Union Vale Car Hire (Proprietary) Limited v Beau Vallon Properties Limited (CS 81/2008) [2017] SCSC 375 (25 May 2016);

IN THE  SUPREME  COURT  OF SEYCHELLES Civil Side: CS 8112008

[2016] SCSC 375

 


UNION VALE CAR HIRE (PROPRIETARY) LIMITED

Plaintiff

versus

BEAU VALLON PROPERTIES  LIMITED
Defendant

 

 

Heard:

Counsel: Mrs. Alexia Amesbury for plaintiff

Mr. Melchior  Vidot for defendant

Delivered:                    25 May 2016


JUDGMENT

Robinson  J


[1]      Plaintiff  is Union Vale Car Hire Proprietary  Limited.  Plaintiff  is and was at all material times a car hire operator.


[2]    Defendant    is Beau  Vallon   Properties   Limited.   Defendant    is and  was  at all  material   times the  owner  and  operator   of the  Coral  Strand  Hotel.


[3]         Plaintiff   brought   this  suit  in the  Supreme   Court   on  26  March,   2008,   against   Defendant for  (i) a declaration  that  it is a statutory tenant;  (ii) a declaration  that the termination  of the  tenancy  agreement  by  Defendant  is unlawful;  (iii)  an order  restraining  Defendant from evicting  Plaintiff from the "business premises";  (iv) loss and damages  in the sum of €uro (€)7800.001-  and continuing  against  Defendant; and (v) costs.

[4]    Defence and counter-claim  is dated 9 October, 2012.  Defence and counter-claim  has not been  filed  in the  registry  of  the  Supreme  Court.  Defence  to  counter-claim   dated   15 November,  2012,  has  also  not  been  f led  in the  registry  of the  Supreme  Court.  The defence  and counterclaim  and defence  to counter-claim  do not form  part of the record. This suit proceeds on the plaint.


[5]        For  Plaintiff  I  heard  oral  evidence  from  its  Managing   Director,  Mr.  Michel  Gilbert Camille.

 

[6]       The facts giving rise to Plaintiff's  claim are as follows.  On 28 April,  1983, Plaintiff  was permitted by the Coral Strand Hotel to use the facilities of the hotel in connection  with its car hire rental operations  in terms of the  "Contract between  Union Vale Car Hire Ply Ltd and  Coral  Strand  Hotel  Re Desk"  (exhibit  PI).  Plaintiff  occupied  the  desk  nearest  the reception of the Coral Strand Hotel in conjunction  with one other car hire company.


[7]    The Coral Strand  Hotel came under the ownership  and management  of Defendant.  By a written  "Rental Agreement"  by and between Defendant  and Plaintiff dated  10 July,  1995, for a term of two (2) years commencing   1 July,  1995, and expiring on 30 June,  1997, the "Desk adjacent  to the Reception  Counter  in the Hotel Lobby"  continued  to be vested  in Plaintiff for and in consideration  of a monthly rent of Seychelles  rupees (SCR) 4000.00/­ (exhibit   P2).  The  "Desk  adjacent   to  the  Reception   Counter  in  the  Hotel   Lobby"  is hereinafter  referred to as the "Desk".  In terms of exhibit  P2 Plaintiff  "shall maintain  the desk  only 10 conduct its car hire business ... ".  The  "Rental Agreement" expired  on 30 June,  1997. The evidence  shows that on and since 30 June,  1997, Plaintiff was allowed  to remain in possession  of the Desk for the use of its car hire business.  Plaintiff continued  to pay Defendant a monthly rent of SCR4000.001-, which rent was accepted by Defendant.


[8]       The  evidence  for  Plaintiff  as to the ejectment  is to the following  effect:  On 28  March, 2008, just  after  10 a.m., three men in the employ  of Coral Strand  Hotel approached  the Desk and told Mr. John Toule,  the representative  of Plaintiff,  to get off the chair. Those men  told  Mr. John  Toule  that  Plaintiff  had  no  right  to  use  the  premises  of  the  Coral Strand  Hotel  for  its car  hire  business,  and Defendant  will  be removing  the  Desk. The Desk was removed.  Exhibit  PI 0 is a video of the incident.  Mr. Camille  related that  two and  a  half  weeks  or  three  weeks  before  the  "counter" was  removed,  persons   in  the employ  of the Coral  Strand  Hotel had  removed  Plaintiffs   front  "counter" sign and  all other marketing paraphernalia  of Plaintiff.


[9]        On  29 March,  2008,  the  representatives   of  Plaintiff  were  prevented,   by  two  security guards of Defendant,  from entering the Coral Strand Hotel premises.  The representatives of Plaintiff were told that Plaintiff should not solicit clients of the Coral Strand Hotel; and that  Plaintiff  should  not  use the  car park  of the  Coral  Strand  Hotel  to park  any  of  its vehicles  for  hire.  The  evidence  of  Mr.  Camille  was  that  front  desk  receptionists   of Defendant  were  told  not  to  collect  any  keys  from  Defendant's   clients  when  returning Plaintiffs   hired vehicles  late in the evening.


