General Meeting

06 June 2006

MINUTES

 

Committee Members:                            Peter Davis

                                                David James

                                                Patricia James

                                                Marian Stokes

                                                Nigel Watson

Minutes                                                 Sheila Vango 

 

The meeting was opened at 7.30 pm by Marian Stokes, who welcomed all members and guests in attendance.  She went on to offer apologies from Connie Larson who is away again on his travels.  She introduced the guest speaker, Mr Ibrahim Ileli, who would be speaking to us later about what one should expect from a builder.  She also introduced his daughter, Esra, who would translate on behalf of her father.

Administration

Marian went on to talk about the progress being made by the HBPG and the barriers that still frustrate our efforts today.  One of the age old problems with groups of this nature is that a few people do the work on behalf of a large membership, but this is made more difficult due to the language barrier. The group have been asked to present case histories to the government so that they can analyse what went wrong and why. There have been two main barriers to carrying out this request – the first being the apathy of group members who have not produced a factual, detailed account of their house purchase and the second that any case history deemed to be suitable for analysing has to be translated into Turkish.  Marian has searched the web for a free translator, without much success. The next step would be to purchase a software package to the job, however on reflection of the time this job consumes and the fact that we have very little in the way of funds, the group is now asking that people supply their own translated case histories.

 

Marian appreciates that as it is hard enough to get anyone to complete a full factual case history in English – to get a further copy translated into Turkish may be wishing for the moon! She reiterated once again – that nearly everybody in attendance has major problems of one sort or another, without input from the members the group will slowly die, stop complaining and take some action yourself, be in control, if you would like your experience scrutinised by the people who can make a difference – then please, please put pen to paper. Marian is quite happy to look your case history over and get it into a standard format, once you are happy with it, get it translated (cost vary from £20-£40) and she will pass it on to the relevant government working party. If you have complaints about the estate agent, the builder and the solicitor – then do a separate sheet for each as we can take secondary action to the main thrust with the working party.

 

If your builder is a member of the Construction Association – any complaint against him can also be reported to that body, Marian has a very good contact in Cafer Gürcafer, who is the president of the Association. Mr Gürcafer is anxious that the integrity of his Association is maintained and is as interested as we are to take action against rogue builders.

 

If your builder is not a member of the Association, then any complaint against a builder will be dealt with by the police as a civil matter.

 

A rogue/unprofessional solicitor/lawyer/advocate can be reported to the Bar Council.

 

Estate Agents are soon to be regulated, so a separate complaints and disciplinary procedure will come into force to be utilised and we shall ensure your complaints are lodged with that body also.

 

The government are currently investigating four big cases, so far there have been no prosecutions, but when the investigations reach there conclusion the outcome will be published on the website.

 

 

Permission to Buy

Marian supplied an update on the progress being made within the Ministry of the Interior with the backlog of applications to Buy. Currently the team there are working their way through applications made in 2004 – they are about half way through the year.  If your permission was applied for prior to June 2004 and you have not yet been informed of their decision then contact your solicitor, quite often they have the information but have failed to contact you regarding it. Marian reiterates again that you can complete this process yourself; details about what you need and where you need to go are on the website.  A solicitor will charge on average £1000 to do something you could do in half a day and know that it is done right.  If your solicitor does not have any information regarding your application, you can ask him/her to chase it , but it might be quicker and safer to chase it yourself.  You will need your file number (solicitor will have that detail) and you can either ring or call into the Ministry to ascertain what the hold-up is. Commonly this is due to lack of a correct application in the first place – missing paperwork etc.  Once you know why there is no progress you can take action to get things moving again. Permission to Purchase Procedure

 

 

The Press

Marian wished to thank again the members of the Press who have attended every meeting and given the group wide coverage in all its endeavours to bring shoddy practices into the public arena.  Their support has been invaluable in adding credence to what many view as a bunch of whinging brits!  There are fundamental flaws in the housing sector and only by highlighting these areas and the grief they cause foreign investors will a climate for change emerge, so thanks once again to the Cyprus Times, Cyprus Today, Cyprus Observer and Essential Magazine.

 

 

Estate Agent Advertising

Marian spoke briefly about the new advert for Iain Smiths Estate Agency whereby they now state what services they supply on behalf of the purchaser. – like checking building permission, who owns the land in question etc. This is wonderful to see – but what a shame they actually have to spell it out – these are measures we all expected the estate agents to take as a matter of course!  But, sniping aside – it is progress of the sort we have been calling for, so lets hope many of the others follow suit and behave in a responsible manner also.

