Slumlords and nightmare tenants

3 mins read

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 opinion 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 legal procedures, are causing exploitation of the system by those “in the know” – lawyers/tenants/bailiffs or otherwise.

For landlords and tenants in a dispute, it is all the worse.

A recent Cyprus court decision that the tenant may not pay even if they agree 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 – 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 workplace 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?

Why not serve them through email/post is not acceptable?

Imagine the situation where the tenant is foreign/out of the country, how can he be served?

As it might take 2-3 years to secure a court decision, the tenant stays in the unit, rent-free, non-paying also common expenses (for which the landlord is responsible) and treats the place as a slum.

The result, the landlord in the event of getting back the property needs a substantial amount of money to repair the place.

Some tenants, upon eviction, steal the unit’s installations (in one case all ceiling fans/TV/cooker) whereas, also, most landlords prefer to discount the due rents to get rid of them (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, are affected and some landlords have financial problems with the banks.

A mess indeed, but as we have said we are not alone in this archaic system of ours.

At least in the U.K. notwithstanding the slum tenants’ situation, they seem to get away with it for 1-2 years.

There was a case in the U.K. where the bank foreclosed on another landlord’s property due to the non-payment of his instalments (the second property was in Spain, a holiday house), on another occasion landlords/tenants came to physical blows, a more recent one was the suicide of 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) was used for growing drugs.

“Just as well I am not accused of 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 by any means mind you.

Indifference, the lack of repair, not addressing problems timely are some issues.

Whereas letting of an apartment to a company (in Cyprus) who duly licensed the occupation to his foreign employees (8) 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 (in addition to the rent of the first 2).

The case came to 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).  The Police said they 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, if something happens in a neighbourhood the police are the first to visit the neighbours who could help however with the possible provision of CCTV footage.

Our neighbours’ house was burgled, and the police visited the home, asking if they could see the video.

What we are to say, yes and be personally liable for invasion of privacy or do not bother!