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Property rules

A relationship impliedly renewed

MSI and Vie entered into a contract of lease over a parcel of land in Manila. The lease contract was for a period of one year, with a fixed monthly rental.

After the expiration of the lease contract, Vie continued occupying the subject premises without paying the rent. This led MSI to send a letter to Vie demanding that she vacate the subject premises and pay compensation for its use and occupancy. Vie, however, refused to heed these demands.

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In view of the repeated refusal to vacate and pay, MSI filed a complaint for unlawful detainer against Vie.

In response to the complaint, Vie alleged that: (a) MSI had no right to collect rentals because the subject premises are located inside the property of a government office; (b) MSI had no certificate of title over the subject premises; and (c) her signature in the contract of lease was obtained through MSI’s misrepresentation.

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She likewise maintained that she is now the owner of the subject premises she had been in possession of since 1944.

Q: What is an action for unlawful detainer?

A: An action for unlawful detainer exists when a person unlawfully withholds possession of any land or building against or from a lessor, vendor, vendee or other persons, after the expiration or termination of the right to hold possession, by virtue of any contract, express or implied.

Q: What is the issue to be resolved in unlawful detainer cases?

A: The only issue to be resolved in an unlawful detainer case is the physical or material possession of the property involved, independent of any claim of ownership by any of the parties involved. Thus, when the relationship of lessor and lessee is established in an unlawful detainer case, any attempt of the parties to inject the question of ownership into the case is futile, except insofar as it might throw light on the right of possession.

Q: What is the effect if the lessor does not give the lessee a notice to vacate upon the expiration of the written lease contract, and the latter continued enjoying the subject premises for more than 15 days, without objection from the former?

A:By the inaction of the lessor, there can be no inference that it intended to discontinue the lease contract.

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An implied new lease was therefore created pursuant to Article 1670 of the Civil Code, which expressly provides:

Article 1670. If at the end of the contract the lessee should continue enjoying the thing leased for fifteen days with the acquiescence of the lessor, and unless a notice to the contrary by either party has previously been given, it is understood that there is an implied new lease, not for the period of the original contract, but for the time established in Articles 1682 and 1687. The other terms of the original contract shall be revived.

Hence, an implied new lease or tacita reconduccion will set in when the following requisites are found to exist: a) the term of the original contract of lease has expired; b) the lessor has not given the lessee a notice to vacate; and c) the lessee continued enjoying the thing leased for fifteen days with the acquiescence of the lessor.

As earlier discussed, all these requisites have been fulfilled in the present case.

Q: What will be the period of the implied new lease?

A: Since the rent was paid on a monthly basis, the period of lease is considered to be from month to month, in accordance with Article 1687 of the Civil Code. A lease from month to month is considered to be one with a definite period which expires at the end of each month upon a demand to vacate by the lessor.

Q: When will the implied new lease be deemed terminated?

A: In this case, when MSI sent a notice to vacate to the petitioner, the tacita reconduccion was aborted, and the contract is deemed to have expired at the end of that month.

A notice to vacate constitutes an express act on the part of the lessor that it no longer consents to the continued occupation by the lessee of its property. After such notice, the lessee’s right to continue in possession ceases and her possession becomes one of detainer.

Q: Was Vie correct when she said that MSI had no authority to lease the subject premises because the latter failed to prove that it is its owner or administrator?

A: No. The Rules of Court protects the lessor, from being questioned by the lessee regarding its title or better right of possession over the subject premises. Section 2(b), Rule 131 of the Rules of Court states that the tenant is not permitted to deny the title of his landlord at the time of the commencement of the relation of landlord and tenant between them.

Art. 1436 of the Civil Code likewise states that a lessee or a bailee is estopped from asserting title to the thing leased or received, as against the lessor or bailor.

The above provisions bar the lessee from contesting the lessor’s title over the subject premises. The juridical relationship between a lessor and a lessee carries with it a recognition of the lessor’s title.

A lessee is estopped from denying the landlord’s title, or to assert a better title not only in herself but also in some third person while she remains in possession of the subject premises and until she surrenders possession to the landlord.

This estoppel applies even though the lessor had no title at the time the relation of the lessor and the lessee was created, and may be asserted not only by the original lessor, but also by those who succeed to his title.

Once a contact of lease is shown to exist between the parties, the lessee cannot by any proof, however strong, overturn the conclusive presumption that the lessor has a valid title to or a better right of possession to the subject premises than the lessee.

The relation of lessor and lessee does not depend on the former’s title but on the agreement between the parties, followed by the possession of the premises by the lessee under such agreement.

As long as the latter remains in undisturbed possession, it is immaterial whether the lessor has a valid title—or any title at all—at the time the relationship was entered into.

(Source: Samelo vs. Manotok Services, Inc., G.R. No. 170509, June 27, 2012)

Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis President, Philippines Association of Law Schools; Dean, Lyceum of the Philippines University; Senior Partner, Gatchalian Castro & Mawis Law Office

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