I built my restaurant in the land of my uncle some 20 years ago. He permitted me to stay there without any fee because he had no use of the land anyway. After he died last year, his children, my cousins, wanted me to vacate the land. I strongly opposed their order because it was the desire of their father for me to stay in the land, and they do not need the land yet, because their father had left many properties. Can I assert my right to stay over the property? Am I now the owner of the property since I stayed there peacefully for two decades?
Dear Mr. Gomez,
Your right over the property is subject to the provision of Article 1935 of the Civil Code governing the contract of commodatum. This law provides that “the bailee in commodatum acquires the use of the thing loaned but not its fruits; if compensation is to be paid by him who acquires the use, the contract ceases to be a commodatum.” The nature of commodatum is purely personal in character. Consequently: (1) the death of either the bailor and the bailee extinguishes the contract; (2) The bailee can neither lend nor lease the object of the contract to a third person. However, the member of the bailee’s household may make use of the thing loaned, unless there is a stipulation to the contrary, or unless the nature of the thing forbids such use (Article 1939, Civil Code).
Your relationship with your uncle is governed by the contract of commodatum, because he allowed you to make use of his land without any fee or compensation. Considering the foregoing and based on the above provision of law, the death of your uncle extinguishes your right to stay over his land even if, as you have stated, it is his desire for you to stay in the property and even if his children have no use of such land. Thus, your cousins, who are the legal heirs of your uncle can demand that you surrender to them the property which they have acquired by succession, if they so desire it.
On the same manner, you cannot own the land where you built your restaurant even if you have stayed there for 20 years. Mere tolerance of the owner of the land is not one of the modes of transfer of a property even if your stay therein for a long period of time was peaceful and undisturbed. Absent any contract of sale or donation, ownership over the land is transferred to the children of your uncle who could dispose it at their will.
We hope that we have answered your query. Our legal opinion may vary if other facts are stated or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com