General Meeting

03 October 2006

MINUTES

 

Committee Members:                            David James

                                                Patricia James

                                                Conny Larsson

                                                Marian Stokes

                                                Nigel Watson

Minutes                                                 Sheila Vango 

Guest Speaker:                                     Şemi Bora

The meeting was opened at 7.30 pm by Marian Stokes, who welcomed all members and guests in attendance.  She introduced the guest speaker, Mr Semi Bora who would be speaking to us later about his time as Lefkoşa Mayor and answering questions about the Municipalities and their role in Cypriot life.

Avril Davis

Marian relayed the sad news that one of our first members had passed away this week. Avril, with her husband Peter, was a dedicated member of the group and attended most meetings determined to help others where she could. She was a gentle lady with an open heart and will be sadly missed, our thoughts are with Peter at this sad time. Her funeral will take place at the British Cemetery tomorrow, the 4th of October at 4.30pm, Peter requests that all attendees dress casually as Avril would have wished.

Marian then handed the floor to Connie to update us all on last month’s activities.

Update

Good news- David and Kim Pavey finally got KibTek metered electric last Friday – almost 18 months after moving into their property. They are now waiting for their first power cut so that they can grumble like the rest of us and are having counselling to wean themselves off the sound of a generator!  On a serious note, this result came about as a result of applying constant pressure on anyone they thought could help them, including the papers and asking the group to outline their plight to any minister they happened to be talking to.

The message here is GET OUT THERE AND HELP YOURSELF. Other group members can point you in the right direction and offer advice based on their experiences, but you have got to do the foundational work, such as filling in our database forms, yourself.

The primary aim of this Group is to highlight the problems being experienced by property buyers – all their problems, large and small.  You may feel that your problem is minor in comparison to some you hear, but if you are experiencing it, then no doubts others are too. We do not aim to become a group of whingers – we aim to become a positive action group for change by continually lobbying government officials and authorities and ensuring the local press are aware of our actions.  Our other aim is to ensure that our experiences and the lessons learnt are publicised via our website, these meetings, by word of mouth and in the press, so that potential buyers can avoid the pitfalls that have spoilt the experience of moving to the TRNC for so many of us.

Police Support

Last week, some of our members approached us regarding the actions of their builder, who upon not being paid, promptly removed their water pump and his generator (their only means of electric) from the site! They have a sales agreement that stated a payment was due by timeline, however it was not technically and therefore, not morally due. We decided to approach the police and seek their help. The police treated the matter very seriously indeed. They contacted the builder and told him to return the pump and instructed our members not to part with their money. The following day the water pump was returned and the builder’s generator was re-connected to their house.  If you should experience harassment of the same nature and you have a valid reason for withholding a stage payment, contact us and we will ensure the Police are aware of your situation and enlist their assistance.

Permission to Purchase

At every meeting during the past months we have urged you to contact the Interior Ministry (with your application number) and check the progress of your application yourself. If you do not know your number, DEMAND it from your lawyer. You have paid for it, it is yours – if they cannot supply that number the likelihood is that they have not submitted an application on your behalf.  The Interior Ministry number is 0392 228 3344, ask to speak to Sevil and find out where you are in the process.

Taxes on Properties

Another scam that is being perpetrated against our members – or more importantly NEW INVESTORS – is that the taxes that are the responsibility of the builder - sales tax, municipality tax and KDV (VAT) – are being written into contracts as being the purchaser’s responsibility. DO NOT SIGN A CONTRACT WITH SUCH CLAUSES.

The second scam as many of us know, is that once your permission to buy comes through, some builders are claiming they cannot give you your deeds as they cannot pay the taxes due to enable them to do so. The upshot of this is that the only way forward is for you to pay their tax.  Please do not give in to such blatant blackmail – contact the group and we shall contact the necessary authorities who may be able to help.  If the guy is genuinely in this position at least establish that fact without doubt before you throw money at him!

Lastly – be aware that you should only be paying the purchase tax which is currently 6% less a one off discount of 3%.

Özkan Murat

Many of us turned up to see Özkan Murat on the 19th September when he visited Girne to ‘meet the people’.  We had prepared a list of questions for him which we gleaned as the major areas of concern from your database forms (see it is worth filling them in). He was rather overwhelmed by our group and the diversity and magnitude of our concerns and elected to meet with us at a latter date when he had had time to consider his responses. This meeting has been set for the 10th October and we are hopeful that a lot of good advice will be forthcoming, which we will feed back to you as soon as possible via the website. We also gave him some full case histories pertaining to members who are embroiled in court actions and he has promised to look at these as well.

