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Nigel Howarth meets the Troika

I spent nearly four hours with nine delegates from the troika last Sunday evening discussing the many problems faced by those who have bought property in Cyprus and their possible solutions.

distressed propertyLAST Thursday I received an email from a member of the troika delegation asking if I could spare the time to attend “a short informal meeting…”. How could I possibly refuse!

The meeting went ahead on Sunday at a hotel in Nicosia; in attendance myself and nine delegates from the Troika; the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The ‘short’ meeting continued for nearly four hours during which time we discussed many of the problems faced by those who have bought property on the island and who have yet to receive their Title Deeds.

The delegation understood the issues very well and I felt I was there as ‘the voice of the buyers’ to improve their understanding of the impact of those problems and to offer my opinion on possible ways they could either be alleviated or removed completely.

Although I cannot reveal the details of our discussion, I can perhaps outline some of the areas we considered.

The main topic, not surprisingly, was the delay in issuing Title Deeds and the many complications and problems faced by those who have been waiting to secure ownership of ‘their’ property for many years.

We spoke about possible ways that the issuance of Title Deeds could be streamlined, the problems of hidden developers’ mortgages and how these and other claims, prevented the transfer of title to the property’s rightful owner – and the banks’ practice of double-lending on the same collateral and their reluctance to chase developers who failed to repay their debts.

We also talked about development companies in receivership. Their customers are facing ‘requests’ from liquidators for contributions to help pay the developers debts or face the prospect of their losing homes even though they have paid for them in full or are maintaining their home loan repayments. (The Daily Express has published yet another horror story today.)

Other topics we covered included Immovable Property Tax, Certificates of Completion, the Town Planning Amnesty and the lack of demand for housing.

Although we could have continued our discussions throughout the night, I left convinced that the troika is truly engaged with property issues having spent nearly four hours of their evening with me discussing the many problems and possible solutions.

Readers' comments

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  • john burton says:

    Thanks Nigel for taking time out to attend the meeting with Troika I really appreciate it.
    I am sure the time you spent with them would have had a positive impact.
    Being that they know you understand the problems that people are going through, they would have taken everything you said seriously I am sure.
    Keep up the good work you are doing in keeping everybody informed of new developments.
    Yours Sincerely John Burton.

  • Ian Johnson says:

    You appear to really have your finger on the pulse Nigel what would we do without you – Ian

  • Janner says:

    @Nigel Howarth, can you confirm that the troika are aware that some purchasers maybe choosing not to service their bank debt as they thought they had a mortgage and not a loan and they thought they would one day own it?

    Do they know that purchasers will be reluctant to pay thousands to only end up like the poor souls who bought outright only to find that they don’t own their property and that it can be seized to pay off developers debts?

    Please tell me the troika are fully aware of all of this and that the onus is on ‘purchasers’ to pay everything to then try and put right any wrongs over a 10+ year court battle through a judicial system costing them even more just to try and own something that the Cypriot system definitely did want us to believe when we signed up!

    @Janner – Yes I did raise this point and the options available to ‘entrapped’ buyers.

  • M Hannah says:

    My Many Thanks goes out to you Nigel. At last The Troika and EU know exactly what is going on Here in Cyprus. We will see what happens now, Hope something Gigantic Occurs, if not, then we will all know why, and that only a Mega Lightning Bolt from the Sky will do the trick.
    Many Thanks again Nigel,
    Max Hannah

  • @Louise steel – thank you for your comments – if you’re going to put my name forward for an OBE, please put Denis O’Hare’s name forward as well. CPAG are still very active behind the scenes and Denis has done a lot to get us where we are today.

    And I hope I can speak for all those who’s been lied to, cheated and deceived by the conmen who masquerade as property developers, estate agents, lawyers and bankers – not just the British.

  • Louise steel says:

    I have just read, this news and it gave me inspiration to believe that this despicable and disgusting situational that trusting buyers may at last get some justice it what has been going on in Cyprus for years. Greed fraud cheats and liars. These innocent buyers deserve JUSTICE.

    Well done Nigel, if this corruption is correct for these innocent trusting buyers, you deserve and OBE for the trust you have built looking after and being the voice for the British buyers in Cyprus.

  • Alan Waring says:

    I too thank Nigel for getting the message across to the Troika. I suspect that, having now heard all the ‘official’ voices that they were obliged to listen to i.e. those with significant vested interests in not changing the rotten status quo, the Troika are now formulating some sort of strategy for the NPL + title deeds mess. That may explain their invitation to Nigel as someone with expertise and not part of the rotten establishment.

    With ref to Nigel’s response to Kuhfradog, I too can attest to the effectiveness of the ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) in Hong Kong, with whom I had considerable professional connections 2004-2011. Moreover, is it not instructive that Polis Polyviou in his official inquiry report into the 2011 Mari Disaster specifically recommended the establishment of an ICAC in Cyprus. I have enquired several times since the Polyviou Report how many of his recommendations have been implemented. As recently as last week, by all accounts the answer is: none.

