Friday, 25 March 2011

North Cyprus Property Hell

Akfinans Bank issue a press statement.

This statement was posted to Kibris Newspaper on 23rd March 2011.  It has been translated from Turkish, therefore the translation may not be 100% accurate.

Our Bank has felt compelled to issue a statement following lies and false written newspaper reports and visual news concerning the Kulaksız 5 site in Karşıyaka.

Akfinans Bank Ltd. holds the title deed for the said houses located in Karşıyaka Girne, which was undergoing construction.  There are residents that are illegally residing on the site and action has been taken against a group of foreign nationals for eviction, which has come after they broke the locks of a house and caused damage to the house; they than intentionally made a statement claiming that they are the rightful possessors of the house and claimed that the locks in question were actually broken by our bank and they took the initiative of trying to make a wrongful impression to the public.

The bank immediately informed and has made a criminal complaint on the matter to the TRNC Attorney-General, Girne Police and Lapta Police. However unfortunately this matter was reported intentionally in certain press without making any kind of proper research into the matter and has distorted the matter by reporting in a one sided manner to the general public.

We would like to remind that according to the Banking Law 39/2001, Article 53, any unfounded reporting or news undertaken by the respective person which will damage the reputation or harm the bank is considered a criminal act, we therefore would like to reiterate our belief that the Police, the Higher Press Authority and other respective authorities will enforce the stipulated sanctions, and would like to inform the public that we have commenced legal proceedings against the respective press or people that have intentionally reported wrong news to the public as Akfinans Bank Ltd

Akfinans Bank Ltd

Akfinans Bank are wrongfully presenting the residents of Kulaksiz 5 as criminals.  They are implying that the residents of Kulaksiz 5 are living there illegally, and they are threatening action against the residents.  They are threatening legal action against any media outlet in North Cyprus who are publicising the injustice faced by the Kulaksiz 5. It would appear as court did not go entirely their way this week; they are now attempting other means to put pressure on the families of Kulaksiz 5.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Story So Far...

In October 2005, Bob and Jan French waved goodbye to their life in Southampton, England for a dream retirement in the idyllic island of Northern Cyprus.  When their son and daughter in law visited them in December 2005, they eagerly showed them their dream home which they had purchased.  With the stunning mountains behind the property, and the beautiful sea view from the roof terrace, it was easy to see why they had fallen in love with the 3 bedroom villa.  The villa was completed in May 2006 and they soon settled into their dream home.  That summer they enjoyed a wonderful month with 3 of their grandchildren, playing in the pool, enjoying barbeques on the roof terrace, visiting some of the beautiful sights the island has to offer and making new friends in the process.  They had ploughed their life savings into this property but it was worth every penny.

Or so they thought. Despite using a recommended solicitor on the island and a local estate agent that they befriended and trusted, they never had received the title deeds to the villa.  There were still a few things on the snag list that the builder hadn’t solved.  The road still hadn’t been laid and they were still on the very expensive ‘builders electric’.  This was bad enough but there was worse to come and in 2008, their dream retirement turned into a real-life nightmare. 

They discovered that after they had paid for the villa, a mortgage was taken out on the land by the builder from a local bank.  The mortgage was taken out when it was obvious that people were living in the properties. 

The builder made no attempt to pay the mortgage on the land, and the bank decided their best course of action would be to pursue the purchasers of the villas for the money.  Despite the mortgage being only 104,000TL* (about £41,500) the 80% interest meant the figure now due was £2,000,077TL* (about £797,000)

Of course, the residents of the development, many of whom had put their entire life savings into their dream home, couldn’t afford to pay the bank, and why should they? They hadn’t taken out the mortgage on the property.  In 2010, events took another horrific turn for the shocked owners of the Kulaksiz 5 development.  The land their houses stood on, which they believed they owned, were to be put up for auction.  I need to explain here that the land had been split into two plots.  One plot housed 5 villas, and the other plot housed the remaining 8 villas. Both plots were put up for auction.  At this point, with the stress taking its toll on her health, Jan French returned to the UK to spend the time with her family.  Bob’s son flew out to Northern Cyprus to be there with his father, knowing the stress of what was about to happen could seriously affect his health too.

