Buying a property in either the north or the south of the Island
The process of buying property either in the north or south of the island is similar to that in the UK and most developed countries, yet there are many pitfalls for the unwary, particularly if you are buying off plan. Unlike the UK, where property buyers’ solicitors carry out various plan and title searches automatically, no such ‘standard’ methods of working are in common use in Cyprus. Some lawyers will guide you through the process, others will not. It is essential that you:
- Appoint a lawyer who is experienced in property conveyancing and fully independent of anyone else involved in the transaction e.g. the estate agent, vendor and developer. The High Commission is unable to recommend a lawyer; but the High Commission does maintain lists of lawyers who operate in English in the north and south of the island. If you require a list of lawyers send an email with the words “lawyers north” or “lawyers south” as appropriate to email@example.com.
- Ensure that he/she carries out the required tasks to safeguard your interests.
- Do not sign any papers or hand over any money until you have taken independent legal advice.
- Use a registered estate agent.
The High Commission publishes answers to Frequently Asked Questions about buying property. These can be downloaded from this website, or obtained by sending an email with “Property” in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buying property in the north
There are a number of practical, financial and legal issues associated with buying property in the north, most of which relate to the complex political situation. These include the non-recognition of the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus", the suspension of EU law in northern Cyprus, the possible consequences for property of a future settlement, and the many thousands of claims to ownership from people displaced in 1974. There is also a risk that, as a result of the disputed ownership of many of the properties, purchasers could face legal proceedings in the courts of the Republic of Cyprus, as well as attempts to enforce judgements from these courts elsewhere in the EU, including the UK.
In addition, purchasers should ensure that they are fully aware of the specific Turkish Cypriot rules on foreigners purchasing property in the north including the requirement to obtain consent to the transfer of property.
On 20 October 2006, an amendment to the Republic of Cyprus criminal code relating to property came into effect. Under the amendment, buying, selling, renting, promoting or mortgaging a property without the permission of the owner (the person whose ownership is registered with the Republic of Cyprus Land Registry, including Greek Cypriots displaced from northern Cyprus in 1974) is a criminal offence. The maximum prison sentence is 7 years. The amendment to the law also states that any attempt to undertake such a transaction is a criminal offence and could result in a prison sentence of up to 5 years. This law is not retrospective, so will not criminalise transactions that took place before 20 October 2006. Furthermore, documents relating to the purchase of property in northern Cyprus will be presumed by the Cypriot authorities to relate to the illegal transfer of Greek Cypriot property and may be subject to confiscation when crossing the Green Line. Anyone in possession of these documents may be asked to make a statement to the Cypriot authorities and could face criminal proceedings under the 20 October 2006 amendment. The full implications of this legislation are not yet clear. Any enquiries about its scope should be made to the Republic of Cyprus High Commission in London (Tel: +44 20 7 3214 100), or to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Cyprus (Tel: +357 22 401000).