Choice of a competent Court

Choice of a competent Court

by George Coucounis

“A case is referred to a competent Court if it has jurisdiction”

THE choice of the Court before which a case is filed is essential as it relates to its jurisdiction and in case of lack of jurisdiction the Court can stay the proceedings and refer the case to the competent Court for trial. The issue can be raised by any of the parties, even ex officio by the Court as a matter of public order. A case may be referred by the District Court to the competent Court of special jurisdiction for trial or vice versa. However, if the case is before a Court of special jurisdiction, which finds that it lacks substantive jurisdiction and that another Court has no jurisdiction due to the nature of the claim, the case will be dismissed as well as any application made for referral of the case to another Court. The Court of special jurisdiction deals with specific matters determined by Law, such as the Rent Control Court, the Labour Tribunal or the Family Court and the District Court has no jurisdiction to deal with such matters.

Relevant is article 64 A of the Courts of Justice Law, L.14/1960, which provides that in case an action, application or case falling within the substantive jurisdiction of a Court of special jurisdiction is filed before a District Court, the District Court stays the proceedings and refers the case to the competent Court of special jurisdiction for trial. It further provides that any Court of special jurisdiction, if it finds that it has no substantive jurisdiction to hear an action or application or case filed before it, stays the proceedings and refers the case to the competent District Court or any other Court of special jurisdiction for trial.

Such an issue was raised before the President of the Rent Control Court, who issued a judgment on 16.3.2022 and dismissed the main application and the application for referral due to lack of jurisdiction of the Court and of the District Court. In particular, the owner of an apartment filed an application for an increase of the rent and in the process, he found that his property does not meet the requirements to be considered as “property” within the meaning of the Rent Control Law, since it was not completed before 2000. He filed an application for referral of the case to the District Court to be tried. The tenant filed an objection claiming that the issue concerned a special proceeding for which the sole competent Court is the Rent Control Court and therefore, the case could not be referred to the District Court.

The Court agreed with the tenant and determined the legal framework, referred to its jurisdiction and the proceedings before the Rent Control Court (RCC). It stated that the jurisdiction of the RCC derives from article 4(1) of the Law, is defined in article 2 thereof and extends to any issue related to the protected relationship between the landlord and the tenant. Article 8(1) of the Law provides that no increase of the rent of residences or shops can be imposed on a statutory tenant except as provided by the Law, i.e. certain conditions must be met, such as the existence of statutory tenancy, the lapse of two years from the date the tenant took possession of the property or from the last increase or decrease of the rent. The procedure before the RCC is specific and includes investigation conducted by the Court, which determines the fair rent with an upper limit of the increase the percentage determined every two years by the Council of Ministers or 90% of the average rents in the proximity area.

The Court concluded that article 8 concerns legislative enforcement that prevails over those privately agreed between the parties. The applicant’s actionable right was based only on article 8, an issue which falls within the exclusive substantive jurisdiction of the Rent Control Court and no other Court. The purpose of invoking the procedure under article 64 A is to save, through the referral mechanism, civil proceedings filed before a Court having no jurisdiction and not to make a Court competent or to establish parallel jurisdiction of the District Courts and the special Courts, something which would be unacceptable. For matters falling within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Rent Control Court, there can be no parallel jurisdiction of the District Court.