Not a long time ago, we, as Cyprus, had to face the protests of the local Property Action Group. A Group which was set up by foreign buyers mainly to place pressure on the Cyprus Government and through the E.U. to correct the wrong doings of the Cyprus Real Estate Market.
We supported the Group because it was correct in its reasoning and stand and because the Government at the time did not respond timely to the wrong doings. This “adventure of correction” is not fully behind us, but it helps to raise public awareness, get Ministers and others off their chairs and do something about such matters. Indeed something was done be it not good enough and even now after 3-4 years from the peak of the protests, discussion is still going on.
Following this we are now faced with a new confrontation against the “Government” for not protecting those who suffered damages as a result of soil subsidence in the Pissouri and Armou areas. Our non-timely responding Government and various theoretical solutions suggested by the Cyprus Technical Chamber, brought up again new protests by the unfortunate buyers (who like the previous group comprises mainly of British foreign buyers). We offered a possible solution (published in this paper and duly provided to the Ministry (of Interior) which (our solution) could form some sort of basis of discussion in order to help out.
We do not agree with the Auditor General’s report that the Government has on the one hand approved the structural designs of the building, but “because this approval is more of a typical one, the Government has no responsibility”. No, we disagree and we believe that the designers of such projects are the main reasonable and by projection we blame the Government by approving such designs without checking (otherwise why submit and seek approval by the Government). At the same time we disagree with the affected peoples’ protests defaming the island in international property exhibitions etc, as this will hardened all sides stand, making the reaching some sort of a solution more difficult.
This is a primarily private case between buyers/developers/designers with the Government bearing a reduced responsibility. Also we indicate the responsibility to the buyers’ legal advisors for not providing safeguards to protect their clients/buyers.
Also the same group raises the question of loan finance by local banks in Swiss francs which increased in value in relation to euro. We do not see here how the Government is to blame, since this was a normal practice (at the time) for all sorts of business, bearing in mind the low interest rates loans as opposed to the loans to be changed into euro loans. From what that we understand this is again a private agreement between the buyers and the financing banks and in our opinion is that it cannot be the Government’s blame (be it that the loans not being business ones, the Government could try to help by encouraging the banks to reduce their demand – not really within the Government’s authority to do so, but at least it can help if nothing else by supporting the buyers and give them a feeling of comfort. Of course we disagree that for such matters Cyprus is to be held responsible for private deals that go wrong. There is a mutual protection agreement regarding foreign investments in Cyprus, but as we have seen with the Zambian bank and the Vgenopoulos case, it is very difficult to succeed. We do not see how “corruption in Cyprus” comes in in the sense how this is related. We had an experience when a buyer has bought a property, deposited his sales contract with the Lands Office, he did not met his payments and the developer through the Courts cancelled the sales contract, re-took possession of the property and sold it to third parties. So by reporting an one sided view that deposited sales contracts cannot offer a protection, is not correct and it gives a bad impression/misinformation. Real estate developers/agents and others are not “angels” as we say, but neither are the buyers, coming up with all sorts of excuses (some very innovative) however not to pay or claim back part of the sales price (a more recent one is a British buyer at Pissouri – no problems – regarding soil subsidence who having the property transferred it on his name, duly extended the property with added buildings ignoring the developers/administrative committee views and stating that “I am the owner of the property and I will not let anyone tell me what to do”!!
So not everything in such cases is black and white, whereas the demolition of non- license projects that took place in Spain a few years ago for unlicensed properties is a case in hand that similar problems (be it unrelated) happen elsewhere.
In ending one is the goal for us, to find a solution and without talking to each other it will not help of course.