    Nigel, another topic (an ICAC for Cyprus) to add to your next agenda list when you next meet the Troika!!

  • @Jeremy Rigg – The 1980 value of your property as shown on your deeds has to be incorrect. You can challenge this valuation NOW at the Land Registry.

    Based on a €600K 1980 valuation you will have paid in the region of €10,000 Immovable Property Tax last year.

    Is that correct?

  • Mark Tyler says:

    This made wonderful reading. Probably the most encouraging thing for the tens of thousands waiting for title deeds since the Troika demanded fast-track issuance of title deeds as one of the conditions attached to the 2012 bailout.

    We know now that this “condition” has been reneged on by Cyprus, although such renege is entirely in keeping with dark traditions of the ruling “establishment”. The Troika must insist on proper performance of the “Contract” by which Cyprus received its bailout. Lest a program of Sanctions are to be imposed on Cyprus to ensure such performance of contract.

    Well Done Nigel!

  • Jeremy Rigg says:

    I built a house in Anoyira village some 15 years ago.

    It took me 11 years and cost me €9,000 to get the tile deeds. It was an absolute nightmare, but we got there in the end! Without even looking at the property, it was valued on the deeds at €600K. About twice what it was worth then, and vastly more than I could ever sell it for even now. I am told by the authorities that I only had 3 months to contest this amount, which I didn’t, being so euphoric about just getting them. Can I expect the valuation to be done again in line with the Troika directive on revaluing all properties by summer 2014?

    Jeremy Rigg,
    5 Exo Frakti St,
    Anoyira Village 4603

  • Jimmy says:

    The meeting went ahead on Sunday at a hotel in Nicosia; in attendance myself and nine delegates from the Troika; the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

    Looks to me like butts are going to get kicked. The above paragraph says it all. MONEY.
    Jimmy.

  • @All – Thank you for your comments

    Having worked on a BPR (Business Process Reengineering) project in a past life, the transformation from where we are now to where we should be will take a few years. As I said earlier, there is no quick fix or magic wand, but there may be some ‘low hanging fruit’ to ease some of the problems in a relatively short period of time.

    @Pete – May 13, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    The government must surely realise that property is a key driver of the island’s economy. If they do not fix the problems, the property sector and associated industries will never recover. They may not want to change, but ultimately they have no other option.

    @mh – May 13, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    The Troika does not have the power to intervene in judicial processes even if it wanted to – and I can assure you they already have a very good grasp of the property situation.

    There’s nothing left of the property market to jeopardise, but any changes have to be planned and implemented in a controlled manner, bit by bit. As I said above, it will take a few years but there may be a few quick wins.

    @Keith – May 14, 2014 at 7:16 am

    It wasn’t a secret meeting (it was held in public space). And I’m not going to reveal anything told to me in confidence – doing so would wreck my credibility and reputation.

    @kufrahdog – May 14, 2014 at 8:02 am

    It probably is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle (but it helps if you put it through a liquidiser first). Corruption in other countries has been cleaned up – I was in Hong Kong a couple of years after the ICAC was set up the locals were scared out of their wits.

    @Ivan – May 14, 2014 at 8:18 am

    At the time of the transfer documents have to be produced at the Land Registry showing that Immovable Property Tax, Capital gains tax, Sewerage Board Tax, Town rates and Communal rates have been paid. Under the present system if the vendor hasn’t paid then the purchaser has to (if he wants to secure ownership of the property) and then sue the vendor to recover his money. This is unsatisfactory!

    @Paradox – May 14, 2014 at 8:42 am

    The repossession issue is a repugnant and I can assure you the Troika are well aware of the ‘hidden’ mortgages, buyers being held to ransom and threats of repossession. Currently the government is leaving this to the banks to sort out – it must step in to protect people.

    @Peter Davis – May 14, 2014 at 8:52 am

    The Troika has a very good grasp of the situation. As I said in the article I was there as ‘the voice of the buyers’ to improve their understanding of the impact of those problems and to offer my opinion on possible ways they could be either alleviated or removed completely.

    @Tracy – May 14, 2014 at 9:30 am

    I know that many people are cynical about what the Troika can achieve, but they don’t have a magic wand. (I was speaking to Denis O’Hare yesterday about the ECHR ruling – hopefully there’ll be some further developments).

  • Costas Apacket says:

    Well done and thank you, Nigel.

    At least the Troikladites cannot claim not to know the facts and so from now on, by their actions, they will be judged.

  • Paull says:

    it’s encouraging that they sought the advice of someone who doesn’t have his nose in the trough.
    Thanks Nigel

  • Deanna says:

    Brilliant Nigel: at last they’re speaking to the right people.
    Well done and thank you from all of us.

