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Tuesday 11th August 2020
Home Articles Discrimination against non-Cypriot estate agents

Discrimination against non-Cypriot estate agents

ALTHOUGH the Cyprus law was changed in 2010 to open the doors to European estate agents wishing to practice in Cyprus, non-Cypriots EU citizens wishing to establish an estate agency on the island find that their applications are often refused.

These non-Cypriots EU citizens have the relevant qualifications, have run estate agency business in their home countries for many years and some are members of internationally recognised bodies such as FIABCI (The International Real Estate Federation).

The Cypriot authorities have given various reasons for not granting them licences and some claim they have been trapped in ‘sting’ operations and summonsed to appear in court.

One foreigner, frustrated at having been refused a real estate licence on several occasions, complained to Your Europe Advice and received the following reply.

It is not illegal under EU law to require a UK real estate agent to join the real estate association in Cyprus and it is possible to impose conditions on EU citizens who what to practice the profession of real estate agent in Cyprus.

However, the conditions which one must currently fulfil in order to be included in the registry of real estate agents in Cyprus discriminate against non-Cypriot EU citizens and do not conform with EU law.

In particular, in order to be included on the register of real estate agents in Cyprus and be able to practice the profession one must:

  • have a degree of three years duration or equivalent part time from a university or other higher education institution on subjects relevant to real estate; AND
  • have worked as a trainee in Cyprus for 1 year and be included in the real estate agents’ trainee registry; AND
  • pass a written test on Cypriot legislation in the field of real estate.

The first of these conditions is unproblematic, the latter two, however, the way they are currently applied, violate EU law (namely Directive 2005/36 on the recognition of professional qualifications).

What would be permissible is to require that someone has completed a traineeship anywhere in the EU as part of obtaining their professional qualification as real estate agent.

As regards an exam, it is possible to ask someone to do one, but only if their professional qualifications obtained in another EU Member State differ greatly from those required to practice in Cyprus, for example if one does not have a university degree or the requisite professional experience.

It is not compliant with EU law to impose an exam as a general requirement on everybody who wants to practice as a real estate agent in Cyprus.

The European Commission has already received complaints from citizens about this and agrees with our analysis that these conditions violate EU law.

The Commission has contacted the Cypriot authorities earlier this year as regards this issue and is currently awaiting their response. Although the proceedings currently are at an informal stage, if the Commission is not satisfied with the response of the Cypriot authorities they can start formal infringement proceedings against Cyprus which could ultimately result in the Commission taking Cyprus to the Court of Justice of the EU, if the violation is not ended in the meantime.

As regards the fact that the application form is in Greek only, this is not something which is illegal under EU law. Member States are not obliged to offer official documents and administrative procedures in English or in any other particular language.

It is normal and not illegal that national authorities and administrative bodies such as the association that regulates the profession of real estate agents in Cyprus function in the official language(s) of the Member State in question.

The same goes for any aptitude test which is imposed upon applicants – the association of real estate agents is not obliged to offer it in English (it must however, respect EU law and not apply such a test to everyone who applies but only those whose qualifications are deemed insufficient).

What the Cypriot authorities cannot do is require you to speak Greek at a certain level and take a language test when that is not necessary for you to practice your profession.

If you would like to take action challenging the violations of EU law described above there are various steps you could take.

As a first step, you could contact SOLVIT. SOLVIT is a problem solving network in which EU Member States work together to solve without legal proceedings problems caused by the misapplication of EU Internal Market law by public authorities. The service is free.

There is one SOLVIT centre in every EU Member State. SOLVIT will make an assessment of your case and if they determine that they can help they would contact the authorities on your behalf and aim to find a solution within 10 weeks.

You can find the contact details and more information on Solvit at:

http://ec.europa.eu/solvit/site/index_en.htm

Other possible courses of action, (which would, however, take longer) are:

Make a complaint directly to the European Commission. You can use the special complaint form at http://ec.europa.eu/eu_law/your_rights/your_rights_forms_en.htm.

Although the Commission is already taking action on this, making a complaint will mean that you stay informed as to any developments on this matter.

Challenge the conduct of the relevant authority before the Cypriot national courts claiming breach of EU law. The judge will have to apply EU law may then find that the Cypriot rules on real estate agents do not comply with it. If you decide to take this course of action the Cyprus Bar Association should be able to point you to lawyer who may be able to help. You can contact them at:

Address: Florinis 11, off.101, 1st Floor 1065, Nicosia P.O.Box. 21446 1508, Nicosia – Cyprus

Tel: +357 22873300
Fax: +357 22873013
E-mail: cybar@cytanet.com.cy
E-mail: cybar2@cytanet.com.cy
Website: www.cyprusbarassociation.org

Please note that these procedures could take a long time and that SOLVIT may be able to help much faster.

If you wish to consult Directive 2005/36 you can find the text at:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CONSLEG:2005L0036:20110324:EN:PDF

See also the European Commission’s website on the Directive http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/qualifications/directive_in_practice/index_en.htm which contains a very useful User Guide on how this law is applied http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/qualifications/docs/guide/users_guide_en.pdf

We remain at your disposal for any further question you may have regarding your rights within the EU.

