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Property problems in Cyprus

The British High Commissioner to Cyprus, Matthew Kidd, attended a meeting in London last month of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Defence of the Interests of British Property Owners in Cyprus.

LAST month the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Defence of the Interests of British Property Owners in Cyprus held its first meeting, at the House of Commons.

The Group was set up by Bill Cash MP and others, prompted by the accounts they had heard from constituents of their problems over buying property in Cyprus.

About 30 people, purchasers, lawyers, MP’s and researchers met to share their information and frustrations, and to consider what could be done to resolve their problems. The Group had invited David Lidington and me to explain what the British Government can do to support them.

Some of the individual stories we heard about were very distressing: people who had invested life savings in buying a home in Cyprus, and now found themselves with no house, no money, and large and growing debts. We also get frequent calls at the High Commission from British citizens caught up in such cases. It must feel like a nightmare to live through. Not surprisingly, people in that sort of trap look for help.

Many of them are now engaged in legal action, against the developers who sold them their properties, or the banks who lent them money, or other actors involved.

The government cannot take over all these private legal cases for them, and it’s not where we can add best value. But it was certainly useful to hear from some of those concerned, and from the lawyers working with them, about some of the avenues they are pursuing. We will be discussing these further with them.

So if we can’t help with individual legal cases, what can we do? Three kinds of thing:

  • We take up with the authorities here generic problems in the way the processes work, whether it be the Land Registry, the courts, the banking sector or wherever. These issues are often on my agenda when I call on Cypriot Ministers, for instance. And we do have some impact: it was good, for instance, to see that the Cypriot Foreign Minister Kasoulides acknowledged the problem in his recent speech in London in April when he spoke to Parliament.
  • We look for specific ways in which we may be able to help Cyprus tackle some of these problems of process. The new government’s commitment to modernising and simplifying government processes, and the undertakings in its Memorandum of Understanding with the Troika, may create some specific openings.

So it remains an important part of the overall service we offer to British citizens in Cyprus. The APPG session was an important reminder for me of the human stories that are the reason why it matters to do the best we can.

Matthew Kidd
High Commissioner to Cyprus

Readers' comments

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  • Maxwell Raymond Hannah says:

    Nigel, can I ask WHO My MEP is ?

  • Maxwell Raymond Hannah says:

    I agree with all that has been said here, until the CYPRIOT Government says to itself, Hey Guys we have to put ALL THIS RIGHT and goes about doing something, all we can do is what Haggis Demetriou suggests ie “Put a Banner outside your house stating this House has NO TITLES, this will do much more that the High Commissioner can or will do. I have found out that our Green area is too small and the Developer needs to pay a Huge sum of Money to LR Department etc before we can get Titles, so your guess is as good as mine, which means “NEVER” SO where can we go to for help, a Lawyer, the EU, Ha! Ha! We are just stuck in a BIG Hole, Perhaps a Miracle

    Regards to all

  • aggis demetriou says:

    Dear Titleless (including myself)

    Why don’t we just put large banners outside our properties to say (No Title on this one).
    I’m sure its as good or better than some minister having a speech at the EU, at least our banners will be up for ever and a reminder to others not to buy anything in Cyprus.

    Where’s the day light awareness…

  • @Denton Mackrell – As they say ‘every little helps’ and the more diplomatic pressure than can be put on Cyprus to clean up its property act the better.

    However, I feel that a solution will have to come from Europe and I would urge everyone caught in the ‘Title Deed-cum-fraud mess’ to write to their MEP.

    You will note that President Anastasiades has been meeting with ETEK to see how the issuance of Title Deeds can be accelerated – and Daniel Hannan MEP has raised another question in the European Parliament thanks to Denis O’Hare and CPAG (more on this later).

  • Geo says:

    So we do 3 things:

    1. We make sure that the stable door is now closed.
    2. We state the obvious.
    3. We advise Cyprus what they should do and they as usual ignore us.

  • Janner says:

    The APPG might not be able to force the Cypriot government to do anything meaningful but they could work towards the British government stating that it will not recognise European enforcement orders from Cyprus regarding property loan disputes. It’s not as if Cyprus would run crying to the EU when they have blatantly breached a number of EU directives themselves! Maybe then the Cypriot authorities would come to the table for meaningful discussions.

    I keep saying it. The Cypriot authorities have still to acknowledge the real problems regarding the property title deed and loan mess. They are hiding behind the issuing of title deeds as if its an administrative problem which can be speeded up. As we all know, it is not that simple due to the complex loan on loan situation etc…. (All been said many times before).

