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Lebanese duped by false residency claims

Lebanese duped by false residency claimsA NUMBER of dubious real-estate brokers have been persuading Lebanese nationals to purchase property in Cyprus based on the premise that they would obtain a residency permit after a certain period of time, Naji Ghaddar, managing partner at Masahaat, told The Daily Star.

Ghaddar’s remarks came during a news conference held at Le Gabriel Hotel aimed at giving an overview of the terms that must be met to be eligible for permanent residency in the EU member state.

He said some of the clients who had been duped into buying property in Cyprus had filed lawsuits against the unscrupulous brokers after discovering they received misleading information on the conditions needed for eligibility for residency.

Interest in properties in Cyprus has increased among Lebanese in recent years, prompted by the deteriorating political and security situation in the country.

As a result, many real estate brokers in Lebanon have begun in recent years to strike deals with developers in Cyprus to promote their projects among Lebanese, both expatriates and those still residing in Lebanon.

Masahaat is one of the better-known Lebanese real estate brokers to offer such services since 2010 with offices in Senegal, Angola, Ivory Coast, Cyprus and Lebanon.

The company has so far sold 20 residential units for Livadiotis Group, which is a dominant player in property development in Cyprus and a leading developer in Larnaca.

“We have received over 100 requests since 2010 and we [have sold] more than 20 units so far,” Ghaddar said. He also pointed out that “today Lebanese have started to understand that they should deal with serious brokers to complete their process in a proper way.”

Loucas Koushos, a Cypriot legal consultant, said that two procedures that may be pursued to obtain a permanent residency permit in Cyprus.

The first is the normal procedure, which takes from nine months to a year. He explained that under this procedure the applicant must have an annual income of at least 30,000 euros plus 10,000 euros for each dependent person in addition to a bank account in Cyprus with a balance of 50,000 to 90,000 euros. “In this case, the applicant can withdraw his money the second day after he gets the residency,” he said.

He explained that the second fast-track procedure, which takes from two to four months, requires an annual income of at least 30,000 euros plus 5,000 euros for each dependent. It also requires a confirmation letter from a bank in Cyprus stating that the applicant has deposited a minimum of 30,000 euros in an account, which will be pledged for at least a three-year period.

He added that the applicant must also submit a contract of sale of a house in Cyprus for a minimum market value of 300,000 euros plus VAT and proof of payment for at least 200,000 euros.

Kouchos said the permanent residency in Cyprus does not give applicants the right to enter European countries without a visa. But “the permit will definitely facilitate their access to a Schengen visa,” he added.

One of the main terms, Koushos said, is that the applicants’ income of must be generated in a country outside Cyprus. “Applicants are not allowed to engage in any form of business in Cyprus even if they have a permit,” he said. “They should have the Cypriot nationality to be able to open a business in the country.”

Meanwhile, Paris Livadiotis, manager director at Panikkos Livadiotis Group, gave an overview of the projects launched by his company while emphasizing the benefits of investing in real estate in Cyprus.

“Property sales in Larnaca in the first two months of 2015 have increased by 58 percent year-on-year and we believe this is the last opportunity for buyers to purchase at low prices,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 21, 2015, on page 4.