupted possession but also of the enjoyment of the premises by the tenant for all ordinary, lawful purposes, without any disturbance by the landlord or the persons he authorises. As a general rule, a temporary disturbance of enjoyment, which does not interfere with the possession of the premises by the tenant, does not constitute a violation of his right. However, when there is a substantial interference in the normal use and lawful enjoyment of the premises, there is a breach even if there is no intervention in its possession. Interference which is not substantial does not constitute a breach. An action may be considered an interference even when it is executed outside the premises, without requiring direct or natural intervention. Where there is a substantial interference in the normal use of the premises by the tenant, is a matter of fact and degree. The Supreme Court added that the said right does not extend to illegal actions by third persons who have no ownership right over the premises. This right does not ensure the protection of the tenant from the interference of persons who are beyond the control of the landlord. In particular, the parent-child relationship does not require the parent to prevent his or her adult child from causing any loss or damage to another person. Moreover, the close relationship between two persons does not create itself a relationship between a representative and a principal. Hence, the Supreme Court set aside the order of the Court of first instance and its judgment for damages and costs.
George Coucounis is a lawyer specializing in the Immovable Property Law, based in Larnaca, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, www.coucounislaw.com, (tel.:- 24818288).