[10]    Following  the removal of the Desk, Plaintiff  could not engage  in its car hire business  on the premises  of the Coral  Strand  Hotel as from 29  March, 2008,  until mid- May, 2008. Plaintiff  could  also  not engage  in  its car  hire  business  during  the  time  that  the Coral Strand  Hotel was closed  down  for minor work  between  mid-May,  2008,  and  mid-July, 2008. Mr. Camille  stated that representatives  of Defendant  tried to physically  remove the representatives   of  Plaintiff,  including  himself,  from  the  premises  of  the  Coral  Strand Hotel.  One  such  incident  took  place  on  2  July,  2008,  (police  statement  exhibit   P4). Plaintiff  refused  to vacate the premises  of the Coral  Strand  Hotel on account  of a letter written    by  Attorney-at-Law      Mr.   Francis    Chang-Sam     to  Defendant     to  the   effect    that Plaintiff   was  a protected    tenant,   and  proceedings    brought   by  Plaintiff   against   Defendant before   the  Supreme    Court   of  Seychelles    (exhibit   Pll).     Defendant    brought    proceedings against   Plaintiff   before  the  Rent  Board.


[11]    The  Rent  Board  case  was  still  pending,   when   Plaintiff   was  served   with  a letter  emanating from    learned    counsel     for   Defendant     dated    12  May,   20 I 0,   informing     Plaintiff    that Defendant    will   withdraw    the  case  against    Plaintiff   on  condition    that  Plaintiff    will   pay Defendant,     "all unpaid  rent for  the period  the case was  before  the Rent  Board  ... and Union  Vale Car Hire is invited to enter  into a new lease  agreement  with my client.  My client proposes  a monthly rent of Euro Three Hundred  (£300) plus  a rent free  car for  the use of a demarcated  area in the hotel's  reception  area. 11  exhibit  P5. Plaintiff  prepared  a new agreement on or about 2010. Defendant did not sign the said agreement.  Draft of the agreement tendered as exhibit P6.


[12]     On  account  of the  cases  pending  before  the courts,  upon  the  re-opening  of  the  Coral Strand Hotel in mid-July,  2008,  Plaintiff was allocated  a new "counter".  From mid-July, 2008,  to January,  2011,  Plaintiff  conducted  its car hire business  on the premises  of the Coral  Strand  Hotel  until  it closed  down  for  major  renovation  work.  The  Coral  Strand Hotel re-opened about September  or October, 2012.


[13]      Plaintiff  paid  Defendant   rent  for  the  month  of  March,  2008,  which  rent  Defendant accepted.  Plaintiff  paid Defendant  by cheque dated 30 July, 2008,  rent for the months of July and August,  2008  (exhibit  P8).  Plaintiff  received  a Coral  Strand  Hotel  receipt  for payment of the said rent (exhibit  P8). Plaintiff received  a letter from Defendant  dated  31
July,  2008,  enclosing  the cheque  exhibit  P8, stating  that  Defendant  had  "cancelled"  the said exhibit  P8.


[14]       Plaintiff claimed that its removal from the "business premises"  is unlawful. The evidence of Mr. Camille sheds light on Plaintiffs  claim and the prayer for relief-

"Q         Mr  Camille   as  a  result  of  this  unlawful   termination    of  the contract    that   you   have,   what   are  you   claiming    from   this   court? How  many  years   of  loss  and  damage   have  you  suffered?    1n your plaint    you    claimed     7800    Euros    being    loss    of   earnings     and continuing   at 600  Euros  per day  and  the  time  we  brought   the action it had  been  only  for  J  3 days and right now it is 4 years  later from the  date  of the  breach  and  continuing  so  we  are  claiming  from defendant 600 Euros per day from the date of the breach till today?

A         My  ladyship just  to rectify the claim  we are not claiming more than we have lost, what we are claiming  is since our counter was  taken  away  in end  of  March,  2008  there  was  March  2008, April  2008,  half of May 2008  which  is 2 and a half months  then the hotel closed for minor renovations  between  mid-May and mid­ July.  When  we  came  back  in mid-July  a counter  was  reinstated only  because  the  injunction  in front  of  Justice  Karunakaran  had ordered  that Beau Vallon  Properties  maintains  the status quo until there is a ruling either from the Rent Board or the Supreme  Court. So from July 2008 onwards to January,  20 II  when the hotel again closed  for major renovations  we were able to work, so we are not claiming  any  loss  of  income  for  that  period.  However,   from  I believe  it was  either  September  or October,  2012  when  the hotel re-opens   till  today  and  continuing,   we  have  not  been  able  to operate  at that hotel even though  we have written  a letter to them to request our entrance  or permit our entrance  so we can continue on our business,  basically we are claiming  those 2 and half months back  in  2008   plus  the  September,   October  2012  till  now  and continuing." proceedings  of2  July, 2013, at 1:45 p.m ..


[15]           I have  considered  the  oral  evidence  of  Plaintiff  in light of  the written  submissions  of counsel.


