LITTLE appears to have been achieved at yesterday’s meeting between finance minister Michalis Sarris and a delegation from the Cyprus Property Action Group.
The group which had been set up earlier this year, to deal with the problems faced by expatriates buying property in Cyprus, wanted to brief the minister about the many complaints it had been receiving. Most of the complaints related to the familiar issues of dishonest developers and estate agents.
Green party leader Giorgos Perdikis, who accompanied the members of the delegation, said that many foreigners were being “duped into making unsafe and dangerous purchases“. He blamed the problems on a number of issues, including the authorities’ failure to implement the law, the lax building regulations and the delays in issuing title deeds. Sarris is in no position to resolve these problems, even though, we are certain he would have expressed genuine concern about the situation, which does present Cyprus in a very positive light.
The fact the delegation had to visit the finance minister is an indication of the weakness of the authorities in protecting buyers. In a country, in which there is the rule of law, citizens, Cypriot or foreign, would not have had to take their grievances to the minister, but reported them to the police. And if there were no grounds for criminal charges, they could still file a law-suit against the person they had a dispute with. It would appear that these courses of action do not lead anywhere for foreign buyers, which is probably why they sought the help of the finance minister.
But as Perdikis hinted, property transactions are a very complex problem which the authorities had failed to address. The legal framework, for instance is full of loop-holes that nobody seem interested in closing. We have been hearing deputies, for years now, discussing ways of tightening the law with regard to the issuing of title deeds, but nothing has been done. Town planning regulations are provocatively ignored by contractors, because the law is never enforced – the penalty for violating building regulations is imposed on the buyer who cannot have a title deed issued!
A country, which understood its economic interests, would have done something about these problems. Foreign buyers have financed the construction boom of the last six years, yet our state has not bothered to provide them with the most basic protection against dishonest developers, estate agents and contractors. There are small numbers of crooked developers and contractors operating in all countries, but the test is how well the authorities can deal with them once they have been reported by buyers.
Our authorities have badly failed this test. When the powers that be eventually realise how much damage this failure has caused the Cyprus’ reputation, it will be much too late to do anything about it.
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