Rauf Denktaş

Representatives of the group have also had a meeting with Rauf Denktaş, who is the well respected, influential former President of the TRNC. He is well aware of the plight of many of the foreign investors in the country he loves, stating last November “many homebuyers have lost much money because estate agents and builders’ have failed to keep promises. This must be stopped with a much stricter control of this business”.  He asked what he could do to help us and we asked if he could apply pressure to the various governmental departments and authorities to work with us.  He assured us he would be very happy to do this.

Visa Warning

Connie asked that we all be careful regarding the renewal of our residency/work permits, a member who had not realised hers had lapsed, had to go home quickly for a family matters – and incurred a large fine when attempting to leave the country. This is now government policy, so ensure you apply in good time for your paperwork as not to do so could prove to be very expensive.

Connie closed the update and handed back the floor back to Marian who then went on to introduce out guest speaker for the evening - Şemi Bora.  Marian gave us some background information on Şemi before inviting him to take the floor.  Şemi was Mayor of Lefkosa for 8 years and it was with that knowledge in mind he has come to talk to us tonight about the role of the municipalities in everyday Cypriot life. He was born in Larnaca and is a graduate from the Middle Eastern Technical University, where he studied Economics. He then went to the USA to the North East University to further his knowledge in this field. He returned to the TRNC where he was General Secretary of the Cyprus Turkish Trade Association.   In 1994 he decided to run for the position of Mayor of Lefkosa and was successful in holding the post for eight years until 2002.  His knowledge of how the system works, including the restrictions which influence decisions are still relevant today. Marian then handed the floor to Şemi.

Şemi Bora

Şemi began by thanking everyone for attending to hear him speak, he was honoured to have been asked to attend. He did not intend giving a long talk, but would prefer to answer questions from the floor. The Municipalities were set up to look at the wider picture of life and to help look after people from the cradle to the grave – actually beyond the grave as cemetery upkeep is part of their remit.

The main aim of the Municipalities is to serve the people by making their lives easier, to improve the environment in which we live – but to achieve all this, funds have to be forthcoming. Many people expect the services provided to be as vast as those provided by Municipalities in other parts of the world – however the funds being levied on the populace do not equate to those being levied elsewhere. The average Municipality bill is around 40YTL – between £15-£20 a year – this does not go far.

At the moment the Municipalities in the TRNC do not encompass the whole of the TRNC, there are whole villages that fall outside the boundaries of any Municipality and work is going on at the moment to ensure that everyone is brought into the fold and basic services such as refuse collection is provided for everyone. When this work is completed and the costs of providing all the services is calculated, the people may find their Municipality bills will increase to accurately reflect that. The TRNC is still a young country and these things will gradually happen so the lifestyle of all its populace is improved, not just those who live in the larger cities.

He also pointed out that education plays a large part here, the local community have not had the benefit of the past 60 years development that the UK has had – in the UK, there has been a huge drive to get rid of the slums, to provide sanitation, to improve health and safety, to improve the health of the populace, to encourage safe disposal of rubbish, ideals that are strived for here under difficult financial restraints.

Şemi also appreciates that the services on offer from the Municipalities here do not bear much relation to the services we have come to expect from our local councils in Europe, but he hopes we can now see why – the infrastructure is not as developed and the funding is very different. However, for all that, he is aware and honoured that so many foreign people have chosen his country, out of all of the countries in the world, to live in. He hopes that in time the gap between what we are used to and what is provided here will close, but this will only happen with constructive discussion and by understanding what problems the foreign community are experiencing that the Municipalities can assist with and improve or cure.

Semi then took questions from the floor.

Q: It seems that the roads here get laid and then continually dug up again, as there is not a lot of public funding available to maintain the roads in a good state of repair can some of those responsible be asked to co-operate and do any necessary work at the same time?

A: Yes, this would happen in an ideal world and we hold plans of scheduled works in the city planning offices – sadly our timescales and those of the electric, telephone or water boards rarely coincide. It is easier to achieve in new developments or where we are undergoing a huge project like the recent overhaul of road infrastructure in Girne, but even then you cannot accommodate the event of a burst pipe.

Q: A lot of the damage caused to the roads are as a result of heavy goods traffic, lorries filled with quarry stone and cement mixers – do these people have to pay a higher road tax?

A: Yes, they do, but this money does not come to the Municipality, it goes to the government.

Q: What about fly tipping, who can we complain to about that?

