A UK court has dealt a damming blow to the North (Turkish) Cyprus property market. For years people have bought property in North Cyprus at prices far below the prices south of the division, unfortunately, the reason why prices were so low is now threatening to leave them without a home and with thousands to pay in compensation and back-rent.
The reason being that a large portion of it it was evacuated by Greek Cypriots for the threat of the Turkish invasion, which subsequently became an occupation before the island was divided for peace.
Of course, many agents selling property in north Cyprus have always been upfront with their clientele; explaining to them that the price of the land or property is so low because of the risk that it could be contested at a later date by the people forced off the land (mostly by fear). It was thought that this could only happen if the issue over the division of the island was ever resolved and many people bought into the acceptable risk on the grounds that the issue would never be resolved.
However, since 2004, when Cyprus proper (Greek Cyprus) gained accession into the EU, the disposed Greek families have learned that they can take action through EU courts, and most importantly the European Court of Justice (ECJ), to try and regain possession of their land from those they deemed to be trespassing. Now the families who evacuated the north are launching a new invasion; a courtroom invasion to get back their land.
This is what has happened to British couple, Linda and David Orams. They purchased a home in North Cyprus, which, unbeknown to them, was built on land evacuated by Greek Cypriot Meletis Apostolides. Their transaction turned sour when Apostolides won his action at a District Court in Nicosia — a necessary precursor to EU court action –, which ordered the Orams to demolish the house they had built on Mr Apostolides’ land, return the land to him, pay back rent for the time since 2002 they had been there, and pay all court costs.
When the Orams — in the advice of their solicitors — ignored the ruling, this allowed Apostolides to use any court in the EU to uphold a ruling by a court in any member state. The hearing took place in the UK because it is home to the Orams’ main residence, which Apostolides’ solicitors say could be seized in order to compensate them.
The Orams are now in the very difficult position of having their battle become part of the row between nations that has raged for the last 35 years. The Turkish-Cypriot President Ali Talat has said that he will neither implement the ruling, nor allow it to be implemented, but also that the Orams will be reimbursed their legal costs and re-housed, which is a contradiction in terms.
Whatever becomes of the Orams this ruling in the UK courts will deal a massive blow to the North Cyprus property market. As was mentioned, many people who have bought property have done so in full knowledge of the situation, and the potential risk, which they saw as minimal, and worth it for the discounts on offer. It is unlikely that many people will come to the same conclusion now when weighing up the risk-reward balance of buying property in North Cyprus.
On the other hand since the credit crunch caused thousands of people to lose millions of pounds on property that will never be built, most people considering an overseas property purchase are spending months conducting their own research into the property in question; researching things including property title and ownership? So, people who are intent on buying North Cyprus property may well be able to find one with clear title to a Turkish Cypriot. At any rate it will minimise the numbers of people caught unawares like the Orams apparently were.
Photo credits: sk12 via flickr