General Meeting

07 March 2006

MINUTES

 

 

Steering Group:        June Hall, David James, Marian Stokes, Nigel Watson

Minutes:                 Sheila Vango

 

The meeting was opened at 7.30 pm by Marian Stokes, who offered apologies on behalf of Connie Larsson, who is travelling abroad.

 

Marian offered a warm welcome to all new members and thanked those present for attending our monthly meeting.  She went on to introduce our guest speaker , the lawyer Mr Talat Kurşat and gave him the floor.

 

Talat Kurşat

Mr Talat Kurşat started by explaining his legal history, that he is a British trained solicitor, who went on to become Barrister in the UK. He returned to the TRNC in 1973 to start practicing law in his home country. His talk tonight was to cover the area of contract law and how that impacts the foreign community.

 

Like all laws applicable within the TRNC, contact law is based on the law practiced in Cyprus in the 1950’s which were adopted from the times of British Rule and are based on British Law of the time. This situation applies on both sides of the Green line, but recent events have shown these laws to be outdated as they have not moved with the changing times. This is noticeable particularly with the changes that have taken place in the housing market. It must be borne in mind that the property laws were made to suit the local community and have done so successfully for many years. The recent development of new building to fulfil the need of foreign investors came swiftly and the system became overheated and unmanageable highlighting loopholes that have caused distress to the foreign community. He assured us that the legal community, in tandem with the new coalition government were working hard to address these issues but such fundamental changes take time to implement.

 

One of the main loopholes that has become evident is that sellers of land (usually a builder) cannot be forced to pass on the title deeds of a property to the purchaser. To minimise the risk taken by a local purchaser, the following should take place – a contract should be properly drafted by an independent solicitor, it should be signed by both parties and witnessed by two independent witnesses and that contract should then be lodged with the Land Registry Office within 21 days. The deeds should then be handed over within two months; if this does not take place then the remedy is to take the vendor to court under the rules of Breach of Contract via Specific Performance – i.e. the sale has not been completed and the court can enforce transfer of the deeds without the consent of the seller.

 

However the foreign community cannot lodge their contracts with the land office as they cannot obtain the deeds until such time as Permission To Buy (PTB) is obtained from the Council of Ministers. This is a procedure that was introduced many years ago, before the building boom, to ensure that the island was being populated with desirable newcomers and was usually granted within months of application, this is one example of where a procedure has been overtaken by events. Although it is still a criteria for purchase, it is now taking years for applications to be processed due to demand.

 

Off plan purchases (before a house is built) with instalment plans is also a new development which does not facilitate the 21 day Land Registry contract lodgement requirement which safeguards the title deeds until final handover.

 

Instead we have a position whereby a contract is drawn up – and although legally binding on all parties – does not contain provision for the ‘handover’ of the title deeds until PTB has been obtained and the property which you have purchased remains in the vendors name as his/her asset.

 

This brings in its wake two main problems:

 

So what course of action is available to us all?

 

If the vendor changes his/her mind regarding the sale – a clause should be written into the contract whereby all funds are returnable and compensation paid. Many of us have contracts stating this – but the compensation may be capped, i.e. £10000. If the compensation value is stated – that is all you are entitled to. In today’s markets where house prices are increasing rapidly, you may find yourself in a position that the monies returned to you, fall well short of the sum required to start over again. For all new purchasers it is vital this clause is left open ended with wording such as – full compensation will be paid. This in effect makes it untenable for the seller to refuse to effect transfer of the deeds. If however you do need to go to court to get  your deeds, it may take up to two years to go through the court procedure and get a result.

 

You can have a clause written into your contract whereby your interest in the property in question is lodged at the land registry – similar to the charge that a mortgage company enters into the Land Registry at home, so that if you sell your UK property the mortgage company is paid first from any proceeds. This would alert any bank here that someone already has an interest in the asset in question and a mortgage could not be raised against the asset.

If you have missed the boat on that one, you can protect your investment in retrospect by having an injunction placed on the asset, noting your interest in the asset lodged at the Land Registry. To do this you must incur legal costs (which varies from solicitor to solicitor).

 

You can also put the property in question into trust – this effectively means that you find a local TC who is willing to act as a trustee, the property is bought in their name – clear title deed passes as the trustee is not bound by the restrictions that apply to foreigners. You apply for your PTB in the same way and once that is forthcoming the property is transferred to your name. The laws on trusteeship are tight within the TRNC and anybody abusing this position may find themselves facing a prison sentence. The trustee is entitled to all costs of carrying out this function on your behalf and you will be responsible for all taxes etc that need to be paid.

 

Mr Talat Kurşat then went on to say what has changed recently

 

Mr Talat Kurşat was asked about the current status of AGA purchasers – his advice was- not much can be done at this time as the Government has stepped in, you have no choice but to wait on their findings, decisions and actions.

Asked about selling a property when the title deeds are not in your name – can be done but needs permission of current holder of deeds.

 

Asked about enforcement of late penalty clauses – take possession of your property and then sue for Breach of Contract – may take two years (the advice of HBPG is to deduct from final payment and let them sue you!)

Complaint about your solicitor – report them to the Bar Association in Lefkoşa.

 

Official Meetings

Marian reported that the promised meeting with Government which she expected to take place in February has not taken place – once again.

 

Success Stories

Nothing to report this month

 

Administration

See piece on Contract law above

 

Other business

The new website can be found at www.homebuyerspressuregroup.net  Please have a look and tell us what you think.

 

The Valentines’ Love Your House Party took place on Friday 17th February. Many thanks to our DJ an evening full of good tunes and the memories they evoked of our younger days! Thanks also to Reg for sharing his birthday cake and his staff for the tasty buffet. The evening raised 160YTL for funds.

 

The meeting drew to an end at 9pm after the public forum.