A: There is some action we can take, but there needs to be a change in the law to make any action effective. There are not currently any laws to deter people from taking such harmful actions, you can only report them and hope they listen to the police – if your complaint is even followed up. It does help if you are concise in your complaint, take a photo, get the licence number – it is easier for the police to follow up your complaint if they have some evidence to go on. Make your complaint to the Municipality and ask them what action they are going to take against these people.

Q: I have complained to the Municipality about the number of lorries using the Alsancak road to fill in the ravine, my initial concern was ‘where will the winter rains go’, if the ravine is filled. However, now I notice, some 1 month later, that the land has been bulldozed flat and the markers for new houses have appeared and will presumably be built on a false platform that has not had seasons to settle. Who allows these things to happen?

A: No, this should not be happening, it is a dangerous practice. The Ministry of the Interior should be informed of these things, as should the Municipality. They can check to see if the necessary permits have been applied for and granted.

Q: What can I do if, after paying a solicitor to make enquires on my behalf, that my property has no access road?

A: There is no easy answer to this; the only thing I can suggest for future buyers is to ensure that copies of building permissions are added to the contract as a matter of course. I appreciate that many of you have followed the advice of your solicitor and have no reason to doubt him/her when they tell you everything is ok – but a copy of the approved application would confirm this without area for doubt.

Q: Is there a central plan held where the green belt areas, army restricted areas and other non- development areas are shown? If so, are the public able to view it?

A: The place to go is the City Planning Department in Lefkosa. They are responsible for the whole area, there is no central plan as such, but you can get a set of regulations which sets out the framework that should apply to any new development.

Q: My lawyer did not inform me that I would encounter a problem with my PTB, which was refused because they say I am too close to a military installation. Why are builders allowed to build so close to the military installations if people cannot buy the properties they have built?

A: A builder can build next to a military installation if he has his building permit approved. The properties can be sold to our citizens without encountering this problem. I am sorry I cannot help you, this is a problem for your solicitor.

Q: We have a problem with our electrical supply, the builder says a transformer is required and expects us all to pay to have it put in. The cost is £44,000, which equates to approximately £4000 each household. Our contracts state that the electrical installation is his responsibility, who can we see about this?

A: Your lawyers as they understand your contracts, but I can see how this problem has arisen. I too, build in the TRNC, mostly apartments. I too, have encountered this problem, I submitted my plans and gained planning permission – this means that the entire infrastructure was approved by the Municipality, the electric department and water. When the electric department came to do their work they said that the development really needed its own transformer to ensure that the electric supply was constant – without fluctuation which damages your electrical appliances. The cost for this was around the £40,000 mark. I too had contracts which said I would supply electric and water and you will appreciated I had factored the cost of supplying these services into the cost of each apartment. I talked to each of my customers and explained things like this: that I know they did not have to cover this extra cost but it was a cost I was unaware of either, many of my customers agreed to pay me because they understood I could have said no and their electric would have been problematic. Those who chose not to pay the extra or who could not afford to pay, I respected their decisions. I could not demand , I could only ask.

Q: Are the builders supposed to be registered and regulated? What security do we have if a builder goes bankrupt or does not honour his guarantee?

A: Many builders belong to the Builders Union, but not all. Public works can only be undertaken by members of this union. However, they do not regulate their members. We are still a relatively young country and many of these issues are under discussion but there is nothing written into regulations yet.

Q: I live in Ozanköy, we have always paid Çatalköy for our water. In the summer new water pipes were laid by the Muhtar of Ozanköy (and not very well as they damaged my driveway). We have now received a bill for this work - £300 and the water supply from Çatalköy has been cut off. Why do we have to pay for this infrastructure work that the Muhtar performed – did he have a drink one night and dream up this get rich quick scheme? Is it only the foreigner who is being asked to pay this extortionate charge?

A: The charges should be the same for everyone and this work is usually done by the water department with prior notification. Speak to the water department.

There were no further questions and Marian apologised to Şemi for some of the questions falling out with the remit of his talk tonight. He responded by saying he did not mind, even if he could not give a direct answer he could at least suggest where people should start. He also said he did not realise the diverse nature of the problems affecting the foreign community. He personally felt very honoured that so many foreigners were now choosing to live in his homeland, when they could have chosen to live in many other countries in the world. However, with this comes responsibility to ensure that your visitors are well looked after and he would like to offer his help to the members of the group.

Şemi is a very busy man but he has offered to help in any way he can with our problems.  He has a lot of contacts from his 8 years as Mayor of Lefkoşa and he will introduce the HBPG organisers to the relevant government officials and authorities who can assist us.

The group warmly thanked Şemi for such a generous offer and an interesting talk.

The meeting closed at 9.30 pm.