ON THE EVE of the European Court of Justice ruling on the Orams case, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office raised the warning level to Britons who have bought or who are considering buying Greek Cypriot owned property in the areas of the island under Turkish occupation.
This revised advice can be found on the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) website on its Travel Advice for Cyprus page in the General – Purchasing Property section; a summary follows:
THE OWNERSHIP OF MANY PROPERTIES IS DISPUTED IN NORTHERN CYPRUS, with many thousands of claims to ownership of properties from people displaced during the events of 1974. Purchase of these properties could have serious financial and legal implications.
Buying a Greek Cypriot owned property in the Turkish occupied areas without the owner’s consent is a criminal offence, carrying a prison sentence of up to 7 years.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in a number of cases that owners of property in northern Cyprus prior to 1974 continue to be regarded as the legal owners of that property.
PURCHASERS COULD FACE LEGAL PROCEEDINGS IN THE COURTS OF THE REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS, as well as attempts to enforce judgements from these courts elsewhere in the EU, including the UK.
Property owners and potential purchasers should also consider that a future settlement of the Cyprus problem could have serious consequences for property they purchase (including the possible restitution of the property to its original owners).
In particular, prospective purchasers should consider the implications of any future settlement on land/property:
- in the north that was Greek Cypriot owned
- that was subsequently classified as exchange land/property by the Turkish Cypriot “authorities”.
On 20 October 2006 a criminal code amendment relating to property came into effect. Under the amendment, buying, selling, renting, promoting or mortgaging a property without the permission of the owner (the person whose ownership is registered with the Republic of Cyprus Land Registry, including Greek Cypriots displaced from northern Cyprus in 1974), is a criminal offence. This also applies to agreeing to sell, buy or rent a property without the owner’s permission.
The maximum prison sentence is seven years. Furthermore, the amendment to the law states that any attempt to undertake such a transaction is a criminal offence and could result in a prison sentence of up to 5 years.