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Buying property in Cyprus information & advice

The British High Commission in Nicosia has updated the information and advice it provides to UK citizens who are planning to purchase property in Cyprus.

CYPRUS is a popular destination for British nationals wishing to retire overseas or to purchase a holiday home. Despite many British nationals purchasing property without much difficulty, the process of buying land or a property in the Republic of Cyprus controlled areas or in the north of Cyprus has many potential pitfalls.

You should be aware that if you purchase a property in the Republic of Cyprus and the title deeds are not readily available your property could be at risk. The issues most frequently raised by British nationals include:

  • Land or property may, before or after contract, have new mortgages, loans or claims placed upon it by the developer or land owner. Please be particularly careful when dealing with this type of purchase.
  • Being unable to obtain permission to purchase (north)
  • Lawyers also acting for vendors or builders therefore not independent
  • Building taking place without the correct planning permissions/building permits (e.g. electricity or water)
  • Fluctuations in currency and interest rates affecting mortgages
  • Payment plans/fees not being included in the initial contract
  • Difficulty in obtaining certificates of final completion
  • Difficulty in obtaining title deeds
  • Difficulty in obtaining redress after problems are identified

With all property purchases, we strongly recommend that you seek independent legal advice. Check lists/golden rules are available via the following website, but these are not however a substitute for taking independent, qualified legal advice.

If you have purchased a property/land and are encountering difficulties, you should seek qualified independent legal advice on your rights and methods of redress. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British High Commission are not able to offer legal advice nor become involved with disputes between private parties. We can, however, direct British nationals to organisations who may be able to help and we can raise systemic issues with local authorities.

The High Commission publishes answers to Frequently Asked Questions about buying property.

You may also wish to check on the AIPP – Association of International Property Professionals website to see if the company/legal advisor you are wishing to deal with are members.

Crown Copyright 2011

Further information and advice:

From the British High Commission in Nicosia

Help for British Nationals › Living in Cyprus › Buying property in Cyprus

Help for British Nationals › Living in Cyprus › Buying property in Cyprus › Self help

Frequently asked questions buying property in Cyprus

Readers' comments

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  • Unbelievable says:

    Call their Bluff !!

    Let the Liquidators come in and try to sell the properties and make a profit. I’m sure the Developers would love that. Buying houses at a 50-80% discount.

    No, No..The banks cannot allow this to happen. They need the debt paid off. Someone has to pay the debt in the end.

    If the developer is allowed to go bankrupt, then property owners can do the same.

    Up yours Cyprus! Try wearing the shoe yourself and see how it fits!

  • @Philip – It seems that the only option available is for people to pay the developer’s debts to secure title to the property.

    Those debts will include the developer’s outstanding mortgage(s) plus any taxes owed plus the legal fees and court costs involved plus the receiver’s costs.

    Some people simply do not have the money, such as those who have retired to Cyprus and who are living on their pensions.

    It is a travesty and it’s up to the Cyprus government to put matters to rights.

    It is possible to petition the court when liquidations proceedings start. The aim of doing so would be to appoint a ‘private’ receiver who would try to preserve the interests of the buyers by liquidating other assets the company may have to repay its debts.

    (Incidentally, the article above is a direct copy from the British High Commission’s website).

  • Philip says:

    @Nigel.Your editorial rightly suggests that few are likely to agree to pay twice for their property.

    That said, assuming there is a developer’s mortgage on the property and that the developer is bankrupt, there would seem to be little else that can be done to resolve the situation, made worse by the requirement to pay the developers back taxes and a huge fee to the Official Receiver (12%).

    The whole thing is a travesty, but what alternative is there to that, other than to try and delay seizure by the banks, through the courts, itself an expensive process, with no guarantee of success.

  • Andrew says:

    I wonder how many people have used a lawyer listed by the British High Commission and now find that the home that they bought has an outstanding developer mortgage?.

    Maybe a name and shame list of lawyers would be more useful!.

  • Gavin Jones says:

    Simon – UK (12.30).

    Your second paragraph is telling, namely that “the CBA informed me this would not be a police matter…”: a crude example of employing deflection tactics and protecting their own – yet again.

    We all know full well what happened in your case.

    They bought some time with you by making this statement, enabling them to contact the lawyer in question and forcing him to cough up. It’s as simple as that.

    The lawyer will most definitely NOT be struck off or even subject to an official reprimand.

    On this theme, have you any idea how many lawyers in Cyprus have been struck off? NONE. Yet further confirmation (not that it’s required) of the sleaze and endemic corruption that exist here.

