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Justice system reform is paramount

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Our protests about the non-functional common expenses law and related legal disputes are known and expressed through personal visits/interviews with ministers, Parliament and others.

While the issue is very serious, and its results are obvious (non-maintenance of apartment buildings, non-functionality of common services, social problems between owners, etc.), we do not observe any particular action on the part of the state.

And this inaction will soon find us in a situation similar to that we have with the delay in the issuance of licenses/titles, where the intervention of the EU and the local pressure group (ex-Property Action Group) woke us up to run after the fact for correction ( the defamation of the property market in addition).

Now, after 20 years or so, an attempt by the Legislation Commissioner for a new common expenses legislation may be an opportunity to include it in the new bill (unknown when it will be ready) to introduce the institution of a small claims court.

A special court is needed to resolve disputes in this area quickly.

We believe that the days of “all matters” courts are over.

In the real estate sector, we urgently need the following:

Court of Land Matters will include expropriations and real estate disputes.

Common expenses disputes with hundreds/thousands of pending cases.

Small Claims Courts – even with a maximum claim of ±€20,000 that examines various issues, such as damage to property, accidents, and minor medical omissions.

These Courts should handle summary proceedings without necessarily having lawyers will reduce costs drastically.

Suppose we follow the example of the British Lands Tribunal, or Magistrates’ Courts and that of the American Small Claims Court system.

In that case, decisions are issued immediately and, for the most part, at the end of the hearing.

In the above Courts, the parties waive the right of appeal (American System).

For the above Court restructuring, large public funds are not needed because there will be a partial reclassification of judges and recruitment of new ones with some specialisation. E.g., in case of expropriations, they should receive 3-month special training. At the same time, if there is a lack of quality interest on the part of lawyers in the Republic for the judicial profession, perhaps the employment of judges from Greece is an alternative solution.

Modernisation

Perhaps Court hearings need “modernisation” so that the system is not abused by witnesses-litigants-lawyers, with endless speeches during the hearing (in one case, we appeared on behalf of a claimable in a Court in Pafos, the repetition of questions after four hearings caused our protest to the Court at the expense of the plaintiff’s lawyer.

In America and Britain, such courts try dozens of cases per month with summary procedures.

It reminds us of the remarkable judge Mr Piki, who, around 1980, took over Cyprus’ pending cases of expropriations and clarified both in decision stations by defining principles (case law).

The way was opened for the improvement of the whole system.

There are even now notable judges with a history of bold decisions (which we would very much like to mention), but the judiciary system follows that of the Civil Service, where the oldest is promoted and not the best/most efficient.

This is a huge mistake because it condemns the state to the continuation of the ineffectiveness of justice, and the ease with which each litigating party has objections (see the bad examples such as Paphos Marina, Polis-Paphos Road with constant postponements) are examples to avoid.

Employing judges by type of Court in the above areas of specialisation is a good start.

The salary of these judges should be normal but also increase according to the number of decisions and a reduction in the case of wrong decisions where the appeals court decides these.

There should also be some clear message that the party that “loses” also pays all the costs of the opposite side and the court cost.

These are some of the “hot” issues that concern the citizens of this Republic and for the presidential candidates to express their views.

For us who are not lawyers but are involved as expert witnesses in numerous legal matters concerning real estate, it is a starting point for discussion.

We expect the progressive (really who are they?) political parties and organised groups to submit proposals such as:

We expect from ETEK its input

We expect from property owners/developers and others

We expect the Auditor General to intervene on the matter because it is also about the poor functioning of the courts and the waste of public money (when the Republic owes at least €500 mln in pending expropriations for which it pays interest).

Do you think any of these suggestions will be heard?

No, because our wrong mentality here, with the main blame, is all the political parties that have little interest in the proper functioning of the Republic.

In a recent US Supreme Court ruling, the Court ordered former President Trump’s lawyers to disbar those who claimed the last election was rigged because, while they knew their client’s position was wrong, they withheld evidence during the hearing.

Do we have such guts in Cyprus?

Antonis Loizou FRICS – Antonis Loizou & Associates EPE – Real Estate Appraisers & Development Project Managers