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SC rules against an overholding tenant after 21 years legal battle

13 February 2024 11:02 pm - 29     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The Supreme Court has delivered a judgement against an overholding tenant who continued to occupy a property after his rental agreement had expired, following a 21 year legal battle.

The plaintiffs, Bopage Martin and Indrani Bopage, the father and the daughter respectively had filed a plaint before Anuradhapura District Court in 2003 seeking ejectment of three defendants from the premises known as “New Lanka Stores” located at Horawpathana town, on the basis that the defendants are the overholding tenants.

The defendants Mohamed Malikge Nawaz, Mohamed Malikge Riyaz and Mohamed Malikge Farees filed answers seeking the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ action and a declaration of title to the premises on “long possession” or claiming title to the premises by prescription. During the pendency of the case the first plaintiff (father) died and the second plaintiff (daughter) proceeded with the case.

The plaintiffs alleged they rented out the premises to the defendant on a monthly rent of Rs. 500. The defendants were informed by letter dated 11.08.2002 that the rent would be increased to Rs. 6000 from 01.01.2003 and if they were unable to pay the said sum, the monthly tenancy would be terminated from that date. The defendants did not reply to this letter. They refused to pay even the old rent from September 2002. Thereafter, the plaintiff sent the letter dated 02.01.2003 terminating the monthly tenancy and demanding the defendants to hand over the premises on 15.01.2003. The defendants neither replied to this letter nor handed over the premises and the action was filed in the District Court.

The District Court by judgement dated 10.08.2012 dismissed the plaintiff’s case on the sole basis that the premises in suit have not been identified by the plaintiff. The defendant’s cross-claim has also been dismissed on the basis that it has not been proved. On appeal, the High Court of Civil Appeal set aside the judgement of the District Court and entered judgement for the plaintiff as prayed for in the case. Subsequently, the defendant filed this appeal against the High Court judgement.

Supreme Court Justice Mahinda Samayawardhena observed that beyond doubt that the defendant was the monthly tenant of the plaintiff at the premises and there is no issue regarding the identification of the subject matter. He further observed that an action for ejectment based on the breach of the contract and no need to prove the ownership by way of a rei vindicatio action.

The Supreme Court three-judge-bench comprising Justices Gamini Amaraekara, Mahinda Samayawardhena and Yasantha Kodagoda held that the defendants are in unlawful possession since 2003. The three defendants were ordered to pay Rs. 600,000 as legal costs to the plaintiff.


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  Comments - 29

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  • Shan Tuesday, 13 February 2024 11:55 PM

    Defendants don't own the property...Either pay the rent or get the hell out of there....I wonder why it took 21 yrs to solved it.

    Citizen Wednesday, 14 February 2024 12:39 AM

    The loop hole of the law and order, the law order for the rental properties should be updated to the present century and the cases should be conducted in short time, not decades.

    Nilmini Welivita Wednesday, 14 February 2024 01:48 AM

    Jalani Premadasa is also trying the same trick with her rented business premises.

    AJ Thursday, 15 February 2024 07:35 AM

    SP, please act reasonably and legally before this bringing black mark to your political carrier,we well wishers have to face opponents in grass root level,

    Uncle Paradise Wednesday, 14 February 2024 02:14 AM

    21 years? Justice delayed is justice denied.

    Sellasamy Wednesday, 14 February 2024 02:26 AM

    Excellent judgement. All over Sri Lanka many people work hard and build a second home or shops and rent them out. The problem is the tenants believe they become legal owners after a certain period of time. As a result many just lock up their second property,have round the clock security to the premises.Some do not wish to build a second home. A law should be passed under no circumstances a tenant can claim ownership to the property.

    leonard vivian jayaweera Wednesday, 14 February 2024 02:40 AM

    we have enough criminals of this nature. great judgement. i hope are judges ,will follow the law. judges who make stupid errors should be sacked or demoted

    Mahila Wednesday, 14 February 2024 05:26 AM

    What about NON-PAYMENT OF RENT from 09/2002!?? It’s an ACCIDENT OR COINCIDENCE - whatever, THESE "SPECIAL" 'KIND OF PEOPLE' - No further Categorisation, could be Sought or Offered, are very Notorious in resorting to this kind of Maniacal process!! No details of claimed process is necessary, as its "already detailed in News Item"!? IDENTICAL EPISODE, happened to ‘YOURS TRULY’ and case went on 12/1969 till 08/1993 - 24 years, with case files "Mysteriously getting LOST", only on TRIAL dates, but become available without any such trouble on CALL dates!!!?? Insidiously supported by MY OWN - Instructing attorney!! “UNCOUTH LEPERS”!!! Finally, property sold to incumbent, NON-RENT PAYING Tenant himself, 50% BELOW Prevalent 'MARKET PRICE', when emigrating overseas, Higher Education of Daughter!!?? None remaining in SL, pursue case and 24 Year Patience/endurance RAN OUT!?

