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Friday 7th May 2021
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HomeJointly Owned BuildingsTears of joy when viewing her ideal apartment

Tears of joy when viewing her ideal apartment

Anyone who watched a Place in the Sun on Wednesday will have seen a woman who was viewing a holiday apartment in Cyprus break down in tears of joy.

The one-bedroom apartment had a sea view, with a communal pool and a balcony, close to amenities and a beach; everything that she and her husband had been looking for.

After some negotiation, the couple had their offer accepted and purchased the apartment.

But I expect, like so many others who have bought an apartment in Cyprus, she and her husband didn’t realise the problems they may face.

Communal fees

Apartments and other residential complexes with shared facilities comprising more than four units are required by law to have a Management Committee that regulates and manages all relevant affairs.

The owners of all units in these complexes must contribute to the costs of insuring, maintaining, repairing, restoring and managing the jointly-owned building. These contributions are known colloquially as communal fees.

On the face of it this is a very good idea and works well in other countries. Communal fees are used ensure that the building and its shared facilities such as swimming pools, gardens and tennis courts are maintained in good order thereby helping to maintain their look, value and the saleability of the units.

However, the law in Cyprus is unworkable. All too often problems arise as owners refuse to pay their communal fees. This problem is likely to get worse due to the pandemic as many people will have lost their jobs or are experiencing a severe drop in their income.

In cases where owners refuse to pay, the Management Committee has to cover the shortfall by raising the fees of the good payers to cover the shortfall. This causes resentment and often leads to a domino effect as more owners refuse to pay. Eventually the Management Committee resigns en masse and the buildings fall into disrepair and decay.

The only option open to the Management Committee is to sue the non-payers. This will cost in the region of €1,500 for legal fees and court costs – another expense that has to be covered by raising the fees of the good payers. In normal circumstances it takes 2, 3 or 4 years to get a court ruling against the non-payer.

The non-payer can claim they have no money and agree a long-term payment arrangement. This may delay payment for a further 2 or 3 years and if non-payer fails to comply with the payment arrangement, it’s back to the court with another €1,500 in legal fees and court costs, with no resolution of the problem.

The court may also rule against the non-payer by enabling the Management Committee to lodge a memorandum (memo) against properties owned by the non-payer for the debt. (This assumes that the debtor has title to the property – unacceptable delays issuing Title Deeds is another long-standing problem that has yet to be resolved.)

The memo prevents the non-payer selling, mortgaging and transferring the property until the debt has been repaid.

In these circumstances a memo is as much use as a third eyebrow as the debt will not be repaid in the foreseeable future.

Furthermore, a memo only remains in force for six years from the date that the judgement was registered with the Land Registry. It may be extended by two years each time by further court orders (and their associated costs.)

The law must be changed to protect the good owner who continue to pay and the Management Committee. Why should who are paying be forced to pay for those who refuse?

Apartment swimming pools

Under the laws of Cyprus, swimming pools in apartment and other residential complexes are considered to be “public swimming pools” and their operation is governed by the stringent laws and regulations governing their licensing and use. (The law dates to 1992 and is well past its sell by date.)

This has significant legal and financial implications for the Management Committees and the owners of these complexes.

Regardless of the size of the pool or the number of units on the complex, a lifeguard must be on hand when the pool is in use. To achieve this level of cover, it’s likely that two lifeguards would be needed at a cost in the region of €30,000/annum. Some larger complexes have two and occasionally three pools, each needing two lifeguards and their cost would be astronomical. (In reality there are not enough trained lifeguards in Cyprus to service the demand.)

To operate these pools an annual operating licence is required, which costs around €85 – and the pool equipment needs to be checked to ensure it meets safety requirements – another cost.

Anyone operating a pool without a licence or who acts contrary to the regulations, which includes lifeguarding, is guilty of a criminal offence. The offender faces a fine of up to €450 and, if the offence continues after conviction, they face an additional fine of €50/day for each day the offence continues.

In the past, authorities have turned a blind eye to the problem, which resulted in many pools being operated without a licence. But a couple of years ago the authorities in Paphos cracked-down; the municipality’s health inspectors discovered more than 170 swimming pools operating without a licence and served owners and tenants of these apartments with notices stating they were operating public swimming pools without licenses.

Management Committees had no option but to close their pools or face the consequences.

Together with Denis O’Hare and Linda Leblanc I brought this issue up at a meeting we had with the Interior Ministry in 2007. In 2011 MEP Arlene McCarthy raised the problem with the European Commission. And although new law was proposed in 2015, no progress has been made.

In 2008 a European Standards for swimming pools was introduced (EN 15288-1 and EN 15288-2) that classifies communal pools, such as those for in apartment complexes, according to their size and usage.

Complexes that share a pool for the use of the property owners, their families and guests are classed as Type 3 swimming pools, making it subject to different standards than a public swimming pool and would therefore not require lifeguards, etc.

However, for reasons best known to themselves, the Cyprus government has not implemented these EU regulations that would remove the need for lifeguards at a stroke.

I hope the couple who featured in A Place in the Sun and bought the one-bed apartment manage to avoid the problems with the inadequate and archaic laws and regulations governing communal fees and swimming pools. They’ll soon find out for themselves.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Hotels can afford the lifeguards and licensing. It’s a matter of Cypriot politicians helping their hotelier friends by making it difficult for complexes, in regard to the costs associated with swimming pools ref. lifeguards and licensing.

