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:
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
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:
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).