Real estate investors from Europe and elsewhere who own property in Turkish-occupied North Cyprus are worried about the impact of possible reunification on their ownership status.
Turkey occupied 37% of the island in 1974 and many overseas investors took advantage of cheaper land prices to buy or build property; however, the vast majority of the land they purchased was previously owned by Greek Cypriots, who claim it was illegally taken from them.
Close to solution
Talks between the Republic of Cyprus and the breakaway Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) currently appear to be closer to reaching a solution to the division of the island than they have been for a decade; however, overseas property owners in the north are concerned that they will lose their property and their rights. The British Residents Society (BRS), formed in 1974 when the Turkish occupation took place, is urgently requesting reassurances and a meeting with the Turkish Cypriot government to discuss their concerns.
The BRS, which describes itself as one of the largest and oldest legally recognised expatriate organisations in the TRNC, has written to Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci emphasising the major contributions made by its members to the state’s economy. It is particularly concerned about a recent agreement to set up a new island-wide property commission to oversee disputes over the ownership of the occupied land and any buildings constructed upon it. The BRS is seeking assurances that the title deeds will be honoured and the property rights protected. The BRS is also asking whether expat citizens of the TRNC will become citizens of the Republic of Cyprus and the EU in the event of reunification, with equivalent legal rights, and also what will happen to Turkish lira accounts held by its members should a united Cyprus accept the euro.
Since October 2006 the Republic of Cyprus had made buying, selling, renting, promoting or mortgaging a property without permission of the owner a criminal offence, with the Republic recognising the ownership claims of Greek Cypriots in the TRNC. The law is not retrospective and does not criminalise those who bought property before 2006; however, nor does it recognise or validate their claim to their property.
Documents relating to the purchase of property in North Cyprus are also presumed to relate to the illegal transfer of Greek Cypriot property and could be confiscated by the authorities, with the bearer facing questioning and possible criminal proceedings.
In 2002 British couple David and Linda Orams bought land in the TRNC previously owned by Greek Cypriot refugee Meletis Apostolides. He sued the couple in the Republic of Cyprus, demanding that they vacate his property in Lapithos. His case was upheld, and eventually the judgement was applied against the Orams’ assets in the UK.
The BRS has asked for any reunification and adoption of the euro to be phased programmes that allow genuine convergence of the two Cyprus economies and make allowances for the far worse economic conditions in the southern part of the island. No details of any proposed plans have yet been revealed.