With our best wishes,

Your Europe Advice

(At the present time, the Cyprus Real Estate Association website doesn’t list a single non-Cypriot EU citizen among its 154 registered members).

16 COMMENTS

  1. The state of New York requires 75-hour training for similar licensing. Is selling/brokering real estate something like a rocket science in Cyprus that it requires three years of training?

  2. “The Cypriot authorities have given various reasons for not granting them licences…”

    What authorities? It is just an association (CREAA) whose whole purpose seems to be to exclude potential competition of its members from the market.

    The real purpose of such associations should be to ensure a certain level of service for the customers. Therefore the estate agents which are excluded need to form an alternative to CREAA and then lobby for taking away its monopoly. Ideally no agents’ association should have any advantages provided by the law. People should be able to freely chose whether to use their own judgement when using an “unlicensed” agent or use a member of one of the associations which promises certain guarantees on the level of service.

  3. Yes Steve I agree it is not just Estate Agents, it is every profession, any profession that Cyprus does not want to do correctly like builders, electricians, plumbers, chiropodists Cypriots have become lazy, its a new generation.

    It is like a witch hunt, they just want to earn money, but not do the work correctly and earn a quick buck, and if they can keep it amongst themselves they will, but real estate cannot hurt anyone, and the Cyprus Real Estate association are calling Real Estate Agents from other EU States, CRIMINAL, COWBOYS, FRAUDULENT and most EU State Real Estate pay their taxes, VAT and have Data Bases and paper Trials of their clients.

    The real estate agents who may have been working all their lives as real estate get closed down this is against ‘human right’ to close someone livelihood, before it even goes to court, it is a minefield, what about the people who work from their car, pay no taxes etc etc, they are never closed up.

    Cyprus needs to smell the coffe on all fronts of EU business people opening their business in Cyprus, it will bring more work in and more production, as some of the Cypriots are lazy and just want it all with out any competition.

    I am Cypriot so I am not picking on the Cypriot I just hate they way we have changed.

  4. I don’t understand why estate agents are being singled out for a dose of sympathy. What is described here happens to most EU professionals looking to work in Cyprus. Highly respected individuals, for example in the field of construction and engineering are refused membership of ETEK or rather are told not to bother applying, so they are not able to take on work for the state or for a private client in connection with any issue that will come before a Cyprus court.

    Cyprus behaves like this because the EU lets them get away with it. Just look at implementation of EU legislation on property complaints. Cyprus just ignores it and the relevant EEC commissioners just turn a blind eye. It sickens me to see this puny little island tail wag the EU dog. The future is bleak.

  5. If the same discrimination was practised in the UK there would be hell to play, two tier pricing being a perfect example.

  6. The degree course must be at The School for Scoundrels and I think that a lot of the real estate agents came out with honours degrees.

  7. The legislation about Estate Agents, was tailor-made for Cypriots and in order to keep Non Cypriots out of the game. It’s a shame that this legislation passed from the parliament. I feel it contradicts every piece of rule and order of the EU. It should be abolished. Don’t forget that most of the business was brought on this Island from the British Agents (Not all of them are honest and most of them they don’t even exist now…) and they are some decent people working in this current climate and bring money into our Island…. we should treat them fairly!

    I am in favour

  8. A violation of E.U regulations?

    In Cyprus?

    By Cypriots?

    Surely not?

    Perhaps the real reasons non-Cypriot E.U member agents may not be issued licences have more to do with:

    1) They might be more capable.

    2) They are not comfortable passing a large brown envelope under some official’s table.

    As for @Andrew – “one has to respect the local laws and regulations” – that’s a little vague.

    Do you mean Cyprus should respect the laws of the E.U? I which case I agree 100%.

    Or – do you mean – ‘outsiders’ should be tolerant of local corruption and shrug it off – in which case – I don’t agree.

    Furthermore – if that’s the case – South Cyprus should leave the E.U immediately and compensate every E.U non-Cypriot investor in the island over the period it’s been in the E.U (before it goes completely broke). Oh – and if it does – the UK can then confiscate all Cypriot owned assets in the E.U outside Cyprus.

    But of course – they don’t want to do that do they? They want the best bits of the member state guidelines – but the ability to ignore the bits they don’t like the look of.

    There could well be a big war looming if that mentality persists Andrew – read your history books – there are lots of global examples!

  9. I wouldn’t bother complaining direct to the European Union. Its complaints mechanism does not work (I know from experience).

  10. Its the 3rd requirement that makes me Laugh:

    ” Pass a written Test on Cypriot legislation in the field of Real Estate”

    I’d love to see the Training Manual – and a specimen Test Paper!

  11. @ Mr Nigel Howarth.
    Dear Sir.
    Would you please let me know if a Licenced Estate Agent is required by Cypriot Law to charge no more than 3%? R.B.

  12. I have experienced similar. I have applied to get a license, but have been turned down. They claimed that I do not have the relevant experience in my own country. I provided the proof that I do have the relevant experience and they still turned me down. There is however one British person with a valid license and he is also still listed on their website.

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