Purchasing property in Cyprus has a number of potential pitfalls. The British High Commission advises potential purchasers to exercise extreme caution when buying a property if the title deeds are not readily available, as to do so means that your property could be at risk.
It is common practice for developers to take out mortgages on land or property. If you sign a contract with a developer and there is already a mortgage, loan or claim placed upon it by the developer or landowner, then you are likely to become liable for that mortgage should the builder, developer or landowner declare bankruptcy. You should request that your lawyer checks for mortgages placed on the land. If you are made aware of a mortgage prior to signing a contract it is unlikely that you will obtain the deeds in your name until the mortgage is paid off.
Lawyers are not required to check for mortgages automatically although good lawyers should do this as a matter of course. In 2011 the Republic of Cyprus Government introduced a Specific Performance Law to give a contract of sale precedence over any pre-existing mortgage however we still strongly recommend that you check no mortgages have been placed on the land prior to purchase to ensure you do not run into potential difficulties at a later date.
Other issues most frequently raised by British nationals include:
- lawyers also acting for vendors or builders therefore not independent
- building taking place without the correct planning permissions/building permits (eg electricity or water)
- fluctuations in currency and interest rates affecting mortgages
- payment plans/fees not being included in the initial contract
- difficulty in obtaining certificates of final completion (without which deeds cannot be issued)
- difficulty in obtaining title deeds
- difficulty in obtaining redress after problems are identified
With all property purchases, we strongly recommend that you seek your own independent legal advice.
If you have purchased a property or land and are encountering difficulties, you should seek qualified independent legal advice on your rights and methods of redress. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British High Commission are not able to offer legal advice or become involved with disputes between private parties. We can, however, direct British nationals to organisations who may be able to help and we can raise systemic issues, problems which affect a number of customers, with local authorities.
You can check on the Association of International Property Professionals website to see if a company or legal advisor are members.
Buying property in the north of Cyprus
The ownership of many properties is disputed in the north of Cyprus, with thousands of claims to ownership from people displaced during the events of 1974. Purchase of these properties could have serious financial and legal implications. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in a number of cases that owners of property in northern Cyprus before 1974 continue to be regarded as the legal owners of that property. Purchasers could face legal proceedings in the courts of the Republic of Cyprus, as well as attempts to enforce judgements from these courts elsewhere in the EU, including the UK. There has been at least one successful case to enforce rulings in the UK, putting at risk property owned in the UK.
The leaders of both communities are currently in negotiations to try to solve the Cyprus issue. One key issue is property and the handling of pre-1974 Greek Cypriot title-owned property. Property owners and potential purchasers should also consider that a future settlement of the Cyprus problem could have serious consequences for property they purchase, including the possible restitution of the property to its original owner, in addition to compensation payments. In particular, prospective purchasers should consider the implications of any future settlement on land/property:
- in the north that was owned by a Greek Cypriot national prior to 1974
- that was subsequently classified as exchange or ‘gift’ land/property by the Turkish Cypriot “authorities”
In addition, purchasers should ensure they are fully aware of the rules in the north of Cyprus in respect of foreigners purchasing property in the north of Cyprus including the requirement to obtain consent to the transfer of property. Even when purchasing Pre 1974 Turkish title land, you may still be refused permission to purchase the land/property and no reason for the refusal may be given.
On 20 October 2006, an amendment to the Republic of Cyprus criminal code relating to property came into effect. Under the amendment, buying, selling, renting, promoting or mortgaging a property without the permission of the owner (the person whose ownership is registered with the Republic of Cyprus Land Registry, including Greek Cypriots displaced from northern Cyprus in 1974) is a criminal offence. The maximum prison sentence is 7 years. The amendment to the law also states that any attempt to undertake such a transaction is a criminal offence and could result in a prison sentence of up to 5 years. This law is not retrospective, so will not criminalise transactions that took place before 20 October 2006.
Furthermore, documents relating to the purchase of property in the north of Cyprus will be presumed by the Cypriot authorities to relate to the illegal transfer of Greek Cypriot property and may be subject to confiscation when crossing the Green Line. Anyone found in possession of these documents may be asked to make a statement to the Cypriot authorities and could face criminal proceedings under the 20 October amendment. Any enquiries regarding the scope of this law should be made to the Republic of Cyprus High Commission in London or to the Ministry of Foreign affairs for the Republic of Cyprus:
RoC High Commission London
13, St James’s Square
London SW1Y 4LB
Telephone: +44 (0) 207 3214 100
Fax: +44 (0) 2073214-165/164
Email: [email@example.com](mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org)
RoC Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Presidential Palace Avenue
Telephone: +357 22401000
Fax: +357 22661881
Email: [email@example.com](mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Buying property or land in the Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs)
Persons considering the purchase of immovable property (such as land) in the SBAs need to be aware that the consent of the Administrator of the Sovereign Base Areas is required under section 3 of the Immovable Property Acquisition (Control) Ordinance 1972 for a non-Cypriot or for a non-Cypriot corporation to purchase immovable property in the SBAs. The requirement for consent exists whether or not property is currently owned by a Cypriot or a Cypriot corporation or by a non-Cypriot who has previously obtained consent. Failure to obtain the consent of the Administrator means that the acquisition and registration of the immovable property in question is null and void. The Administrator will give consent only in the most exceptional circumstances.