  • Tracy says:

    I think most of us remain cynical about what the Troika can do to help people who have been affected by his corrupt mess. Considering the influence that corrupt entities in Cyprus have, not only within but outwith Cyprus, for instance in relation to the illogical outcome of the ECHR cases as Jon points out, I doubt it’s going to be an easy or short ride to justice.

  • MartyG says:

    Yes, a very Big WELL DONE Nigel and CPB/CPN. Those who criticise the ‘secrecy’ fail to understand how the RoC ‘grapevine’ massages and convoluted almost everything that gets said – and is itself therefore a key root of the many and varied problems discussed.

    Let’s just hope that the Troika listened hard and well – and are prepared to TACKLE these root problems in the search for short, medium and longer-term solutions to the present ‘rat’s nests’. TROIKA are not noted for actions to eradicate some of the deep-seated problems endemic in ClubMed business and banking practices.

    One thing re NPLs needs particular emphasis and attention – WHY are developers allowed to default on interest and capital payments. The reasons must lay inside the Banks and, I guess, within so pme of the peculiarities of Cyprus’ business and banking ‘practice’ that quite simply ‘beggar belief’.

    Again well done Nigel and CPB/CPN for getting involved in the Troika search for solutions to the deep-seated and, in many cases, it seems, rotten-to-the-core problems and practices in RoC.

    Let us hope results and actions start to flow ‘sooner rather than later’: they’ll likely ‘bomb’ Cyprus property markets for another five or so years but a massive clean-up and establishment of a new and fair approach to matters land, property, development, legal, registration, taxation and banking practices will surely pay-back dividends and some REAL long-term growth again from 2020 – let’s hope the Troika help make it a realistic and achievable 2020 Vision!

  • Road Warrior says:

    Heartening to hear that Nigel has met with the Troika, Nigel knows all there is to know about the corrupt practice’s endemic in the Cyprus property industry and has worked tirelessly on behalf of it’s many victims.

  • Peter Davis says:

    Well from what I’ve seen to-date I for one have no confidence in Troika.

    Well done Nigel for spend the time and effort, but are we seriously suggesting that Troika are, or were not already aware of the problem?

    Shopping in Tesco’s in Stoke-on-Trent last year the cashier said you look brown, “Yes I said I live in Cyprus”. Poor you she retorted. “I’ve heard you buy houses you never own”.

    So is a Tesco cashier more clued in than Troika?

    No doubt Troika will go away making the same asinine comments about Cyprus doing so well.

  • Paradox says:

    Nigel, as we’ve spoken before via the CM I know I don’t have to tell you that the issue of buyers who have paid in full for their property, yet are threatened with repossession if they don’t pay their developers toxic debt, is one that I find utterly repugnant.

    This ridiculous, outdated and disgraceful law has been grasped upon by the banks and they seem determined to wring it for all it’s worth.

    As you will know from my CM posts, I know people who have contracts of sale that unequivocally state a complete absence of encumbrance at the time of signing so, as we both know, there are lawyers who have been prepared to be disingenuous and, by association and action, have compounded bank and developer corruption.

    Your meeting with Troika will, I hope, prove positive with some future submission from them with regard to the entire property debacle, not least of all the despicable expectation that innocent buyers can be pursued and, basically, held ransom and forced to pay off someone else’s debt.

    Please accept my thanks for your brilliant and unending support.

  • Ivan says:

    Why is it that the government refuse to allow house buyers to pay for the transfer of title deeds if the seller of that house didn’t pay their capital gains tax.

    The property may be free of all encumbrances when it is bought, but the government appear to make a claim on the buyer AFTER the completion of the contract. They expect the new owner to pay the taxes if the seller doesn’t!

    Surely I have misunderstood this as is this not worse than the developers not paying their outstanding mortgage.

    All searches say the property is clear, that is until you buy it and the government steps in. Hardly gives any encouragement to buy here as when you do you are supposed to act as a tax collector without any power.

    I hope I have misunderstood this.

  • kufrahdog says:

    Nigel – what very good news that you were able to meet with members of the Troika and a thousand thanks for representing the plight of those of us suffering from the Great Title Deed Scam.

    The issue now is what the Troika do with the information you gave them and how they can bring about 1) the issue of Title Deeds to all who have purchased property; and 2) change in the property market which will see the elimination of the Great Title Deed Scam through the introduction of more normal business and legal practices.

    But it may be easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than to stamp out the corruption practised by politicians, bankers, lawyers and developers on this island. KD.

  • Keith says:

    Another meeting another waste of time. 3 years down the line Cyprus have done nothing and still got the money. I want to see action not endless secret meetings. Why can’t you reveal details? We all know what’s wrong and how to get it it fixed. Those who owe money pay it back and then we can get on with business.