    Finally, there are indeed “bad people all over the world”. In the vast majority of cases in the West, they’re dealt with without grace or favour viz. British MPs expenses’ scandal, but in Cyprus they’re protected by those who hold the reins of power: THAT’S the difference. And the worst culprits? The lawyers, more than half of whom are Deputies in the Cypriot parliament.

  • Simon - UK says:

    Gavin Jones,

    I was very surprised that my demands were met within 48hrs. I was expecting the next step to be a visit to Larnaca CID. My father’s assets were sold for cash under my instructions. I think the police were interested because of the cash element.

    The CBA informed me this would not be a police matter, but because of the cash, I insisted it was!

    As you know, losing a loved one is very stressful and to have to deal with unscrupulous people on-top of all this…words cannot describe.

    There are bad people all over the world I’m afraid. Cyprus is so small with a tiny EU population with strong links to Britain – that’s what makes all this so sad.

    I will find it very difficult to love Cyprus the way I used too.

  • James JH Lockhart says:

    Where is the Rule of Law in Cyprus?

    Not with the AG or Cyprus Bar Association.

  • Gavin Jones says:

    Simon – UK.

    Thank you indeed for sharing your story.

    Before I continue, I would like to direct you to a letter which was published on this website and in the Cyprus Mail some months ago – ‘Dear Mr. Attorney General‘. It makes for illuminating reading.

    The denouement to this sorry tale of fraud and institutionalized corruption is as follows.

    After sending by email a copy of my published letter direct to the Attorney General, I received a reply from him stating that my case was being looked at.

    A few weeks later I received a ‘judgement’ from the AG stating that: I had apparently not been resident in Cyprus (a blatant lie as my wife and I were prime carers of my mother during her struggle with advanced dementia and had been in Cyprus for some time); he also stated that the lawyer’s affidavits lodged at the court, removing me as an executor and giving him control of my mother’s assets, stated that (a) he couldn’t locate me, (b) my mother had died in England (she died in Paphos) and (c) she’d died in 1998 (she died in 2007) were, and I quote, “common clerical errors”.

    The lawyer was therefore exonerated of all wrongdoing and continues to practise in Paphos. THIS is the true state of ‘Justice’ in Cyprus. Instead, we have a cartel run by lawyers for the benefit of lawyers with the AG acting as President of the Disciplinary Board of Advocates, a corrupt body which blatantly protects lawyers against all comers, regardless of the evidence.

    As a postscript to all this, I had to return to court with my lawyers, have my mother’s lawyer removed from the probate process and have myself reinstated as executor of my own mother’s will; this cost me 1,100 euros for the privilege.

    If anyone can beat this, I look forward to hearing from them.

  • andyp says:

    Congratulations Simon. Any good news is welcomed as it gives the rest of us a bit of hope.

    Having said that I made all 4 of your suggested complaints regarding my particular case and I am now heading for my 3rd year of getting nowhere.

    Alan/Nigel I was referring to the statement near the end of this article “we can raise systemic issues with local authorities”. Was simply hoping that they continue to do so and ensure that in particular our MEP’s and UK Government are continually updated. I appreciate diplomatic protocol and we are unlikely to get any direct info on the behind the scenes activity of The BHC.

  • Unbelievable says:

    Hi Denis, I hear you loud and clear mate.

    To be honest, I’ve never personally dealt with the BHC, so I shouldn’t make such comments as I’ve done below – sorry.

    I hope there is light at the end of the tunnel and BHC can and will influence the Cypriot ministers !

  • Simon - UK says:

    @Gavin Jones, Just read your comments and I really want to share my story for everyone’s benefit.

    My father past away in 2007. I instructed a Larnaca lawyer to deal with Probate. Assets were sold in the name of the Administrator (lawyer) and funds held in lawyers bank account whilst paperwork and legal matters were taking place.

    Over the months and years, I slowly lost contact with the lawyer. No replies to my emails and no one answering the phone?

    A year ago, I instructed another Larnaca lawyer to deal with a land boundary issue and also ask the (new) lawyer to contact the (missing) lawyer dealing with fathers probate. New lawyer tried to phone and wrote a couple of letters and also charged me for their time. They also had no reply from missing lawyer but did not advise me what to do next. Simple shrugged their shoulders. A year later I received paperwork from missing lawyer that I had to sign. It was in Greek and stated that all matters were finalised and lawyer had concluded business. I was told the courts needed this to settle the Probate. I signed and waited…

    Last week, I finally decided to contact the Cyprus Bar Association (which I should have done in the first place). http://www.cyprusbarassociation.org/contact_us.php

    They telephoned the (missing) lawyer and said they would contact me soon. After a week I heard nothing and emailed CBA. I said if I didn’t hear from lawyer within 48hrs, I would do the following;

    1. Register theft complaint with Cyprus CID Police
    2. Register complaint with BHC
    3. Register complaint with CBA Disciplinary Board
    4. Instruct another lawyer to handle the above

    TODAY…the funds were finally transferred.

