Promises are made to be broken and lies are meant to be kept

BETRAYAgain the words in this article are the words of the second guest speaker at the HBPG Meeting of the 21 August 2007. So why am I going over so much old ground. Simple answer really, to demonstrate that in the last 3 to 4 years the TRNC Government(s) have learnt nothing and done nothing to improve the situation they have allowed to happen in the property market. These injustices have affected TRNC citizens and foreigners alike

The second guest speaker is Mr. Ali Safa, a man I have met, a friend to the Kulaksiz 5 who has generously given publicity through his Media Holdings. I doubt that at the time when he gave his speech, even Mr. Safa could have anticipated just how much worse things were going to get and you will see that even in 2007 Mr. Safa was acknowledging the ‘then’ problems.

A joint questions and answers session ended the meeting. I hope some of the questions raised by your reading this were asked and answered.

Ali Safa

First let me thank Marian for inviting me here today to voice my concerns on the matter of the shameful 40 – especially as I am named as one of those rogue builders! As I have said in my paper, it is not right for anyone to act as Judge and Jury and it is certainly not nice to be on that list which does not state your crime – but hangs you anyway. This is not the way to solve problems, why should I talk to anyone who damns me out of hand without giving me the courtesy of knowing what I have done or even asking me if it is accurate.

What I find upon talking to Marian is that we are similar people, she is a very courageous, principled person who has impressed me with her sincerity and I accept that she was ill advised to publish such a document. We are agreed that this was not the way to find a solution and that everyone deserves the chance to defend themselves. Since finding out about the list and the nature of the complaint against me, I have carried out my own investigation and it transpires that I am the innocent party. I have received a public apology from the person making the erroneous claim and between us we will pursue the guilty party. I can appreciate that getting to the truth can be hard for a foreigner and sometimes things get muddled in translation, but if I had been approached in the first place the solution would have been found and my good name would not be besmirched.

I am a very vocal man and have stood up on many occasions and pointed out what needs to be done to protect the construction industry as a whole. I was very aware that bad publicity about any one of us would damage the industry as a whole, so of course I was very angry when the actions of some members of the industry impacted my business and I ended up being banded together with the rogues. If I was buying in the TRNC and saw that list I would not buy from anyone on it!

So I too, applaud the opening of the PCO and the work they have started to do. I saw, some three years ago, the construction industry as a whole was heading into trouble and I wrote a report to the government on this very subject. I deplore the fact that some people have been defrauded, that some buildings have been constructed poorly and the perception of the TRNC property market has suffered as a result, but I could see that it could happen. I have voiced my concerns at high level meetings and asked that precautions be taken, so although this action may be late in coming it is here and it is fair to both sides.

My paper is an independent publication, wrongdoing must be highlighted – even when the wrongdoing is done by those who have been wronged against – two wrongs do not make a right. However, as I have said, I do not doubt Marian’s commitment and principles and I accept she was ill advised and applaud her tenacity in succeeding in her aim to be listened to and in succeeding in getting an office opened to deal with legitimate property complaints.

I too hate to see people cheated and it was to this end I had hoped to help all those caught up in the nightmare that is Aga Developments. I simply asked for transparency and the 100% support of Aga customers and the government of the TRNC. However, the Aga Developments problem is fraught with injunctions, and lots of groups all pulling in different directions, with different agendas. I was unable to help.

Finally, let me finish today by once again congratulating Marian on the courage of her convictions and fighting this cause because she believed it to be right. As I say we are alike as I have the courage to come here today and defend myself against the claim that I am a rogue builder, which you as a group labelled me. I am glad to have the opportunity to set the record straight by talking to you today, to be able to tell you how cross your actions made me and for Marian accepting that the publishing of that list on the website was wrong.

My basic views have not changed; I will always stand up for those who have been wronged. I am a busy businessman and my time is limited, but if I can help anyone at all who has been wronged, I would like to do so. Thank you for listening.

Marian thanked Ali Safa for talking to us today and opened the floor to questions.

Q: Some time ago we were told that site inspectors would be visiting building sites, has this started?

HS: In 2003 there were 63 registered building companies in the TRNC, now there are 900+. The site inspectors are being trained, vehicles have been purchased and staff recruited. Inspections will be started very shortly.