  • andyp says:

    Whilst my expectations of the TROIKA actually helping are low at least we now know that a trustworthy and tireless exponent of the truth has had the opportunity to give them the reality of what many have experienced and the consequences they now face by “buying their dream” home in Cyprus.

    Good on you Nigel.

  • mh says:

    I can imagine the Troika are slowly getting a realistic grasp on the property situation in Cyprus. However, they will do nothing which further jeopardises the Property market. So all those who have problems now and are taking legal action, they won’t help you! The best thing which could happen is a change for those buying in the future.

  • Robert Briggs says:

    @Mr Nigel Howarth.

    Many thanks for all your efforts on behalf of the Property Buyers in Cyprus.

    Much appreciated. RB.

  • jjames says:

    Excellent news!! As you say Nigel, a lot of work to be done but 4 hours of their time is a testament to you and, I’m sure, time enough for you to have put them fully in the picture.

    Surely they’ve got to up the ante now!

  • Franc Swiss says:

    Not to mention the banks persuading people to take out Swiss Franc mortgages, and giving no advice that they are totally inappropriate for ordinary property buyers. That banks opened up escrow accounts that accrued interest, that the buyer has to pay tax on without the buyers knowledge!! and much, much more!!!

  • Milo says:

    That’s really good news, I’m sure your not going to admit this BUT you reputation goes way before you, that’s why THEY got in touch with you.

    The difference you could have made may well be central to whatever outcome re property problems and solving them happens in future.

    Well done, to be recognised by those who really pull the strings is no mean feat.

    I hope you didn’t swear, I’ve read you when you get a bit umpty lol…

  • Pete says:

    Well done you Nigel for meeting and advancing the voice of truth and reason.

    I for one get heartily fed up hearing all about the developers woes when they and their various cronies are the ones totally at fault and no one chases them to find the millions that have been salted away. As for the situation taking a time to sort out, the government were quick enough to act when the prospect of losing their cars was on the table (yet another fault of their own making) so why can’t they act to solve the biggest problem facing so many people?

    The truth is that it’s not in the interests of this, or any other Cypriot government to fix the problem. If they wanted to fix it, it could be done in a couple of weeks and in so doing, the whole economy would benefit.

  • jon frazer says:

    Thank you Nigel for meeting with the nine delegates of the Troika in what I am sure was a very constructive, informative and helpful exchange.

    The fact that they asked to see you speaks volumes to me- they needed to get the truth, which they may not have had first hand yet- aside from their possibly reading the articles and comments of your CPN – and also the CM and FM.

    I appreciate that you cannot divulge specifics, but hope that you mentioned the very strange goings-on at the ECHR in relation to the dismissal of genuine and quite valid submissions.

  • Chris says:

    We all have been waiting in Cyprus that Troika will solve some issues in the governmental services that exposed the developers who were decent and respectful to their sales agreements.

    I work for a family development company which has always respected the duties and responsibilities against its clients but with the problems that occurred from some co-workers of us, which were and are not so responsible and either do bot pay their loans, taxes and led Cyprus to today’s financial condition, we also have to face the problem of high taxes, lost the respect of future and existing buyers and do not get the usual service and help from the banks as they do not see our owns company condition and history but the whole industry condition.

    I do not believe in miracles as we had cases in the land registry for several years (5+) before we had the deeds so we could transfer them over to the clients. The whole procedure must change, as we apply for building permits and we get final permissions for properties, these should be also the title deeds and should be directly been issued to the buyer rather wait for 5+ years and then have to pay all those transfer fees, for no actual reason.

    The government has got all these employees probably who has to keep busy I suppose.

    Regards

  • @SupportTroika – yes, it is good news.

    I just hope I haven’t raised peoples’ expectations to high.

    There is no magic wand or quick fix, it’s going to take a lot of effort from everyone involved and quite some time to sort things out.

  • SupportTroika says:

    That is excellent news for Cyprus Nigel. Hopefully this whole property mess can now be finally cleaned up. I know it will be VERY difficult but now everyone knows what the problems are. No more sweeping it under the carpet. I can just hear the developers making urgent calls to their Swiss bankers to ensure their money is safe from the grasps of the Troika.

  • @Tracy – I’m pleased I was able to meet with them – they asked for a meeting last year, but unfortunately I was in the UK during the time they were in Cyprus.

  • Tracy says:

    Great news, this. Finally the Troika is speaking to the experts. I believe that Nigel will have made a very impressionable impact, and will have represented us all as best possible. As someone who is stuck with a several hundred thousand pound loan that the developer frittered away on goodness knows what, with only a concrete plinth and dirt pile to show for it, the mounting pressure is sometimes difficult to bear, but knowing that Troika has finally engaged with Nigel is very ressuring indeed.

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