Defending one's rights in court as a tenant/landlord in matters involving rental agreements

The Justice of the Peace (juge de paix) is the competent authority for resolving all disputes between tenants and landlords concerning the existence and performance of rental agreements, regardless of the rental amount.

Disputes concerning the setting of rental amounts and rental expenses are initially not referred before the Magistrate's Court, and must first be reviewed by the Rent Committee (Commission des loyers) of the relevant communal authority. For disputes relating to the setting of rental amounts, an action must first be brought before the Rent Committee before referring the matter to the Justice of the Peace.

Who is concerned

This procedure concerns all tenants or landlords of residential property. The following property types are therefore excluded:

  • those subject to commercial lease agreements;
  • those subject to administrative lease agreements;
  • those subject to industrial lease agreements;
  • rental agreements for artisanal use or for the exercise of a freelance profession;

The following property types are also excluded:

  • secondary residences;
  • premises not attached to a housing unit (e.g., a garage that is independent from a house);
  • hotel rooms;
  • shelters for temporary accommodation of foreigners for the purpose of their reception and integration in Luxembourg;
  • furnished or unfurnished dwellings in special accommodation facilities (old people's homes, integrated centres for the elderly, geriatric centres, centres for the disabled, etc.);
  • furnished or unfurnished dwellings made available to natural persons as part of a social assistance programme implemented by a commune, an association of communes, a non-profit association or a foundation involved the field of housing.

Prerequisites

 

Costs

In cases involving rental agreements, the parties are not required to engage a lawyer. The cost of the procedure is very limited if the tenant does not engage the services of a lawyer.

The application is filed as a simple request. Once the request is processed, the clerk of the court issues a summons to the concerned parties, which saves the latter having to pay bailiff fees.

The only costs are those related to travelling to hearings, the photocopying of exhibits, and the posting of exhibits to the adverse party by registered mail.

How to proceed

Reasons for legal action

For tenants, the reasons for legal action include:

  • the return of their deposit upon termination of the rental agreement;
  • disputes related to the amount of rental expenses;
  • a request for a grace period following the termination of a rental agreement by the landlord;
  • permission to carry out urgent work at landlord's expense.

Landlords most often bring actions to compel tenants to pay any rent arrears, terminate a rental agreement or obtain a ruling compelling a tenant to vacate the premises.

A judgement in such a case may, for example, serve as an authorisation validating an attachment of the tenant's earnings.

A landlord may also wish to carry out a distraint order (saisie gagerie) on the tenant's goods. The aim of this procedure is to seize the tenant's mobile property with a view to selling it—after validation of the seizure—to recover the amounts due to the landlord for rent arrears.

A judgement may also order the forced eviction of a tenant, should they refuse to leave the premises voluntarily.

Submission of the request

Depending on the location of the building, the applicant files a request with the Magistrate's Court of Luxembourg, Diekirch or Esch-sur-Alzette. As such, the first step is to determine which Magistrate's Court has jurisdiction over the territory in which the building is located.

  • the Luxembourg Magistrate's Court has jurisdiction over the cantons of Luxembourg, Grevenmacher, Mersch, and Remich, and the communes of Garnich, Hobscheid, Kehlen, Koerich, Kopstal, Mamer, Septfontaines and Steinfort;
  • the Magistrate's Court of Esch-sur-Alzette has jurisdiction over the canton of Esch-sur-Alzette and the communes of Bascharage, Clemency and Dippach;
  • the Magistrate's Court of Diekirch has jurisdiction over the cantons of Diekirch, Clervaux, Echternach, Redange, Vianden and Wiltz.

The request—which must be submitted on paper—should be filed with the clerk of the Magistrate's Court in as many copies as there are parties in the case. It must mention the surname, given name(s), profession and domicile of the parties. It must also summarise the grounds in support of the request and specify its object.

The clerk will then summon the parties by registered letter with notice of receipt.

On the date of the summons, the case will be called:

  • either the adversary fails to appear to defend themselves, in which event the case will immediately be heard and pleaded by default (that is, in the absence of the adversary);
  • or else the adversary appears, in which case another court date will be set for the pleading.

The time frame is quite short and serves above all to prepare the oral arguments and to provide the other party with the exhibits made available to the judge.

All evidence and supporting documents must be forwarded to the adversary, since only those documents provided initially and within a reasonable time frame will be considered by the judge (it is therefore pointless to appear at a hearing with 'surprise' evidence or forward the documents immediately before the oral arguments in an attempt to surprise the adversary).

Since some adversaries may act in bad faith, it is recommended to draw up a list of all of the forwarded documents and to send the documents by registered mail so that the adversary cannot claim that nothing was received or that they did not receive all of the documents.

At the beginning of the hearing for oral arguments, when the case is called by the judge, the plaintiff must stand up and say "plaise retenir l’affaire" (please hear the case).

During the oral arguments, the plaintiff presents their request and justifies it. Next, the adversary is allowed to speak. As the case may be, the plaintiff may respond again after the adverse party has presented their arguments.

At the end of the oral arguments, the judge will take the case under advisement (the time used by the judge to deliberate on the case and write up their judgement). The judge will set the date of the judgement ("prononcé"), i.e. the date on which the decision will be announce to the parties. Several days later, the clerk of court will send the judgement by registered mail to each of the parties.

The above description is especially intended for persons who do not wish to hire a lawyer.

Fast-track procedure

In all emergency cases, the Justice of the Peace may take provisional measures that do not give rise to any serious objections (such as the appointment of an expert, the setting of provisional rent, the preparation of an inspection of the premises). The Judge may therefore prescribe conservative or maintenance measures in summary proceedings either to prevent imminent injury or stop a manifest illegality.

Filing an appeal

An appeal may be filed against a decision of a Justice of the Peace with the territorially competent District Courts (Tribunaux d’Arrondissement) of Luxembourg or Diekirch within 40 days of the notice of the judgement, if the latter is the result of an adversarial proceeding. If it is a default judgement, the 40 day period starts on the day when objections are no longer admissible (objections may be raised within 15 days of the notice of the judgement).

For the appeal proceedings—as is the case for proceedings at first instance for matters relating to rental agreements—the parties are not required to be represented by a lawyer.

Who to contact

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