You should also be aware that it is an offence for persons other than “recognised residents” to live in the SBAs for more than 28 days in any period of 12 months, except in accordance with a permit issued under that Ordinance. Again, you may apply for a certificate of recognised residence or a permit, but the Administration only rarely consents to granting these British nationals with pre-1974 title deeds
If you are a British national and owned a property in the north of Cyprus before 1974 (or the heir of someone meeting those criteria), please contact the Property Officer at the British High Commission by email, marking your message to the attention of the Property Officer. The Property Officer will be able to check your file and advise on what steps to take if you wish to try to reclaim your property.
The British High Commission is unable to assist dual nationals in the country of their other nationality. If you are a dual British/Cypriot national you should approach your local authorities in respect of claims for pre-1974 title deeds.
Some of the problems that property buyers experience are very similar throughout Cyprus. The British High Commission is unable to get involved in individual property problems or legal disputes, but supports community associations that are dedicated to resolving the problems of property buyers.
- Cyprus Property Action Group concentrates on lobbying in Cyprus, the UK and in the European Parliament for changes to legislation and enforcement of legislation concerning property purchases in The Republic of Cyprus
- Cyprus Property Buyers
- Homebuyers’ Pressure Group based in the north of Cyprus
- Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP)
If the company, or legal advisor, you have worked with is a member of AIPP and you are unhappy with the services provided, you can write to the AIPP who have a disciplinary procedure.
British citizens affected by property problems should take independent legal advice from local lawyers.
If you believe that you have been subject to a property crime, you should make a statement to the local police. Remember to obtain a copy of the statement and ask for the incident number. Please note, there may be a time restriction between the time of the alleged crime and the time within which you make your complaint.
Cyprus Ombudsman (Republic of Cyprus)
The Cyprus Ombudsman acts in the service of citizens, including foreign nationals, in order to defend their rights and freedom against actions from any Cypriot administration. The Ombudsman has the power to challenge all bodies and authorities of the central government and local administrations as well as anyone acting as agents or collaborators of any of these administrations in the fulfilment or execution of public objectives or services. Information in English is currently under development on their website. Contact details are on their website.
It is important to note that the Ombudsman may not intervene under the following situations:
- whenever the public administration has not been involved
- in the event of conflicts or disputes between individuals
- after one year from the moment when the citizen had knowledge of the events of his complaint
- in the event of anonymous complaints, without specific claims presenting bad faith or any claims that may damage legitimate rights of third parties
- in the event of non-conformity with the contents of the judicial ruling
- complaints against lawyers
Complaints against lawyers practising in the Republic of Cyprus should be addressed to:
[The Cyprus Bar Association](http://www.cyprusbarassociation.org/)
P.O. Box 21446
1508 Nicosia, Cyprus
Telephone: +357 22873300
Complaints against lawyers practising in the north of Cyprus may be made in writing to the relevant local ‘Bar Commission’. After preliminary investigation they will be transferred to the ‘Bar Council’. There is a different Bar Commission for each region. Initial investigations into complaints takes place within the region but is then passed to the overall Bar Council. You can email regional Bar Commissions:
- Nicosia: email@example.com
- Kyrenia: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Famagusta: email@example.com
- Morphou: firstname.lastname@example.org
Complaints against the legal system in the Republic of Cyprus
Complaints against the legal system should be made to the Attorney General’s Office:
Mr Petros Clerides
Law Office of the Republic of Cyprus
There is a European Commissioner for Consumer Protection. Their address is:
European Commissioner for Consumer Protection
You can find out more about EU consumer rights on their website.
Is It Fair, an EU organisation supporting customers, advises citizens how to complain when things go wrong.
Help in the UK
We have published advice on which UK authorities to contact if you think you have been a victim of property fraud.
If you were living in the UK when you made your purchase you may wish to contact the European Consumer Centres Network which has been set up by the European Commission in co-operation with member states to help consumers with cross-border disputes. The centre gives information and advice on problems with buying across borders and can arbitrate when problems arise if they think it might help.
European Consumer Centre
1 Sylvan Court
Southfields Business Park
Essex SS15 6TH
Telephone: +44 (0) 8456 04 05
While we hope that this information is useful, please be aware that it is not intended to be the only guidance for prospective buyers to follow when considering making a purchase. In addition, we make no representation as to the quality or accuracy of the information which is available at the web addresses listed in this guide, nor can we accept any responsibility for the content that is hosted on them. We strongly recommend that prospective buyers of property in Cyprus seek independent legal and financial advice at all stages of their purchase.