My aunt has a small property in Sampaloc, Manila. It has been a couple of years since she last stayed there. She has no family of her own and she moved to our house here in Laguna because we offered to take care of her after she suffered a mild stroke four years ago. Her friend, who used to live in Sampaloc, Manila, called to inform us that my aunt’s neighbor is already occupying her property. She explained that the house was somewhat ruined by the past typhoons and flooding but expressed her concern that my aunt might have a problem taking back the property if she will not act now. She also told my aunt that her neighbor is demanding that she be paid. Is she correct in her claims? Does my aunt really need to pay her even if there is no actual contract between them?
It is true that contracts give rise to obligations between the parties thereto. It bears stressing, however, that contracts are not the only source of obligations. Obligations also arise from law, quasi-contracts, acts or omissions punishable by law and quasi-delicts. (Article 1157, New Civil Code of the Philippines)
In the situation that you presented before us, we believe that what exists between your aunt and her neighbor is not a contract where there is a meeting of the minds between them to give something or to render some service for consideration or otherwise. Rather, what exists between your aunt and her neighbor is a quasi-contract, particularly relating to negotiorum gestio whereby a person (in this case, your aunt’s neighbor) voluntarily takes charge of the management of the business or property of another (your aunt) without any power from the latter (Article 2144, New Civil Code of the Philippines).
In the main, your aunt, the owner of the property, has no obligation to pay her neighbor since the management of the property was unilaterally taken by the latter. If, however, your aunt gained any advantage to the management done by her neighbor, or if there were necessary and useful expenses paid by her neighbor to save her property, then she may be subjected to pay. This is in consonance with Article 2150 of the above-mentioned law which provides that:
“Although the officious management may not have been expressly ratified, the owner of the property or business who enjoys the advantages of the same shall be liable for obligations incurred in his interest, and shall reimburse the officious manager for the necessary and useful expenses and for the damages which the latter may have suffered in the performance of his duties.
The same obligation shall be incumbent upon him when the management had for its purpose the prevention of an imminent and manifest loss, although no benefit may have been derived.”
It is further provided for under Article 2151 of the same law that “Even though the owner did not derive any benefit and there has been no imminent and manifest danger to the property or business, the owner is liable as under the first paragraph of the preceding article, provided: (1) The officious manager has acted in good faith, and (2) The property or business is intact, ready to be returned to the owner.”
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed 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 firstname.lastname@example.org