    I don’t think it will ever be acknowledged for the simple reason that, if they did, it would be obvious to all that it was government endorsed fraud and they would be slaughtered!

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    I have the greatest of sympathy for all those who have been hit by what, in general terms, might well be described as a joint criminal enterprise and sovereign corruption. However, there are legal and diplomatic limits to what foreign governments and foreign MPs (including the APPG) can do. For example, the UK government cannot intervene in the sovereign affairs of a foreign country. This creates a grey area as to just what they can do and just how far they can go.

    On this I have to agree with other posters here that they appear to have been far too cautious. This may send the wrong signals to the Cyprus government that there will be no real consequences for Cyprus if they politely promise to do better about HMG’s ‘concerns’ but in reality do little of nothing. A little more stick than carrot is called for after all these years of official skulduggery, lies and broken promises from the the Cyprus government.

    @Andrew. As to the APPG being just a front for a members’ ‘jolly’, perhaps a ‘fact-finding’ mission or two to Cyprus in the summer months, who can say. However, with a surname like his, the APPG chairman Mr Cash is surely unfairly handicapped!!

  • Andrew says:

    Maybe the APPG thought that Cyprus would make a nice little jolly. Something along the lines of a recent ficticious jaunt to Fiji.

    It is a sad reflection on society when elected parliamentarians do little or nothing to protect those who have elected them.

    How about telling Cyprus in no uncertain terms that any arrangement or loan between a bank and a developer is exactly that. It should have nothing to do with a home buyer, especially any buyer who was not properly represented by their lawyer.

  • kufrahdog says:

    @ High Commissioner – thank you for your article. I write as one who is engaged in legal process and who has suffered grievously from a dishonest banker, a lawyer who failed in his duty of care to me and a developer who made false declarations in my contract of sale to the extent that the house I paid for in full is illegal.

    I must say that I am profoundly disappointed by the All Party Group for the Defence of British Property owners in Cyprus and the courses of action you have outlined. I am not a diplomat or a politician but I do feel that the Group could have taken a stronger and more robust line for the purpose of bringing about change for the better and a greater measure of protection for abused and exploited British citizens overseas.

    Until I am convinced otherwise I would characterise the Group’s approach as ‘weak’ and say it ‘could do better’.

    Sceptically yours …

  • Steve says:

    The huge opportunity for politicians to achieve change in Cyprus seems to me to have been on the occasion of Cyprus’ application to accede to membership of the EU; it was wasted.

    The United Kingdom no longer has any special influence in Cyprus, indeed it may be that following the acrimonious divorce of Cyprus from the UK over 50 years ago, that the best way to get the Cypriots to do something is to get the UK (or the Turks) to ask them to do the opposite.

    In theory, the means to address some of the worst aspects of the treatment of property buyers already exists, but the novel Cypriot interpretation of the law, means that no justice can be obtained. For example, the police and Attorney-General Clerides do not regard fraud as perpetrated by builders and solicitors here as criminal offences. Perhaps this is where a start could be made.

  • Pippa says:

    So “the Cypriot Foreign Minister Kasoulides acknowledged the problem in his recent speech in London in April when he spoke to Parliament”. And what pray is the government actually going to do about it? Probably not a lot except make as much money as possible from the unsuspecting buyers who still do not have title deeds after many many years of broken promises.

    Until there is more universal media coverage, there will be lip service paid to the problem. Meanwhile the value of property decreases, debts rise, and nothing happens.

  • Janner says:

    Are the Cypriot authorities too proud to say they got it wrong. They have a system which relied on prices going up so they could turn a blind eye to everything. Since it has come crashing down and awkward questions being asked about the large scale government endorsed fraud they don’t like it. They can dress it up all they want. A spade is a spade. They simply cannot comes to terms with the mess they alone are responsible for. Until that happens all this is pie in the sky. The first step is always to admit you got it wrong. What makes strong effective leadership is those that admit their errors and then put it right!

  • Clive says:

    Equally High Commissioner in order to get a complete picture, you could also look at the many, many cases of British Citizens who had trouble-free experiences of buying property in Cyprus. What did they do that the others who got into difficulties didn’t do?

  • Costas Apacket says:

    Perhaps, Mathew, you could provide us with some details as to what the BHC in Cyprus has actually achieved for any UK purchasers of property in the highly unsafe and corruption riddled Cypriot property market over the last 10 years?

    I hate to ask for answers on a postage stamp or make any references to chocolate fireguards, so maybe your very valuable examples of what has been achieved will render any such references unnecessary?

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