    This isn’t B#lls##t. It’s true.

    I very much doubt if the CBA will discipline the lawyer. I guess the matter was resolved because they wanted to avoid a public flogging. Who knows?

    I’m just relieved it’s all over at last.

  • Denis O'Hare says:

    @Unbelievable

    I am singing out loud and hope you can hear me !

    Personally, I can’t speak too highly about Matthew Kidd and Property Officer Zoe Woodward and especially Roger Woods (previous Property Officer) who has now moved on to pastures new, but was always there for us when needed. Roger actually came and stayed with us of his own volition when we were under a certain threat. These and other people at the BHC continue to push the boundaries of the Foreign Office guidelines and are definitely on our side – so let’s give them the credit they deserve.

    They knock on Government doors, both here and in the UK, whenever we request them to and are extremely sympathetic to the plight of buyers in trouble. Matthew Kidd’s first move when he came to Cyprus was to find out about British people and their problems – this man cares and so do his staff.

  • Peter says:

    @ Nigel

    In the good old days the BHC would have sent a gun boat up river. Now we don’t have any left I actually see no point in retaining staff at the BHC, other than parties who do they actually achieve?

    We appear to attack other countries on pretexts of helping the inhabitants whilst disowning our own citizens (once subjects) abroad.

    Perhaps the British could start with seizing the assets of the Cyprus Republic in the UK, followed by doling it out to those who have been ripped off?

    Or am I being to realistic?

  • Oh dear – I wish I hadn’t posted that snippet :-(

    The point I was trying to make is that although the BHC can bring matters to the attention of the Cypriot authorities, it cannot intervene or dictate how things should be done.

    @Andrew – as for finding qualified independent legal advice, the BHC does publish a list of English-speaking lawyers.

  • Andrew says:

    Now let us hope that the British High Commission and the British Euro MPs all come together and sing with one voice from the same hymn sheet.

    One small amendment to the recommendations though.

    Finding qualified independent legal advice in Cyprus, is a bit like searching for the Holy Grail.

  • Unbelievable says:

    Hi Nigel,

    1st paragraph below; Relationships for whose benefit?
    2nd par; So 2 thirds of staff will be biased towards Brits
    3rd par; No longer needed I’m afraid
    4th par; Successful (dodgy) Cypriot firms
    5th par; Waste of Time!
    6th par; Where have the Press & Public Affairs department been hiding all these years!
    7th par; Well worth it. Keep it going
    8th par; Getting the coffees in and updates on local gossip

    Would anyone out there like to sing the praises for BHC for doing such a Sterling job?

  • Alan Waring says:

    @Nigel. For clarification, the quotation from the BHC’s website implies that they have absolutely NO role in bringing pertinent matters to the attention of the Cyprus government. It’s bland Sir Humphrey speak, making the BHC sound like a PR department!

    I would argue that ‘maintaining relations’ will undoubtedly involve at least subtle influence via diplomacy.

  • I think there is some misunderstanding of what the British High Commission is empowered to do. Here is a snippet from its website:

    “The British High Commission in Nicosia is responsible for developing and maintaining relations between Britain and Cyprus.

    The High Commission has around 80 staff, one third of whom come from the UK and two thirds are locally engaged.

    Our Consular and Visa section provides services for British citizens in Cyprus and issues visas for people wishing to visit Britain.

    Our Trade and Investment section’s main focus is to help British companies in developing successful business partnerships with Cypriot firms and organisations.

    Our Political staff work to promote political links between the UK and Cyprus both bilaterally and as EU partners and to help the parties achieve a settlement of the Cyprus problem and reunite the island.

    Our Press and Public Affairs section informs people in Cyprus about British policies and values and provides services for journalists, teachers and students and others with an interest in Britain.

    Our Defence section promotes British defence interests in Cyprus, developing links between the British and Cypriot military and the UN peacekeeping forces.

    Our Corporate Services staff is responsible for the day-to-day running of the High Commission.

    We work closely with the British Council in Cyprus on educational and cultural issues.”