[16]     Plaintiff  claims  that  it is a protected  tenant  under  section  12 (I)  of the Control  of Rent and Tenancy  Agreements  Act as amended  [CAP 47]. The Control  of Rent  and Tenancy Agreements  Act as amended  [CAP 47] is hereinafter  referred to as the "Act". Section  12 (I)  of the Act provides -

"12 (I) -    A  lessee who  under  the  provisions  of this  Act retains possession   of  any  dwell ing  house  shall  so  long  as  he  retains possession  observe  and  be entitled  to the benefit  of all the terms expressed  or implied in the original contract  of letting so far as the same are consistent  with the provisions of th is Act".

According   to  Plaintiff   it occupied   the  Desk  for  the  purpose   of a business   carried   on  by  it, but  is  the  Desk   "premises"    within   the  meaning    of  the  Act.   Counsel    for  Plaintiff    has suggested    that  the  tenancy   which   Plaintiff   has  of  the  Desk   is within   the  Act.   I have  to consider   this  question   which  turns  on the  construction    of section   13 (I)  and  other  sections of the  Act.  Section   13 (I)  of the Act,  so far as relevant,   provides   -

"13  -    (I) This Act shall apply to any premises  used for business, trade or professional  purposes or for the public service as it applied to  a  dwelling   house  and  as  though   references   to  a  "dwelling house", "house" and "dwelling" includes references to any such premises,  but this Act in its application to such premises shall have effect subject to the following  modifications:

The  following   paragraphs  shall  be added  after  paragraph  U) of subsection  (2) of section  10:

(k)        the   premises   are   reasonably   required   by  the   lessor   for business,   trade  or  professional   purposes  or  for  the  public service;

(I)   the premises  are  in whole  or  in part  licensed  for the  sale  of intoxicating  liquor and the lessee has committed  an offence as holder of the licence or has not conducted  the business to the satisfaction  of the licensing  authority,  or has carried  it on in a manner detrimental  to the public interest, or the renewal of the licence has for any reason been refused.

(2)   The application  of this Act to such premises  as aforesaid  shall not extend to a letting in any market ...".

The word  "premises"  is not defined  in the Act.  I am of the opinion  that  it is fair to say that  it is plain  that  the  Legislature  is considering  primarily  physical  premises  such  as bui Idings. I find for instance,  in section  3 of the Act that the Act "shall apply to a house or part of a house let as a separate dwelling"  or, by extension  under section  13 of the Act, a  building.   That   argument   is  fortified   by  reference   to  other   sections   of  the  Act, particularly  section  10 (2)  0), where  it is said,   that  "the  dwelling-  house  is bona fide required   for  the  purpose   of  being  demolished,   reconstructed,   moved  or  improved". Moreover,   the  common   thread   running  through   the  jurisprudence    of  the  courts   of Seychelles    is  that  the   Legislature,    when   it  used   the  word   "premises,"     meant   physical premises    such   as  buildings.      In  the   Seychelles    Court   of  Appeal   case   of   West   &  East Sisters Island A.G v. Bernard Sanders Civil Appeal No. 31 of 1999, delivered on  13 April
2000, the Justices of Appeal opined as follows -

"Secondly, the lease agreement  specified  in no uncertain terms that the subject matter of the lease was the two islands. Nowhere  in the lease agreement  or  in the affidavits  of either  party  was  reference made to the lease of buildings  used for business  purposes.  True  it is that the Control of Rent and Tenancy  Agreements  Act mentions dwelling  house  and  that section   13 extends  the  provisions  of the Act to "premises used for business, trade or professional  purposes.

It is clear, however,  from the general  language  and purport of the legislation  that  it is meant  to  apply  to  rented  buildings,  be they dwelling    houses    or    buildings    used    for   business    purposes. Moreover,  a close  look at section  13 itself shows  that the section was not designed to, and cannot, apply to bare land ".


See also the case of Kim Koon v The Roman Catholic Church (1996) SLR 135 on point.

 

[17]     For these reasons in my opinion, 1 find that the tenancy which Plaintiff has of the Desk is not within the Act.   I, therefore,  hold that Plaintiff  is not a statutory  tenant  under section
12 (1) of the Act.  The result of that is that prayer (ii), (iii), (iv) and (v) fail.

 

[18]     Before I leave this matter, Istate out of interest that the decisive question  when looking at the issue of "ultra petita"  is whether or not the prayer for relief - (iv) loss and damages  in the sum  of  £uro  (£)  7800.00/-  and  continuing  against  Defendant  -  is covered  by  the evidence.   It  is noted  that  the  plaint  was  filed  on  26  March,  2008.  According  to  the evidence  of Plaintiff  the cause of action  arose  on 28  March, 2008,  when the  "counter" was removed.  Plaintiff claimed  loss and damages  as from 28 March, 2008.   It is plain that the evidence does not cover the said prayer for relief.


[19]     DECISION


[20]    I dismiss the plaint. There is 110 counter-claim  on record.

[21]    Each party shall bear its own costs.

 

 

Signed, dated and delivered at Ile du Port on 25 May 2016.

F Robinson
Judge of the Supreme Court