A BRITISH couple is planning to sue property developer Tsaggaris Developers of Avgorou, after he allegedly sold them an unfinished and illegally built house, demanded additional payments and then waged a campaign of harassment that has “destroyed” their lives.
Janet and Keith Smith say the harassment began after they learned their first lawyer was simultaneously representing the developer, and had stalled their planned legal action. Having appointed a new lawyer, the couple said their home was attacked, cement thrown in their pool and their car tyres slashed.
Fortunately, the Smiths seem to have found an ally in the President’s Under Secretary, Titos Christofides, who has promised to support them by preventing delays in the court case and launching full investigations into the lawyer and the developer.
“At the end of the day this is a tragic story,” Christofides said yesterday. “I think that they are right, but they are in a difficult position from a legal point of view. We (the President’s Office) cannot solve the problem but we try, as far as our office’s responsibilities go, to make sure that it is solved in an honest and proper way.”
He added: “All our sympathies are with them.”
Like many British couples, the Smiths came to Cyprus with dreams of a fresh start in a sunnier climate. In the wake of a family tragedy, they sold their home in the UK and bought a house in Avgorou in Famagusta for €205,000.
Janet Smith said: “We have been coming to Cyprus for years, and after our daughter died we decided to bring our grandson here for a new start. He is fifteen now but he’s been in our custody since he was three.”
However, when they arrived in March 2009 to begin their new life, they discovered that their dream home property was incomplete, drawing electricity from next door and without its own supply of running water.
In the meantime they said the developer started demanding payment to complete the property’s basic infrastructure, such as steps outside and a water tank on the roof. The Smiths also claim he took an advance for a swimming pool and air conditioning which he has not completed.
“The electricity was off more than it was on, and he (the builder) started demanding money for work on the house. At that time we were very vulnerable and so we continued to pay” said Smith.
With escalating costs and their savings dwindling, they sought legal help. However, after months of pressing their lawyer, it transpired that he also represented the builder.
The Smiths found another lawyer, after which the relationship with the builder became hostile, they said, as he allegedly refused to plumb the house into the water mains, or connect the house to the electricity grid.
The couple then fell victim to a campaign of harassment that caused untold misery, health problems and further costs. “Once, the girlfriend of the builder arrived at the house and began verbally abusing me, saying that nobody would support us because we were English, and telling us to go home. I was frightened.” Smith reported the incident to Xylofagou police, who cautioned the woman on February 26.
“It’s destroyed us. It has made me very ill, we’ve run out of cash and we’re being harassed out of the country.” said Smith, who says the ordeal has exacerbated her diabetes and cost them thousands in flights, to and from Cyprus, furniture shipping costs and rent in the UK.
The attacks also had affected their 15-year-old grandson, and just months after moving in they sent him back to the UK to live with one of his aunts because he did not feel safe.
In desperation, the Smiths went to the Presidential Palace and insisted on having their concerns heard.
They are due to go back to the UK later this week, returning to Cyprus for the trial. “I don’t want to disrespect this country, but we feel we don’t want to be here anymore. We just want our money back and to make sure this does not happen to any other families.”
The couple wants to hear from any other house buyers with similar experiences and have invited them to phone on +442476346210 or +447977825768