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Expat frustration over lawyers in property disputes

PROPERTY buyers entangled in legal battles with developers are finding their Cyprus lawyers are often part of the problem rather than the solution. A number of British property buyers say they have been stung by not just one, but several successive Cyprus lawyers, who only added to their troubles. Either the lawyers they hired had […]

PROPERTY buyers entangled in legal battles with developers are finding their Cyprus lawyers are often part of the problem rather than the solution.

A number of British property buyers say they have been stung by not just one, but several successive Cyprus lawyers, who only added to their troubles.

Either the lawyers they hired had a personal connection with the developer, or in their opinion were negligent in their duties to the client.

Some of these expats, many of them pensioners, have found themselves in dire financial difficulties as court cases and complaints to the Cyprus Bar Association take years to resolve, and as legal fees pile up due the slowness of the court system.

One couple has had seven different lawyers in the past five years and was shocked to discover their first lawyer was now defending the developer they are in dispute with.

Another couple has had four lawyers in two years and their case has gone nowhere. “We no longer have any money to pursue this,” said pensioner Rose. “They could play these games with us to infinity.”

Also having had four lawyers in two years, a British man said in one instance he was forced to take on the developer’s lawyer himself when his own could not be located.

In one year with them, I made 50 calls and they returned three or four,” he said. “It was absolutely dire. I had zero representation. I couldn’t get hold of him for over a month and I had to fly to Cyprus and sit down with the enemy myself,” he said.

According to figures supplied by the Bar Association’s Disciplinary Board, there have been 98 complaints against lawyers so far this year. Last year, there were 107 and in 2005 there were 151, but few have been resolved because of a lack of resources. Most cases take around two years to be heard.

One woman, who has a case pending at the Board, declined last week to give any details, saying it had taken her two years to get a hearing that was just coming up and she didn’t want to jeopardise it.

Rose was told her complaint against her first lawyer would take 18 months, even though he was also under investigation at the Board for another case.

Recently, the British High Commission revised its list of recommended lawyers from 25 to 10, but was reluctant to link the move to complaints from Britons over the actions of some advocates.

A spokesman did admit they would consider removing names if they received serious complaints.

Channel 4’s Andrew Winter, in a documentary about the Cyprus property situation aired at the end of last month, summed it up for many Britons when he said: “…this cockeyed legal system allows unscrupulous solicitors and greedy developers to get away with fleecing unwitting house buyers.”

Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2007

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