THE CYPRUS Property Action Group (CPAG), which represents some 50,000 property buyers with outstanding deeds, is leading the campaign with the backing of 60 MEPs and the European Commission’s Justice Minister Viviane Reding.
At CPAG’s behest, 42 of these MEPs sent a joint letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Reading on June 17, which said: “The practice of withholding Title Deeds or legal ownership of properties which have been paid for in full by the purchasers is an infringement of EU directive 2005/29/EC and Cypriot Laws 103 (I)/2007 which transposes it.”
Asked about the letter, CPAG’s Denis O’Hare said: “We have tried to enlist the MEPs because we got nowhere with the government of Cyprus, despite their amnesty on Title Deeds legislation… The problem of Title Deeds is still there.”
A confirmation by the Justice Minister that property developers are currently infringing this unfair practices directive would be a significant development for home buyers, because it would allow them to bypass Cypriot courts and go straight to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
This direct route to the ECHR is possible because the government, perhaps unwisely, stated its view that the directive does not apply to contracts of sale that predate the law, thereby exhausting buyers’ local options.
Following several complaints to the Cyprus Consumer Protection Service (CCPS) by home buyers who are waiting for deeds – once again with CPAG’s encouragement – nearly all were rejected for this reason.
O’Hare and the MEPs believe the government’s interpretation of the directive is wrong, however, and that the buyers have a strong legal case, since the directive talks about unfair practices ‘before, during and after a contractual relationship’ and as long a developer withholds the deed, the contractual relationship is continuing.
O’Hare said yesterday: “We believe the CCPS’ standard response is akin to saying that the government is going to implement a speeding law but it only applies to cars purchased after this law became effective”.
In addition to the MEPs, CPAG also has UK Minister for Europe David Lidington, who, no doubt to the dismay of local politicians, compared the purchase of usurped Greek Cypriot properties in the north to Title Deed problems in the south during a visit to the island earlier this week.
Lidington said: “I have letters from (British) MPs about the property issue in the south of Cyprus too… I am concerned to make sure as a British minister that the concerns of British citizens expressed to me by their members of parliament are understood by my colleagues here in Cyprus.”
O’Hare said CPAG is in direct communication with the European Union’s Justice Commission, which said that it was taking the matter seriously.
If the commission also finds in favour of the buyers, and the developers are shown to be infringing on the directive, then it could be up to the government to foot the bill since they are responsible for the non enforcement of a law.