 

 

Taxes

Marian referred to the following article which appeared in the Cyprus Times 13 May 2006  - it covers the procedure of buying property by foreign nationals, the taxes payable on property sales and purchases in Northern Cyprus, is written by Arif Tahir Erisen and can be accessed on our site.

 

 

Help Required

Marian imparted to us the sad news that one of our members has come under attack from a well know local solicitor.  Our member (it is claimed) voiced his opinion about the unprofessional behaviour of this solicitor and the solicitor has responded by bringing a case for Defamation of Character against our member.  The solicitor has engaged the services of a reputable solicitor, Mr Gunesh Mentesh (he is the local solicitor defending the Orams).  However, our member has been unable to find any local solicitor to defend him.  He has therefore had to put in his own defence to these charges. It is difficult to even comprehend what our member and his family are suffering as a result of this, their dreams of a happy retirement were shattered by the combined efforts of the estate agent, the builder and the solicitor they employed in good faith, now this development just adds to their misery. Our member is confident that he can defend anything he has been accused off, but he is fighting with both hands behind his back as he cannot find legal representation and has the further complication of trying to defend himself in a foreign language.

 

It begs the question - is the fate that awaits any of us who dare to complain about the terrible injustices that have befallen many genuine investors in the TRNC?  Is this an attempt to quash movements like the HBPG?  One may argue that the solicitor has the right to defend himself against unjust accusations – and the HBPG would defend that right – but will the TRNC extend the same right to us?

 

Our member could do with some moral support, he is not the only one who rues the day he engaged the services of a solicitor as the bulletin boards of MSN are testament to – so we ask – would those of you, who have also been dissatisfied with the level of service provided by a solicitor, please put pen to paper and tell us your experience.  If you e-mail Marian on the website address, your message will be secure and we can collate all the information given to pass on to the Law Society (Baro).  We will require as much factual information as you can give and then maybe, with the support of the community, our member will be able to fight this claim from a more level playing field. The solicitor is claiming damages to the tune of 500,000 YTL. Do you really want the solicitor to win – then do nothing!

 

Note: This action was taken by the solicitor when our member had officially made a complaint for negligence against said solicitor through the proper channels – to Mr Mustafa Güryel, Girne Law Society.  The formal written complaint was initially made in January 2006 and, as no acknowledgement of receipt was received from Mr Güryel, our member re-submitted his complaint in March 2006.  The HBPG also attempted to contact Mr Güryel by telephone and failed to receive a response.

 

 

Guest speaker: Ibrahim Ileli

Our guest speaker was introduced by Agneta Önfelt.  Agneta moved to the TRNC from Sweden on a part time basis along with her good friend Connie Larson. They both started house hunting, as they needed a property each.  Agneta thought she found the perfect property and purchased from Aga Development.  She was promised that the house was going to be delivered and the title deed transferred into her name in 2005.  In the May, this looked as if everything would go to schedule, but by September the property was no further forward.  Weekly visits to Aga offices produced lots of empty promises.  Eventually, Agneta realised something was wrong and tried to find a way to transfer the house into her name to protect her investment; she succeeded in doing so but could not move in as she had no mains water or electric.  After the winter rains the building shed all its exterior paint, the groundwork was deficient so damp was rampant, also the waste pipes go to holes in the ground, not to septic tanks and the extra water tanks that were installed became fouled.  She did manage to get mains water – only to find a huge water leak. At this point she realised she need professional help – from an honest man- she could not bear any more lies.

 

In the course of trying to achieve this she met Ibrahim Ileli who, whilst not connected to Aga in any way, was so troubled by her plight he decided to find out what he could do on her behalf. What he discovered was very frightening – Agneta had bought a house with no access, no building permission, no application for water or electric. He found out what was needed to make the house habitable and what it would cost to do it properly through official channels. The work was carried out (except for electric connection as an access road is a vital requirement for this) and Agneta presented Aga developments with the bill for doing so – they said they could have done it better, cheaper!  She is still fighting to get her additional costs back. However, she felt she could no longer keep this marvellous man to herself and handed the floor to Esra, Ibrahim’s daughter.