The day of the auction arrived, and crowds of supporters for the Kulaksiz 5 victims turned out, reducing Bob to tears.  He was so grateful for their support, but standing there with his son, he listened as to the Mukhtar – the ‘mayor’ of his neighbourhood – auctioned the plots on which his home stood, along with the houses owned by 12 of his friends and neighbours and with tears in his eyes, there was nothing he could do except watch as the only bid to be placed was by Akfinan’s bank.  The bank who had originally allowed the mortgage to be placed on the land.  The winning bid was, conveniently, for almost the same figure as that outstanding on the mortgage.  As the bank had purchased the plot of land his house stood upon, Bob’s heart sank as he realised they had become the rightful owner of his home.

Jan returned to Northern Cyprus a few weeks later, but her heart was no longer there.  She felt betrayed by the builder, the solicitor and by the government, who stood by and did nothing to help the residents of Kulaksiz 5.  Since the auction took place last June, Bob and Jan have been to court many times, with the other residents and their solicitor to try to get the auction overturned, to try to win back their homes.  Unfortunately, so far, no decision in their favour has been made. 
Following the auction, the bank has started the eviction process.  Unsurprisingly, some of the residents have already moved back to the UK, scared and confused as to where they stand. As the bank has already entered two properties, Bob and Jan are understandably frightened.  They are scared to leave their home, in case they come back to find the locks have been changed.  They are scared to answer the door, in case there are bailiffs stood there. They are, effectively, prisoners in the home they paid for.

The home that also has major structural issues. They have been advised by a surveyor not to enter their bedroom as there is a chance the room will cave in.  So not only did the builder betray them deeply by taking out a mortgage on the land they purchased from him knowing he couldn’t afford to pay it back; he didn’t even put any thought, pride, or knowledge into the construction of their home.  If, by some small chance, they do win against the bank, it will cost them around £8,000* to make their home safe again.

Bob and Jan have recently received a court summons.  As darkness was descending, there was a loud bang on their front door.  Frightened, they stood in the hallway, the only part of the house without windows, so they couldn’t be seen.  They stood close together, their hearts pounding, as the banging on the door continued, whilst the man at their door shouted loudly in Turkish.  Concerned that the door to their home was to be broken down, Bob comforted his wife, all the while, unsure as to what he would do if they did break the door down. When the banging eventually stopped, Bob went to the front door and found a writ wedged in a small gap between the door and frame.  They are to stand in front of a court and explain why they are stopping the bank from receiving £600* per month in rent or £110,000* for the sale of the property.  If they wish to stay in the property, the bank will allow them to, but only if they pay either £600* per month rent, or they buy the villa from the bank for £110,000*.  The villa they have already bought for £95,000 in 2005.  Now they are playing a waiting game.  According to various sources, Akfinan’s Bank has to ‘dispose’ of the properties within one year of the date of the auction, which will be 6th June 2011.  The bank are not going to hand these villas back to the people who purchased them in 2005, even the most optimistic of people can see this, so it would appear that they are attempting to evict them prior to this date.  There is, however, no guarantee that they will comply with this law.  What happens if they are evicted? They lose everything.  They will have to rely on their family to help pay for them to travel back to the UK. 
For now, their fight continues.  They will continue to hand over money they cannot spare to a solicitor in the hope that they can get some resolution to the horrific nightmare they find themselves trapped in.  They will continue to hope that the European Court of Human Rights will hear their case.  They will continue to try to raise the profile of their fight against Akfinan’s Bank. They will continue to do this with the love and support of their family and friends.

*These figures are approximate at time of calculation.

An Introduction

This blog has predominantly been created to highlight some of the issues surrounding the problems with purchasing property in Northern Cyprus.  The issues highlighted on this blog are not anything to do with the Greek vs. Turkish land dispute.  As far as the owners of these properties are concerned, the land on which their homes were built was owned by a Turkish farmer.  The issues with this particular group of residents are concerning the auction of their properties in 2010.  Your support for the Kulaksiz 5 residents will be appreciated.