Q: Mr Safa, do you think you will get involved in finding a solution for Aga in the future?

AS: There is an English saying – Once bitten, Twice Shy – and I think that applies here. As time passes finding a solution becomes more difficult as paper trails go cold and people split into different groups with different aims. For a solution to work you must have 100% co-operation from all the people involved and I was not finding that. I looked at the problem as I knew how much it was damaging the reputation of the TRNC property industry, I did not want to make lots of profit, I just wanted to find a solution for all those people who have been wronged. I did not succeed, but I understand an offer is on the table and the matter may be resolved soon.

Q: Mr Safa, I take on board that the publishing of the shamed builders list was offensive to you and accept that it might not have been the right way to go around things. However, when you drew up your report for the government about the construction industry, did you make any reference to how vulnerable we as foreign investors are? It appears that we have no rights here at all, that we are not protected or seem to have no recourse in law for shoddy builds, fraudsters or the lack of advice from lawyers. What choice did we have but to make lots of noise and grab attention where we could?

AS: I agree that our laws do not offer much protection – for either of us. The 1960’s laws were good for that period, but they should have been updated to offer us all the protection that laws do currently in the UK. Maybe new laws will become more robust thanks to the work being done by the PCO, I hope so and the new EAL is a good start.

At this point Mr Safa had to leave for a scheduled appointment, he was warmly applauded by the HBPG members as he took his leave of us.

Q: We were told that if your complaint is already the subject of a court case that the PCO cannot interfere, however should the problem still be reported to you?

HS: Yes it should. We can still carry out investigations that will not form part of the court hearings and it shows a pattern of behaviour that we may have the opportunity to amend. Any investigation that we carry out may add to the strength of your claim as what you say is proved to be correct and your lawyer can use this in the court.

Q: Many of the problems which were reported to the group in the first place may now have been solved. In many instances these may have been solved to the disadvantage of the buyer, for example deeds may pass to the buyer, once the buyer has paid the builders tax. Can you still report it?

HS: Yes please do, if you have been coerced into coming to a solution, by paying more than you should, by forgetting penalty payments or simply by threat of not getting your deeds unless “……….….”, then let us know. We cannot change processes unless we know where the abuses of the process take place. People who abuse this system in this way tend to do it to everyone so a pattern of misbehaviour will soon become clear.

I would appeal to you all, if your builder is not playing fair, to report the matter to the PCO first. If a solution can be found without resorting to a lawyer, then that is all well and good. If the only solution is litigation then the matter would have been investigated thoroughly and you will know your chances of success in court. We will have checked that the builder has done everything he should, paid his taxes, applied for all the relevant permissions and completed the project. Anyone found lacking in these matters will be dealt with. Any builder/estate agent who wants to continue in business will have to satisfy us as the Estate Agents Association, as we will not sell houses from bad builders or have estate agents who do not meet our standards. We are very serious in this matter.

Q: Can you explain what this contract tax is please?

HS: Yes, within 21 days of a contract being signed you should pay 0.5% of the contract price to the tax office. The contract is then lodged with the land registry office. It is the builder’s responsibility that it is done. If you pay it late, then you incur a penalty – between 21 days and 3 months it is 1% of contract price and after six months it is 1.5%.

Q: Can I register my contract after 21 days by paying the tax?

HS: It becomes a legal document if you pay the tax on it, so yes.

Q: If you have a complaint about an estate agent, should you go to the EA Association or the PCO?

HS: Both – so it is filed and investigated.

Q: What can be done if the company you are complaining about has absconded or gone bankrupt?

HS: We can do a lot. We will investigate all his business dealings and if we find properties or land that has not been sold or developed we can then use the profit from selling these to sort your complaints or finish your builds. You must report these things to us with any other things that you know about the company concerned – like other assets.

Q: We talked earlier about AGA developments, but there are a lot of smaller Aga sites that seem to get overlooked. I am at H Omer site at Çatalköy, it is mostly finished, but I have been living there for 18 months without electric and water. I am trying to get everyone to get together and complain, but it is hard work. Do you want a joint complaint or can I put my own in?

HS: Put your own in, if the others join in then that is good as it adds weight to your complaint. However, if a solution can be found for you, then hopefully that solution is acceptable to everyone, maybe Mr Safa would be interested in dealing with a small scale solution like this, who knows.

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