    Hoteliers are trying to increase costs and/or close down communal pools re. holiday apartment rentals. Forget about the EU. Cyprus joined the EU to take money for various suspect projects not to abide by EU regulations.

  2. The Cypriot business agents that ‘manage’ the communal areas of these condominiums usually take most of the funds as their ‘management’ fees and the piffling amount of remaining funds are used to pay a sub-contractor employing persons without social insurance to do a cheap maintenance job. In all fairness, the persons performing the maintenance are not to blame and do what they can with the limited time and resources available.

    The communal swimming pools requiring lifeguards could be useful legislation to provide agents with an excuse to charge more in maintenance fees by providing a seldom seen lifeguard or perhaps as an excuse to save money by not servicing the pool and closing it down.

    Once I rented a small detached house with a private pool in Larnaca and the letting agents imposed upon me their chosen ‘pool cleaner.’ The pool cleaner swapped new working parts from the swimming pool pump system for faulty parts. The pool cleaner’s assistant urinated in the pool (caught on a wildlife camera – no wonder cameras are not popular in Cyprus). The swimming pool went a dark green color. I asked the agents if I could have a discount from rent and use the funds to employ an alternative pool cleaner – nope. I asked the agents to tell the pool cleaner simply not to come to my house anymore – nope. I started cleaning the pool myself, buying the chemicals at my own expense, despite unwanted visits by the agent’s pool cleaner. I never found out who the Irish owners of the house were, so I could communicate these issues to them.

    • In all fairness, the letting agents’ staff were very friendly, the house had quality furnishings, the neighbors were very friendly and the rental deposit was returned in full. Note that CYTA tried to hold on to the telecoms service deposit for a long time, possibly hoping i was leaving the country – watch out for that..

  3. I think it should be possible to sue A Place in the Sun for duty of care for not pointing out the tenancy agreements and swimming pool problems. After reading the above, nobody would buy an apartment in Cyprus.

    • The couple may have been advised off-camera – we don’t know.

      But the woman referred to in my article got in touch with me on Facebook and wrote “…we didn’t actually go ahead with buying this flat for some of the reasons you have mentioned

  4. So sad to see the above comments, there are 1000’s of expats either living in Cyprus or holidaying for months at a time who are enjoying their time on the island.

    I have had an apartment in Paphos and a villa in Peyia for the past 21 years, and have enjoyed living amongst the friendly Cypriots enjoying their beautiful island, beautiful weather, beautiful food.

    If you do some research beforehand, use a reputable lawyer and Bank, and all will go well. Unfortunately many leave their brains on the plane on arrival!!

    Yes there are laws to abide with, but so there is everywhere.

    Looking forward to returning to sunny Cyprus soon?

    • Those who have experience of the so called Cypriot justice system would question whether there are reputable lawyers on the island.

  5. It beggars belief after all that has been published and all that people have suffered – that people STILL buy property in Cyprus?!

    It’s the like the internet has never been invented.

    Makes you wonder who is behind producing these programs and whether that should be the subject of investigation?

  6. Very touching caring husband, pity for the British couple!
    I own a humble place in the sun in Kato-Paphos, semi detached cottage near to the sea, built 35 years ago.
    No pool, no communal so called management fees, the complex is to become a rotten unit !
    ( I have spent lots of time/work and money, maintaining care for small private garden).
    No way to make neighbours understand, the entrance of a house/flat is not a garbage depositor.

    Paphos /Cyprus once was a place in the sun, but now a huge shade overlays the island!
    Pity for anyone who dares buying a property in the sun.

    • Viennese – as your property was built before the law was amended in 1993, these is no requirement for you to have a management committee or contribute towards the cost of insurance, maintenance and repair, etc. However, in cases where a building permit was granted before 12.2.1993, the building may be registered as jointly owned upon an application filed by any of the owners of the units or by the building’s management committee.

      • Many thanks Sir !

        Wish to get rid/ selling the cottage but years of happiness enjoying sun and peaceful vacations make me nostalgic…

        My garden. I guess, suffers from my absence and the cottage might be infested/insects…. Covid/ travel restrictions !

        I cannot ask friends for help everyone is struggling and living difficult times.

  7. We almost bought in Cyprus in 2005 thank God we didn’t opting for Austria instead where good Germanic law is in place. Turned out to be a good investment unlike our friends who bought in Cyprus with a Swiss franc mortgage and had their own home in the UK taken from them to pay for the loan

  8. What a mistake for the couple buying an apartment in Cyprus. We my wife and I bought a apartment in Peyia what a mistake we are in the process of returning a property to the bank in a negotiated settlement agreement. Never would I buy another property in Cyprus, endless red tape, corruption and false promises. Cyprus need to comply with EU regulations towards swimming pools, property build quality and other important issues that Cyprus turn a blind eye to. Its is time The EU came hard on Cyprus. Us BRITS are coming to a conclusion the EU was not for us. What about the passport issue and money laundering outlined in a previous media news networks. We have learned our lesson the hard way and finally we are walking away from Cyprus for ever thank goodness. We take away a large debt to service. Thanks Cyprus.

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