General Meeting

25 June 2007

MINUTES

 

Chair:                                               Marian Stokes

Other Admin Team Members:           David James

                                           Patricia James

                                           Nigel Watson

Minutes                                            Sheila Vango

The meeting was opened at 11.00 am by Marian Stokes, who thanked everyone for turning out on one of the hottest days of the year so far and for the Pia Bella with supplying us with some shade!

Guest Speaker

Marian started by saying that our guest speaker, Yonca Şenyiğit from the newly formed, but as yet unopened, Property Complaints Office (PCO), was unable to join us today. However, the past month, since we postponed our protest vigil, has been very interesting and there is lots of news for you all.

Property Complaints Office

Firstly the PCO should be officially open from the 1st July 2007, all the staff have been recruited and are receiving training. The proposed website which will deal with the government guidelines regarding property purchase (and will be government sponsored) should go live in August 2007. It is also proposed that a hotline will be available for those living abroad, should they have any queries. The contact details for the PCO will be placed on our website as soon as they become available, this will include the location of the office, the relevant telephone numbers, website address and e-mail address.

Many of you will have read in the paper that there will be a fee levied when you lodge your query. I apologise in advance for lumbering you all with this fee, however there is method in my madness. Firstly this office will incur costs for the TRNC and it is only fair that we contribute towards the cost of this. Secondly, by using these resources and getting to the truth of a ‘story’, you may save yourself considerable costs and succeed in obtaining the result you want. Thirdly and most importantly, if you pay for a service – you have the right to chase it up and complain if nothing is done! Please all ensure you get a receipt and a log number for your query and please let us know that you have logged it – we can then monitor the effectiveness of the PCO.

You can either e-mail me with the details or hand them to me at the next meeting.

I have been informed that if you are currently in litigation the office will be unable to help you with your case, this is quite logical as it is in the hands of the courts. However, most of us are in court for breach of contract – which is a private matter between us and our builders (in the main).  However if the builder broke a law, i.e. illegal build, then that is a matter of a broken law, if he has not put in the infrastructure then that is a matter of a broken law, you should be able to report these matters as they are outside the scope of your case. If in any doubt – go and register your query/complaint and be guided by the staff in the office.

HBPG Report

As reported in the English TC press, a 17 page report was prepared by the HBPG outlining all the areas currently causing concern to house purchasers, this report went to every government minister! The report contained an outline of the main problem areas we have identified as a group and possible solutions to safeguard the position of the foreign buyer. No one in authority here can ever say again that they did not know of our problems, it is now down to them to prove that these concerns are going to be dealt with and the wrongdoers dealt with.

Early Successes

Some of the solutions within the document, which had been discussed at our meeting with Yonca Şenyiğit, have already been enacted. We complained that we do not understand what is going on at court as interpreters are not provided free of charge as per the TRNC constitution. In the last week, two interpreters have been assigned to the Kyrenia court and indeed Bob and Elaine had use of their services last week when their case against Gary Robb was heard.

Secondly, and as a aside – the tariffs at all national sites which will be applied to us going forward , is the local rate, payable upon production of your residents card or driving licence. This is usually half the rate levied against tourists.

Estate Agency Law

The new Estate Agency Law (EAL) is slowly becoming a reality, estate agencies have 6 months to register with the Estate Agents Union, take their exams and become legal. Over 100 agencies have applied to join the Union so the industry is on its way to becoming regulated – EXCEPT – the Interior Ministry who are to set the exams, etc have yet to set procedures to do so and the Land Registry who are going to lodge the deeds, do not have procedures to do so either! So new buyers beware – you are still not protected, watch the website for conformation that the new law is being enacted and adhered to by EA and solicitors alike.

