Skip to content

Couple move out of disputed Cyprus villa as court decision sets precedent for foreign property owner

Ultimately the judgement by Lord Justice Pill in the UK Court of Appeal that British couple David and Linda Orams must comply with an order from the court in Nicosia to demolish their villa, give the land back to its original owner Meletious Apostolides and pay him damages, sets a precedent for others to bring actions against foreign owners and will have a negative impact on the property market in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) although it could boost sales in other parts of the islands.
‘I believe that the decision of the UK Court of Appeal will have a tremendous negative impact on the real estate market in the Northern part of Cyprus. Now, it is even more obvious to all existing and potential buyers that a purchaser of real estate in the North can never be the legal owner and in addition he or she is personally liable for paying damages to the true owner of the property,’ said Michalis Hadjipanayiotou, chief executive officer of Cybarco Property Development.
‘These damages are enforceable in all European countries. As a result of this development, I foresee a freeze in the real estate market in the North. In my view, this will have a positive impact in the rate of sales of properties in the rest of Cyprus, as some of the prospects who were looking for bargains in the North may decide to purchase a property in other areas,’ he added.
‘Also, from a political point of view, the UK Court of Appeal decision strengthens the credibility and position of the Republic of Cyprus and sends the message to potential investors that all legitimate business transactions in Cyprus are backed-up and supported by all European courts,’ he explained.
The Orams spent their life savings on their dream villa and pool after buying land from a third party who claimed to have acquired it from the TRNC, a state recognised only in Turkey. But the original owner of the land, who fled to the south in 1974, took court action against the couple and the Nicosia District Court in the Republic of Cyprus ordered the immediate demolition of the villa, pool and fencing. It also said the land should be given back and damages paid.
But the couple succeeded in getting UK judges to refer the case to the European Court of Justice. It ruled that the British court must enforce the decision of the Nicosia court.
Lawyers for the Orams then argued that the President of the European Court of Justice, Judge Vassilios Skouris, could have been biased because he had close links with the President of Cyprus, who had bestowed the island’s highest honour on him.
But the UK Court of Appeal rejected this. ‘The perception of the reasonable and informed observer would be, as is my perception, that there was no real possibility that the President would be influenced by the honour he received or by his other contacts. The judgement of the court is in no way tarnished by those contacts, considered either individually or cumulatively,’ Lord Justice Pill said.
Now the legal system is exhausted. The appeal court decision is final, and further legal action in the UK is not possible. Constantis Candounas, the solicitor representing Apostolides, said the judgment ‘creates a new legal framework in those cases where foreigners are trespassing on such properties,’ although he acknowledged that each case should be decided on its own particular facts.
The Orams, originally from Hove in Sussex, said they will try to sort everything out. They have moved out of the villa but said they do not know if the TRNC will allow them to demolish the property as it does not recognise the court rulings.
‘The ruling will be a source of concern to many property owners in Cyprus. We will study the judgement and consider whether there is anything further to be done. We will have to take steps, as far as possible given the political situation in Cyprus, to comply with the judgement,’ they said in a statement.