  • Alan Waring says:

    @AndyP. I’m pretty sure that Mr Kidd the British High Commissioner is indeed well aware of the eccentricities regarding the CBA, the Disciplinary Board of Advocates and the unusual role of the Attorney General in it all. He was informed of the problem by many attending the public meeting he addressed in Paphos last year and others have also written to him.

    I would guess (hopefully not naively!) that this issue has been/is being raised with the Cyprus government but no doubt it will be within diplomatic protocols and niceties. They have to use subtle pressure whereas the public are less constrained. We can raise a stink, complain to MPs and MEPs, go on demos, and vote with our feet and our wallets. All of what we, CPAG etc have done has now provided the politicians and diplomats with weapons and ammo to exert their brand of pressure. The campaign goes on until victory.

  • Richard says:

    To be 100% fair – many of us who have been ‘caught out’ with property buying issues in Cyprus would have benefited taking more time before we got out our cheque books. I’m afraid I believe many of us were in too much of a tearing hurry & the time-old adage – “act in haste, repent at leisure” holds water for about 50% of the issues.

    Before I turn buyers into martyrs though – let me state I’m certainly NOT advocating that! We all know there are plenty of unresolved nasties that only surfaced once we’d taken the plunge. There is MUCH lobbying and influencing work still to do and the BHC need to help with that.

    If however – the net-net of the slowdown in time to purchase means people take more time before they commit – that’s good. Very good in fact.

    The over-supply situation / the ‘property mountain’ (at least those that are complete and not sliding gracelessly down a hillside someplace) will gradually lessen and the balance between demand and capacity will get closer towards equilibrium.

    The title deeds issue I think is not the main one. It’s hugely important yes – but first the damage caused by the ‘construction fever’ and corrective action by the banks to restore balance between yields and loan payments I see as a higher priority. I say this as without making housing fiscally viable in the short and long term NO-ONE will want to invest in anything – which means you could have a title deed gilded and sealed in a red silk ribbon – but against what – a money pit liability that will never be attractive to anyone but the really ‘more money than sense’ brigade as an investment?

    By only fixing the title deed situation, the only real benefit accrues to those who want to sell immediately and get out. Again – if that means the market’s suddenly flooded by those exiting it waving a clutch of newly acquired deeds – who will buy at a stroke in those sorts of numbers? Let’s be mindful that there is a surplus of ‘jet to let’ & ‘retirement’ property all over the world right now – and the world’s population and affluence of it isn’t rising THAT fast to soak it up!

    I understand if you are ageing and worried you will die before passing your home onto your surviving family – you can do this without the title deed?

    I still the route forward is more guidance and collaboration with the Euro MEP machinery working with the banking system, the Govt. in Cyprus and the various ‘professional’ associations to architect a fair and workable plan.

    I’ve racked my brains for a quicker, easier alternative and just CANNOT see one.

    Suggestions?

  • andyp says:

    Next step BHC.

    How about investigating the “systemic” failure of The Cyprus Bar Association to regulate it’s members and deal promptly, and more particularly fairly, with complaints?

    As we know, as should you (BHC) by now, The Cyprus Bar Association acts as a trade union protecting it’s members not the public.

    I could be wrong but I doubt it.

  • andyp says:

    Well done BHC. Taken a while but you got there.

    A lot clearer than it used to be particularly in regard to The ROC areas.

  • Peter says:

    “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British High Commission are not able to offer legal advice nor become involved with disputes between private parties.”

    Correct. They are far to busy with their own parties and saving people overseas to be bothered with tiresome British people. In short as much good as a chocolate teapot.

    Of course once Cyprus joins the EU they will then have to abide by the rules of the club?

  • Robert Briggs says:

    To cut a long story short, don’t touch anything without full & complete Title Deeds, end of story!

  • @Unbelievable – Information and advice has been available on the British High Commission’s website for some years. This is an update that was published on Monday.

    As for the list of lawyers, the High Commission has a Feedback Form where people can report back on their experiences – and if people have issues with any lawyers on the list, it is essential that they report the matter using the Feedback Form so that the High Commission can take the appropriate action.

  • Unbelievable says:

    Nigel & CPAG – This is excellent news that the ‘British High Commission’ have finally made some sort of acknowledgement of the property issues in Cyprus.

    It’s a shame they state, they cannot offer any legal advice. They do offer a list of ‘approved’ lawyers. I am 100% sure no one ever looks into whether these lawyers are any good at their jobs or if they fully adhere to the Cyprus laws.

    OK, one step at a time…I know

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