Baro Complaints

Now for some very good news – Baro has a new president who wants our complaints against lawyers and has procedures in place to deal with them. I know many of you blame your problems on the lack of advice you received from your solicitor, so now you can do something about it. Baro have asked that any complaints be sent to them by fax (details on our website). They have emphasised that all complaints be factual in nature (no emotion – bullet point facts only) and can be submitted in English. A brief outline of the events as you know them, with any supporting evidence will suffice. Your complaint will be confidential and will be dealt with, if a lawyer is found to be breaking the code of ethics for lawyers, they will be dealt with accordingly. I know a number of you have already tried this route without any feedback or success, all I can ask is that you try again and please let me have a copy so that I can monitor progress. I sincerely hope not to become the school monitor for ever – but we need to see if these measures that we are told will be implemented actually are, so we need to keep our lines of communication open.

Police handling of complaints

One of our other complaints is the behaviour of the police when we approach them for help – often we are told it is a civil matter, take your builder to court. There has been a meeting between the Prime Minister and the Interior Ministry on this subject and Özkan Murat was instructed to ensure that all the police offices know to take our complaints seriously. It is not acceptable for a builder to threaten us verbally or physically, to remove items from our property or to take our money for services not provided. Court should really be the last recourse, not the standard cry of all parties concerned in a disagreement. Don’t put up with the bullies – report them – and let me know if you are fobbed off!

Constructors Association News

The Constructors Association has finally got teams out on the sites checking their legality; they started work during the first week of June. They are going to check amongst other things the building permits, work permits and infrastructure evident in each site. When they find an irregularity, the site is given 2 months to conform or it will be shut down. I have yet to get the finer details of how this is working, because as we all know each site is funded by people like ourselves and we need to ensure the foreign buyer is not the ultimate loser of this vital improvement. At the moment they have a number of prosecutions pending, mainly for builders in the Famagusta area, so it seems they mean business. So if you are still living in a builder’s yard without your roads, electric, water or street lighting –get down to the PCO and report it – infrastructure is a legal requirement.

Permissions to Buy

Now I have some real good news – or appalling news – depending on your point of view! Within the past two months I have made contact with a Colonel Serhat regarding our Permissions to Buy (PTBuy) and the tired excuse of – ‘its with the military’ or you have been ‘refused by the military’. I wanted to get to the bottom of this matter, only to be told they (the military) had no PTBuy pending and that they do not refuse anyone, that is down to the Council of Ministers. In some respects I was not surprised at this news, the Turkish army is very efficient and I could not see them sitting on all our paperwork for years on end! He said he would make enquires on our behalf.

In February, Ali Alnar of the Interior Ministry said there was 2000+ outstanding PTBuy which would be cleared by June, We received 350+ the last week of May but nothing since. Then this week I got a call from Colonel Serhat, following on from his enquires – some boxes came to light in the Interior Ministry containing some 4000 PTBuy that had not been processed. Can you believe it – they even managed to move premises and did not stumble across them. I figured given the number that the army told me they had processed since 1974, that there was a big black hole – the numbers just did not add up. They are now being processed as a matter of urgency and will be passed through to the military in due course.

In the past two weeks the military have processed a batch of 622 PTBuy and handed them back to the Interior Ministry to be approved by the Council of Ministers – they should sit this Wednesday – so fingers crossed.  A further batch of 800+ is being processed by the military as we speak, so they should be approved and published on our website soon. This will clear (just about ) the 2000 we learned about in February.

Following on from the discovery by Colonel Serhat of 4000 unprocessed applications, meetings were held with President Soyer, Prime Minister Talet and the military to discuss the whole property purchase procedure. The military have indicated that the whole process needs to be overhauled to prevent this from ever happening again and that going forward they are going to take an active interest the whole system to ensure it does not.

My only concern with all these approvals being processed in this manner is that the land registry office is going to drown with the weight of processing all the title transfers. I am sure that is going to be the arena of our next bottleneck. 

Paid a bribe?

I have been asked by Colonel Serhat if any of you paid a bribe to facilitate the prompt processing of your PTBuy – I told him we did. He would like to know of any other people who have done the same – any bribe anywhere – not to get you into trouble – but to stamp out corruption. Anyone willing to divulge this information, please e-mail me with details. 

