Slumlords and Filthy Tenants

Sep 15, 2020

We tend to think that Cyprus has a problematic legal system with the end result that in addition to the time it takes to secure a court decision, those in the wrong get away with it, most of the time.

The above situation is quite correct in its generality, but Cyprus is not alone. Even more advanced countries, such as the U.K., with a model legal system which other countries follow (including Cyprus) delays in the legal procedures are causing exploitation of the system by those “in the know” – lawyers/tenants/bailiffs or otherwise.

Regarding landlords and tenants in a dispute it is all the worse. A recent court (Cyprus) decision that the tenant may not pay even if the tenant agrees with the prevailing rent, be it not the differentiation of the amount, is a disaster for landlords. Regarding the unacceptable statutory tenants, be it that the recent amendment on the statutory law helps – having said that, added confusion is caused by another High Court decision on the subject redefining what is a statutory property, making the relationship of landlords and tenants even more confusing.

To start legal procedures for eviction, the suing party must serve the other a court summons through a court bailiff. This is not as easy as it sounds, since the party in the wrong, literally hides away from the bailiffs and it might take months to be found and served. In a recent case that we were involved, the tenant had his whole family covering up for him, including his work place and our imaginative bailiff cut the electricity supply to the property and when the tenant went to check his electricity meter, the bailiff was there waiting!! Is this the way however? Why not serving him through email/post is not acceptable? Imagine the situation where the tenant is foreign/out of the country, how can he be served?

In the meantime and since it might take 2-3 years to secure a court decision, the tenant stays in the unit, rent free, non-paying in addition common expenses (for which at the end the landlord is responsible) and treats the place as a slum. End result the landlord in the event of getting back the property, he needs a substantial amount of money to do up the place, some tenants, upon eviction, steal the unit’s installations (in one case all ceiling fans/TV/cooker) whereas in addition most landlords prefer to discount the due rents to get rid of him (or even pay the tenant on top). This could be a loss on one’s investment, but there are more serious cases regarding social and financial side effects to the landlord. The rental income expected which might go against the landlord’s debts, children’s schools etc are affected and even some landlords have financial problems with financiers who finance the disputed or other property on the same or other loans. A mess indeed, but as we have said we are not alone in this archaic system of ours.

Browsing through YouTube, we watch real stories in the U.K. which are most shocking. At least in the U.K. notwithstanding the slum tenants’ situation they seem to get away with it for a period of 1-2 years. There was a case in the U.K. where the financier foreclose on another landlord’s property due to the non-payment of his installments (the second property was in Spain, a holiday house) in another occasion landlords/tenants came to physical autocation, whereas the more recent one was the suicide by a landlord who had nowhere to live including the non-payment of his loans. A U.K. Cypriot who inherited his house in the U.K., let it out and then discovered that the whole house and garden (including the loft etc) was using for narcotic plant growing. “Just as well I am not accused for it, whereas the repair of the house runs into thousands not covered by the insurance”, the desperate Christakis told us”. In another U.K. case the tenant had kennels in the property’s large garden for dog breeding (20 dogs) but even in this case, it took the landlord 4 years to get the tenant evicted.

Landlords are not angels as well by any means mind you. Indifference, the lack of repair, not addressing the issues timely are some issues, whereas letting of an apartment to a Co (in Cyprus) who duly licensed the occupation to his foreign employees (8 persons) in an apartment of 2 bed capacity is a case in hand. The landlord knew about the 8 tenants and charged the tenants by another €50/each person (in addition to the rent of the first 2) and the case came in light only when the other apartment tenants complained to the Police – duly vacated and we suspect that these foreign residents are workers without a permit/illegal immigrants. This case is one of the reasons that the landlord can get an eviction order (overcrowding/danger to health), but one needs the local authority’s support and certification.

In a recent case the tenant was renting the house to host private parties (charging the participants €5/p.p. entrance fee, plus drinks cost). The Police said it needed proof. So, the landlord installed a CCTV which showed the gatherings. Police said there was an intrusion of the tenant’s privacy and did not want to get involved. Yet, at the same time, if something happens in a neighborhood the Police are the first to visit the neighbors who could help however with the possible provision of CCTV videos. The invasion of privacy apart, the availability of such videos was the result of arrests for the Ayia Napa shooting, the Onasagorou stabbing etc etc).

So, our neighbors’ (A.L.) house was burglarized and the Police visited A.L.’s home, asking if they could use the video from A.L.’s home. What we are to say, yes and be personally liable for invasion of privacy or do not bother!!

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