IN the matter of two days, two San Juan market vendors have been granted leave to take the San Juan/Laventille Regional Corporation to court over rental fees.
And, there are at least eight more applications which have been filed for which leave is yet to be granted.
The latest vendor to receive the court’s permission to pursue its legal challenge over rental fees is Bassant Sankar.
Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams on Thursday granted leave to him to pursue his application. On Wednesday, Justice Ricky Rahim also granted leave to another vendor.
The vendors are asking the court to review the decision of the corporation to increase and demand rent for stalls at the San Juan Public Market.
In their applications, they say the rent being demanded by the corporation is in excess of what is prescribed by the Market (San Juan/Laventille) Bye Laws 1996.
The decision to increase rent affects more than 150 vendors.
Earlier in August, vendors protested the move, saying the increased rent was almost ten times what was prescribed by law. In 2006, when the bye laws for the market were approved, rent charged was $3 and $5 per day, in some cases and $5 in others.
In 2010, rent increased to $50 per week, per stall or $200 per month. Five years later, rent again increased by $10, and one year later, in June 2016, rent was increased to $800. The vendors say they are struggling to meet expenses which includes buying goods and paying transport costs.
They want the court to declare that the action of the corporation was illegally, unlawful and unreasonable.
They are also asking that all rent paid which are in excess of what was prescribed by the bye laws be returned to them.
At Thursday’s leave hearing at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain, more than 20 of the 99 affected vendors were in court.
In response to a query by the judge on the possibility of resolving the matter, their attorney, Gerald Ramdeen told the judge when contacted on Wednesday, after the court’s notice was served on the corporation, the legal officer indicating that they will not be appearing for the hearing.
Ramdeen said it was “shocking,” “unusual” and “troubling” that a public authority could take that position. “Every litigant has a duty to assist the court. All these vendors are affected and we cannot get a simple answer from a public authority.”
Again in response to a question from Quinlan-Williams on the payment of the increased rent, Ramdeen said since the corporation responded to the vendors’ pre-action protocol letter in August, they have tried to pay their rent, but it was not being accepted.
“There is a consequence to not paying rent under the bye laws,” he added.
The judge has adjourned the first case management conference to October 15. Sankar is to file his claim by Friday afternoon.