    Fact Wednesday, 14 February 2024 05:40 AM

    Great.

    Ruwan Fernando Wednesday, 14 February 2024 06:00 AM

    And we want people to stay in Sri Lanka? No wonder they are leaving our shores as fast as possible!

    Gp Wednesday, 14 February 2024 06:48 AM

    Finally a break through to the illegal possession of rented property which came into effect during Sirmo Bandaranayak era... Good judgement and opening a can of worms to others....

    Nisanka Wednesday, 14 February 2024 07:20 AM

    See how efficient our legal system is. It rook 21 years to solve this issue

    Pullma Dingalinga Wednesday, 14 February 2024 07:50 AM

    23 years! A land like no other !!!

    ANURA NANAYAKKARA Wednesday, 14 February 2024 08:24 AM

    GREAT NEWS WE HEAR ABOUT SUCH SITUATIONS IN SRI LANKA. THERE ARE LOT OF PEOPLE SUFFERING DUE TO GROSS NEGLIGENCE OF TENNENTS WITHOUT STICKING TO THEIR OBLIGATIONS TO PAY RENT. IN THIS CASE JUSTICE PREVAILED .!!

    Gabriella Wednesday, 14 February 2024 10:38 AM

    Ha ha ha ! Sri Lankan justice !!

    MirakRajBanda Wednesday, 14 February 2024 08:25 AM

    It's a curse in this country. There are hundreds of thousands illegal occupants in the properties for decades either paying a rent even a beggar will refuse to accept or paying nothing. Eviction is absolutely not possible because of the existing out dated laws and the brutal, violent behaviors of the tenants. Ranil Wicky mentioned in his last election menifesto that he'll sort out the problem and conveniently forgotten soon after the election (as usual). Ask any landlord who will say yes.

    Tissa Fernando Wednesday, 14 February 2024 09:07 AM

    23 years of suffering by the property owner. This is a common issue.

    Ram Wednesday, 14 February 2024 09:18 AM

    I will not be surprised if by the time the SC decided the matter, the DJ who gave the first judgement had reached the SC as a Judge

    Ram Wednesday, 14 February 2024 09:18 AM

    I will not be surprised if by the time the SC decided the matter, the DJ who gave the first judgement had reached the SC as a Judge

    Ram Wednesday, 14 February 2024 09:18 AM

    I will not be surprised if by the time the SC decided the matter, the DJ who gave the first judgement had reached the SC as a Judge

    Jayantha Wednesday, 14 February 2024 09:24 AM

    Pls put a massive fine for such tennants. Also inform district courts to follow these proceedings without wasting peoples time. Look at the time wasted by lower courts. Action should be taken against those judges and send them home. Instead of solving problems the lower courts have wasted time and money of peopleand also wasted public money.

    jude Wednesday, 14 February 2024 09:59 AM

    justice delayed justice denied

    Patcitz Wednesday, 14 February 2024 10:22 AM

    Well done, the JUSTICE should be served to whomsoever faces such circumstances.

    Raven Wednesday, 14 February 2024 01:15 PM

    Judgement is ok but the time consumed to give it is absurd. President and Minister Wijeydasa should bring laws to fast-track the delay in judgement soon.

    Pusa Wednesday, 14 February 2024 01:34 PM

    The names say it all !

    navratne willamune Wednesday, 14 February 2024 05:05 PM

    legal system is a cash cow for lawers .they are not in a hurry to expedite any leagal processes

    Common man Wednesday, 14 February 2024 07:52 PM

    Sri Lanka to improve this judgement has created precedence. Well done judges. It’s common-sense judgement.

    No to Peacefuls Thursday, 15 February 2024 12:54 AM

    Thats what happens when you give your property for rent to these peacefuls. They need everything free. They think they are above law. No 1 tax evaders are peacefuls not in SL but in all over world.

    O fernando Tuesday, 20 February 2024 08:25 PM

    Law should be enacted in the country that under any circumstances a tenant can not claim ownership . This is the way around the world n we should follow suit


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