 

 

Esra Ileli

Esra started by saying that she just returned to the TRNC after studying English in the UK – she went to do this to help her family business as her father does not speak English, he is an honest man who needs to be able to communicate with his clients to ensure no misunderstandings arise. She explained that her father founded the family business in the 1980’s, he only uses expert craftsmen, many of whom have been with him all these years, he only builds small projects so that he can remain in overall control and ensure his standards do not slip.

 

She says to be cautious of cheap properties, the infrastructure required for a build, such as roads, water and electric costs a lot of money, a cheap build will swallow most of these costs – so what is left to build with?

 

She was not here touting for business; they currently have a new project about to commence in Karşıyaka – 5 bungalows – which all sold in two weeks. Her father thinks ahead and buys land now for development later, while it lays fallow he is applying for electric and water and drawing plans to make the best use of the land. When he offers his buildings for sale, all the T’s are crossed and I’s dotted, his price reflects the costs incurred already for all these things. In this way when he makes a contract – he is not whistling in the wind, he knows what he promises can be delivered because he already has it on site. The family realise that most people who come to settle here, have worked 40 or maybe 50 years to live out their retirement in the home of their choice – they only want what is fair and promised and they do their utmost to make sure that is what their customers get.

 

Mr Ileli does not advertise with Estate Agents – he did once and customers were told his land was Turkish Deed, this was not true, he has not bothered since. They have their own office and people get to hear about them. He does not generally use solicitors either, his word is his bond and he is aware many of them do very little for their fee. His satisfied customers are his biggest asset.

 

There are many small builders on the Island, who are not advertised by the Estate Agents – you need to seek them out and look at how they work, how long they have been in business and how long their staff have been with them. Big is not always beautiful and good things do come in small packages.

 

 

Open Questions

Q.   Are we wasting our time here with the TRNC government who just pay lip service to our complaints? Do the HBPG think it is time to approach the EU with our cases?

 

A.   This is certainly a route that has not been ruled out. However, it would be nice to have the cases to present to the TRNC government first – we say things are not changing fast enough – yet where is the evidence to give to the government to enable them to look at changing things. I say again – there is a handful of us working to help the 1000 members we have – but we cannot do anything unless the 1000 do their piece first.

 

Q.   Are the builders supposed to put in all the infrastructure as described by Esra before building commences?

 

A.   No – it is not a law, but if you do not want future problems the wise builder works in this manner. You can do some of these checks yourself – the road, if official, will be shown on the site plan, building permission is granted by the Belediye (council) and you can ask them for the file number – it begins with a D, if you get this file number then electric and water supply have been applied for also.

 

Q.   Am I entitled to have my original plans for the building of my house?

 

A.   If you have paid for them yes – but most reputable builders will give you a copy anyway. You should ensure you have the electrical plan also.

 

Q – Why are we not doing more to stop people coming here to be cheated by the people of the TRNC – the corruption is widespread and it appears we are not really welcome? Should we not be more visible in our endeavours to draw attention to this situation?

 

A.   We do not want to damage the economy of the TRNC – there are a lot of good people out there who want to work alongside us, but as stated repeatedly – we need everyone to do their bit. There is power in numbers and this group along with the Orams’ case and the Aga Developments saga has badly dented confidence in the housing sector – this is why small steps towards improvement are being made. It takes a long time to implement effective change – we have all seen the result of hastily thought out government polices – 15% Vat and Leasehold – being two.  The protests that really count are to ensure as many of us who can spare the time turn up to Court to support our member who is being sued by a TRNC solicitor (details will be published well in advance) – the message being we are not going to shut up and go away – listen to our complaints – do not try and gag us.

 

 

Request for Case Studies for the website.

In light of the threat to Kate Smith (see minutes 2nd April 2006) and the reaction of the Law Society earlier this year whilst the group was ‘naming and shaming’ it has been mooted that many of these case studies could be published using A Purchaser, A Builder, A Estate Agent and A Solicitor – after all, if one of these people recognise themselves form your ‘story’ they are hardly going to shout about it!  It is sad that the public cannot know the names of those involved, but we can assure the public that these experiences are no less true and it is up to new buyers to be vigilant and be aware of what may happen. If anyone is happy to have their experience published under this complete anonymity, please send them to our e-mail address.

 

 

As there was no further business the meeting drew to an end at 9pm after the public forum.