19 Oct Landlord, oil company and petrol station licensee
Landlord, oil company and petrol station licensee
by George Coucounis
“The oil company does not acquire the status of the statutory tenant of the land where the petrol station is located”
THE Rent Control Law 23/83, as amended, does not include in the term “tenancy” the lease of land used as a petrol station and explicitly excludes it. As a result, the lease agreement between the oil company and the owner of the land regulates their relationship and the Rent Control Law is not applicable. The status of the licensee of the petrol station as a user under a license agreement between him and the oil company does not create a relationship with the owner of the land. In the event that the lease agreement expires or is terminated, if the company and the licensee remain in possession of the land, they are considered as trespassers and the possession of the property by them is unlawful. They do not have any protection under the Law and the Court will issue against them an order for the surrender of the property and its free possession and an order to pay damages equal to its rental value for as long as the unlawful possession lasts.
The license agreement between an oil company and a licensee of a petrol station regulates their relationship and the relevant reservation in the term “tenancy” that exists in the Law provides protection to the licensee only against the company in case of a dispute between them. The protection provided to the licensee does not extend against the owner of the property where the petrol station is located. Any dispute between the owner and the oil company based on the civil offence of trespass constitutes unlawful possession on the part of the licensee, too. The relationship of the owner with the oil company is terminated upon the expiration of the lease agreement and the licensee of the petrol station does not have any right regarding the property or its owner.
The Supreme Court in a judgment issued on 27.9.2021 adopted the findings and the judgment of the Court of first instance that the lease agreement of the land expired and ceased to be valid. The Court confirmed the correctness of the order issued against both the oil company and the licensee of the petrol station to hand over the land and its free possession to the owner, as well as to pay damages to him for the loss of its use. The lease agreement concerned the contractual relationship between the owner and the oil company and the licensee of the petrol station did not derive any right from it, to which he was not a party. The oil company and the licensee of the petrol station alleged that the Court of first instance wrongly decided to issue the order against the licensee of the petrol station given that the issue and the relationship of the licensee is governed by Law 23/83 and falls under the jurisdiction of the Rent Control Law. The Supreme Court did not agree with the allegation of the company and the licensee, emphasizing that from the wording of the relevant provision, it is clear that the legislator never intended the licensee to be included in the meaning of the term “tenant”.
The Court added that the relevant provision in the reservation creates a special right providing protection to the licensee of a petrol station in the event of a dispute between him and the oil company. Such protection is provided if their dispute is limited to the aspects of their relationship that are explicitly defined in the reservation, the right of possession of the petrol station and the consideration. In the particular case, the Court did not have to consider any such dispute. The lawsuit before the Court of first instance concerned the civil offence of trespass in the property by the company after the expiration of the lease agreement. The licensee was not the tenant of the land, but the licensee of the petrol station and after the expiration of the lease agreement, the possession of the property became unlawful by him as well. Both the company and the licensee were jointly and severally liable for the civil offence of unlawful interference, as well as for the compensation payable and the Court dismissed the relevant grounds of their appeals.
With regard to the owner’s refusal to accept the two cheques the oil company sent her as rent for the first two years of the illegal possession of the property, the Supreme Court held that their non-acceptance was reasonably justified. If the owner accepted them, an additional dispute could arise between the parties, as the cheques had been given by the company as rent apparently in an attempt to create a legal effect, in order to argue that the lease agreement had been renewed as from their acceptance.