I want to know what action I can file against my lessee so I can eject them from the commercial space they leased from me. We have a renewable lease contract for three years that ended two months ago. I’ve decided not to renew the contract considering their rowdiness and I’ve told them about my decision weeks before the end of the lease period. I have repeatedly asked the lessee to vacate the leased premises but they refused and insisted on occupying my commercial space. I want to eject them but I’m not sure whether I would file a case for forcible entry or unlawful detainer since I was told by our barangay officers that both are actions for ejectment. I hope you can advice me on the proper legal action to take.
In order to answer your question, it is best that we first look at the similarities and differences of forcible entry and unlawful detainer as legal actions. From this, we will be able to identify the appropriate legal remedy for your situation.
Under the Revised Rules of Court of the Philippines, “…a person deprived of the possession of any land or building by force, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth, or a lessor, vendor, vendee or other person against whom the possession of any land or building is unlawfully withheld after the expiration or termination of the right to hold possession, by virtue of a contract, express or implied, or the legal representatives or assigns of any such lessor, vendor, vendee or other person, may at any time within one (1) year after such unlawful deprivation or withholding of possession, bring an action xxx for the restitution of such possession, together with damages and costs” (Rule 70, Sec. 1).
Both forcible entry and unlawful detainer are covered by the above-cited rule as actions that can be filed before the courts by a person who has a better right to possess a certain property but is not in actual possession of the same. The main difference between the two is the cause of action involved for the two actions. A decision by the Supreme Court clearly explains and discusses the use of these two actions, to wit:
“There are two entirely distinct and different causes of action under the aforequoted rule, to wit: (1) a case for forcible entry, which is an action to recover possession of a property from the defendant whose occupation thereof is illegal from the beginning as he acquired possession by force, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth; and (2) a case for unlawful detainer, which is an action for recovery of possession from the defendant whose possession of the property was inceptively lawful by virtue of a contract (express or implied) with the plaintiff, but became illegal when he continued his possession despite the termination of his right thereunder.
In forcible entry, the plaintiff must allege in the complaint, and prove, that he was in prior physical possession of the property in dispute until he was deprived thereof by the defendant by any of the means provided in Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rules either by force, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth. In unlawful detainer, there must be an allegation in the complaint of how the possession of defendant started or continued, that is, by virtue of lease or any contract, and that defendant holds possession of the land or building “after the expiration or termination of the right to hold possession by virtue of any contract, express or implied.” (Citiation omitted) (Sarmienta, et.al. vs. Manalite Homeowners Association, Inc., G.R. No. 182953, October 11, 2010)
“. . . The two are distinguished from each other in that in forcible entry, the possession of the defendant is illegal from the beginning, and that the issue is which party has prior de facto possession while in unlawful detainer, possession of the defendant is originally legal but became illegal due to the expiration or termination of the right to possess.
The jurisdiction of these two actions, which are summary in nature, lies in the proper municipal trial court or metropolitan trial court. Both actions must be brought within one year from the date of actual entry on the land, in case of forcible entry, and from the date of last demand, in case of unlawful detainer. The issue in said cases is the right to physical possession.” (Citations omitted) (Spouses Valdez vs. CA and Spouses Fabella, G.R. No. 132424, May 2, 2006, 489 SCRA 369)
Using this cited jurisprudence, it is clear that the proper action for ejectment that you should file is one for unlawful detainer. You mentioned in your letter that the person you wish to evict is your lessee due to the fact that the period of your lease contract has already expired. All the aforementioned requisites for filing an action for unlawful detainer are present in your case. You must first serve, however, a written demand for them to vacate the premises and pay rentals in arrears, if any, before you may file said action (Section 2, Rule 70, Revised Rules of Court of the Philippines).
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
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