Ongoing Press and TV coverage

A few weeks ago, Don, Sheila and I appeared on a live TV program and the producer/interviewer has asked to do a follow up programme. He was really upset to hear of our plight and stated on air that he would do all in his power to keep this news in the public arena. To this end he would like to visit some of the sites we know flaunt the laws. If anyone else (we already have some volunteers) would like their site to be featured, please let me know.

If we get enough people willing to take part, then we can do two programmes on different networks as we have been approached by a second TV channel as well, but obviously I would prefer to deal with the company who have supported us first. Again either see me after the meeting , or call me or e-mail me and I will let you know further details. This is really important for us as it keeps our problems firmly in the political headlights – and after years in the dark lets grab that limelight!

Invitation

Our friend from the TRNC Human Rights Association and Consumer Association, Hasan Yilmaz Işik has invited us to join them at their annual party to be held at the LA Hotel on Friday 29 June, tickets cost 30ytl. Anyone interested in going, please let me know. 

That’s about it from me for today, I hope you agree we have had some major successes this past month. I, for one will be pleased when the new PCO opens as someone else can deal with the queries and I can do some gardening for a change! It has been a long haul getting this far, we just now have to ensure that the good work is going to continue, hopefully by reporting all our problems – which are quite diverse – the whole system of buying in the TRNC will be quite robust within a short period of time and processes are tightened up and applied to the letter of the law. 

The floor was opened up to Questions 

Q:      Will the report that was prepared for the government be published on our website?

A:      Yes, it will. 

Q:      Is it appropriate to take matters to the PCO that we have subsequently cured ourselves – usually by doing the work ourselves or paying someone else to do it?

A:       Yes, I think so, you should not have been paying twice for a service. It is another example of how we are blackmailed into doing the builders jobs for them – for example paying their tax so that we get our title deeds. The exception to this would occur if you are currently suing the person concerned for that (breach of contract) expense. 

Q:      Can I go to the CPO and complain about my lawyer?

A:       Sadly no, it has been decided that the lawyers should be disciplined by their ruling body, Baro. You need to write to Baro and complain – keep it factual. (see above) 

Q:      Do you have to be a member of the HBPG to use the CPO?

A:       No of course not, it is for anybody with a problem. However, it would be nice if they could join us – without our considerable effort the office would not be opening! Just because we have had this success, it does not mean that everything will be cured overnight and there is always power in numbers. They need never attend a meeting; just add their voice to ours by completing a online membership form. 

Q:      How do the PCO intend to deal with our problems, what form will the responses take?

A:       I really do not know, I am sure they don’t either. The problem is that everyone’s complaint may have a central theme but many different quirks to it. It is my understanding that they will have access to a lawyer for any legal queries and I guess to the other governing bodies such as the Chambers of Architects etc for technical type queries. We shall have to wait and see. Once again this is why it is important you retain your complaints log number and keep me up to date of any resolution you achieve. Personally I am hoping that as common themes occur in the nature of the complaints they receive, new guidelines will be published to counter these on the official government website and of course on our own. 

Q:      When I get my PTBuy, I then have to pay the transfer tax, how is this calculated?

A:       It is either a payment of 3% or 6% of the valuation placed on the property and land by the land registry office. Please get your solicitor to explain your options to you. Unless it is stated in your contract that you are going to do so, you should not be paying the KDV/VAT or builders sales tax. If your builder starts the bribe of – “no title unless you pay my taxes” – report him to the PCO and if your solicitor is involved in the blackmail – report him/her to Baro! Once that is done all you need to do is have your house registered on the land. 

Q:      Why do I have to register my house on the land, I have been charged transfer tax on it, why isn’t it registered automatically?

A:       Good question does sound like horse before the cart! The title deed is for the land you have purchased only, it does not show a house on it unless you purchased a old house and land. This is why I say that getting your PTBuy is only the start of the process, not the finish. 

As there were not further questions, Marian closed the meeting at 12.30.