Homebuyers Pressure Group Meeting

with Ms Yonca Şenyiğit 04 October 2007



PM's Office                        Yonca Şenyiğit (YS)

                                                Tuğçe Volkan (TV)

HBPG Members                        David James (DJ)

                                                Marian Stokes (MS)

Minutes                            Sheila Vango (SV), Minutes

The meeting commenced at 11.00 am with Yonca Şenyiğit, who is the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. YS started by welcoming us to the Prime Ministers (PM) offices for our first official meeting since the commencement of the Property Complaints Office (POC) in July this year.

Marian thanked all those concerned with the PCO, especially Tuğçe, for all the good work they have been doing since the office opened and said that other members of the HBPG who have registered their complaints with the PCO have informed us how impressed they have been with the reception they have received from Tuğçe and Necebe and how much more confident they feel that their problem will be treated seriously and a solution worked towards.

Marian went on to say, that the office has been operational for three months and many of the HBPG members are asking what happens from here, who does what, what authority does the office have, how can they punish the guilty, will they punish the guilty?  We do not have the answers, so we have come today to try and find these things out.  It is not a criticism of what you are doing, or that you are not doing it fast enough, it is simply to gain an understanding of what you can and can’t do so that people understand the scope of the office and therefore do not have false expectations.

Yonca replied that they are pleased with the operation of the office and it is very concerning to see the variety of problems that are being highlighted. They are searching for the best way to solve these problems now and to prevent the problem from occurring in the future and creating more dissatisfied customers. What do you need to know exactly, I will give direct answers where I can?

MS:      At the last HBPG meeting attended by Hasan Sungar, it was said that as each case progressed and solutions were discussed  each applicant would be contacted about any progress made, is this happening?  And, what happens once someone has been to your office and registered their complaint?

TV:       Yes, I open a file with that person’s case number. I have to collate all the relevant documentation, sometimes the person concerned has all this information to hand, and sometimes they don’t. If there is information missing, I request it from the relevant departments. Once I have written up the outline problem and have all the documentation to hand, the file is forwarded to the POC Committee for them to discuss the issues raised and to see if they can find a solution.  This information is then relayed to the applicant.  As we now have over 100 applicants it is only possible to communicate with applicants as an when necessary.

YS:       We have prepared a spreadsheet (in Turkish) on which to record all actions taken, or if we are waiting on documentation or the assistance/response from another office or body. In some cases we have concluded that the matter can only be solved legally, either because the case is already in our legal system or because that is the only way forward.  It is interesting to see that from the information we have already, there are about 8 construction companies whose names keep popping up, one estate agent and three or four solicitors, so it is a very small proportion of the business community who are causing this problem.

MS:      This is of no surprise to us; it is always the few who spoil it for everyone. When will this spreadsheet be ready and will we be able to communicate it to our members, you can understand that people are now wanting to know what is happening and it would be lovely to have some success stories to publicise.

TV:       It is on my list of things to do, but at the moment I am working full time on tackling the problem of securing electricity for those people who have reported they have none – in between conducting the interviews with new clients.  I say this, not as an excuse, but as a reason for the delay in translating the spreadsheet.  We have a meeting imminently with KibTek and that must take priority as many people’s problems may be solved quickly. I will be contacting everyone who has reported an electrical problem to me over the next few days and urge anyone who has a problem with electric supply that I am not aware about, to contract me with the details as soon as they can.

MS:      There are two issues stemming from what you have said, if you have to request information from other departments, what authority do you have to do so and who forms this committee and what powers to act do they have?

YS:       All our work is governed by the authority of the Prime Minister’s Office. If we request help from another department, or request that an individual comes to see us to explain something, that request is done in the name of the Prime Minister and must be treated with respect and diligence.

            The POC committee is made up of three managers from the Interior Ministry and members of the Estate Agents Union, Builders Union and Baro. It is a high level committee with much expertise and respect and together they are looking at these cases.  Apart from trying to find a solution to the problem as it exists they are investigating how these matters came to be and testing the laws and procedures currently in place to see if they are robust. If a procedure/law is proved to be lacking and contributing to the problems that are evident, then they are looking at ways to prevent this.

            I know your members have been very patient and have been highlighting their troubles for some time, we ask now that they be patient just a little longer, there are so many good things happening in the background, new ideas being discussed and people actively working to eradicate these problems, but Rome was not built in a day and we are doing our best.  We are not just trying to get this right for the foreign buyer but for all our people, we want to have a strong economy where everyone is protected, where the good can prosper and the wealth in the country is enjoyed by all, by investment - via taxation - in our infrastructure.

