Property Disputes in north Cyprus – a UK parliament briefing paper

I recently read a UK parliament briefing paper published on 28 July 2010 by Arabella Thorp from the International Affairs and Defence Section, entitled “Property Disputes in north Cyprus.” The introductory summary is precise and accurate:

Many thousands of people were displaced after the Turkish intervention in 1974, abandoning their property, and in the north much of this has been transferred to other people without the original owner’s consent. The resulting disputes have not only thwarted progress in reunification talks but also resulted in a large number of court cases. The Orams case, involving a British couple, held that the courts in England and Wales had to enforce the judgement of a Nicosia court that they demolish the house they had built in the north and hand the land back to the Greek Cypriot who had fled from it. Other cases have also upheld the rights of pre-1974 owners even against those who subsequently bought in good faith. But a new Immoveable Property Commission in the north appears to be a better forum for dispute resolution than its predecessor, meaning that far fewer cases will go to the European Court of Human Rights.”

The author also points out that:

“Under the legislation establishing the reformed Immovable Property Commission any Greek Cypriot with property in the North can apply for compensation, exchange or return – the latter within certain conditions. Those conditions specify that some properties may be returned immediately and others only after a solution to the Cyprus problem. If return is not possible the Greek Cypriot will be offered either compensation or exchange for a Turkish Cypriot-owned property abandoned in the South, title deeds of which are held by the Turkish Cypriot authorities. In the case of exchange, the values of the houses will be considered.”

“If the house in the South is deemed to be worth more than the house in the North, the difference will be made up by the Greek Cypriot.  In the opposite case, the difference will be paid by the commission to the Greek Cypriot. Properties without title deeds issued by the TRNC, which are not being used and which do not cause a threat to national security or public order would be eligible for immediate return. Properties with TRNC title deeds would be eligible for return after a solution to the Cyprus Problem. Those eligible would be properties where the increase in the current value of the property through investment or a project approved by the authorities, does not exceed its value when it was abandoned in 1974. Anyone who had to leave such a property would be compensated with a similar home of the same value. If the increase in value of a property claimed was deemed to be higher than the 1974 value, then the Greek Cypriot would be offered a former Turkish Cypriot South Cyprus property in exchange or given compensation. All compensation is to be paid by the commission using funds from Turkey – and no current user or owner in the North will be expected to pay.”

It is well worth reading the document in order to understand the history of property disputes in Cyprus – www.parliament.uk/briefingpapers/commons/lib/research/briefings/SNIA-05663.pdf

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