MS:      We are sure that we all want the same result, but of course if a buyer locked in a situation from which this committee is your last hope of a solution, they do need that feedback, even if it is simply that your file is before the committee.

            One member asked me to pass on some good news.  They received a Court Summons from their builder demanding a payment with interest which they had already made three years ago.  Their lawyer wanted £500 to fight the case in Court, i.e. produce the receipt as evidence of payment at the correct time.  They contacted Necebe at the PCO who informed them that they didn’t need a lawyer and could produce the evidence themselves at the Court.  They took Necebe’s advice and the matter was settled by the Judge within a week.

YS:       Please also bear in mind that the members of the committee have other jobs to fulfil as well, so they are not a full time body.  However I know they are all dedicated and devoting what time they have available to progress the cases in front of them.

MS:      You mentioned earlier that some persistent offenders are coming to the fore, what actions will be taken against reoccurring offenders?

YS:       The committee are not judge and jury. We have stated that of those cases investigated so far all claims have been proven to be true.  We are asking these people to come and explain their actions and why this situation is unresolved,  When we understand the problems encountered by all concerned we can look for a solution. In some instances we cannot help, the only recourse is the legal system; in others it may not be the individual who is to blame but the bottlenecks’ in other departments.  In some cases we have obtained undertakings from these people that they will do x or y to correct the matter, we will now monitor their actions to see if this is the case.

MS:      Have any of these proposed actions and the timescales involved been communicated to the PCO claimants?

TV:       They will be when we have the agreement of all concerned, for example the KibTek project that I am currently working on, this will help many of the claimants I have seen but, until the matter is discussed with KibTek and a possible solution found, I have nothing concrete to report.

YS:       I am sure you appreciate this was a new project for us, we are learning how to work effectively as we go along and like many new projects, we find that time passes quickly while we are learning. It is new for a lot of the departments we are contacting to receive requests for help from us too. This was not an exercise in streamlining an existing process but building a completely new one which is multi-faceted as the problems you have brought us are multi-faceted. It will be a while before we can say with confidence that this is the way to proceed with this type of problem as each problem we record is unique.

MS:      It is good to hear that you are learning from the information gathered where some of the pitfalls are, what safeguards are being put in place to insure that buyers investments are protected?

YS:       Getting the right information out there is very important to us and there are number of initiatives underway. There is of course, the new estate Agents Law, the teams of inspectors working in conjunction with the Builders Union, our plans to advertise registered estate agents, the professional exams that these bodies will have to undertake, this office (who can be contacted for information at any stage of the buying process) and shortly a government website dedicated to the official guide to buying in Northern Cyprus.

MS:      Are there any plans to extend the role of this office to cope with the increase in workload?

YS:       Not at this moment. We find that Tuğçe is coping with her current workload and fortunately for us, winter working hours are now applicable, so as the number of cases exceeds 100, we have naturally gained more time in which to deal with them.  It is something we will monitor as time goes on.

MS:      The role and responsibility of the PCO is being questioned and criticised by many, especially lawyers. What plans are in place to overcome this?  Some of our members are being told that there is no point in going to the office, that the only solution to their problem is the courts, sadly many of our own people think it is a waste of time and just here to appease the HBPG and of course many builders also make the comment, go there it will not help you.

YS:       We are sadly not responsible for how we are perceived by the lawyers, builders, estate agents or indeed, your own members.  It is always easier to deride something than support it.  Time will tell who is right – but only if those concerned ignore the derision and come to see us.  They have nothing to lose after all.  We are dedicated to finding a solution for everyone.

MS:      Yes, that is the hardest part isn’t it, convincing people that this is the best way forward for everyone, sadly people still do not want to upset their builder and lawyer and will not seek your help, but I am sure once the office is proved to be effective that will change.

            On another note, I need some information on behalf of the Aga buyers? There are a lot of injunctions currently on land linked to the Aga developments and the two Aga Committees are experiencing difficulties getting a definitive list of all these Injunctions.  Also, Gary Robb has stated that all the Koçans for all Aga owned land are held by the government.

            If the Committees could be given a list of all Injunctions together with confirmation that the Koçans are in fact in the government’s possession, people might be more comfortable about lifting their injunctions, which seems to be a condition of any proposed solution. I am sure you can understand anyone’s reluctance to give up the only form of protection they have, they need to be offered something in return and the location of the Koçan might just do this.

YS:       Yes, I can see the sense in what you are saying; I will endeavour to find out, probably next week and will report back to you.

            I am sorry I have no more time to spare you, an hour goes quickly, was there anything else?

MS:      There is always something else, but we have covered the main points here today, thank you for your time and once again, many thanks to Tuğçe for her efforts on behalf of all buyers.

The meeting disbanded at 12.15.