By Bejay Browne
BUYERS of properties at an unfinished development in Paphos are appealing to the authorities to step in and find a way to reach a solution which will allow them to retain and complete their homes after the developer went bust and is believed to have fled to the UK.
However, the future looks bleak, as the company – MDB properties – is now in provisional liquidation.
Buyers at the mis-named Paradise Hills estate in Marathounda are desperate to save their homes. They told the Sunday Mail that they hoped the Bank of Cyprus (BoC) the holders of the company’s loans, would communicate with them and lift lien, which they say has been placed on the development by the bank at the land registry.
However, BoC spokesman Costas Archimandrites said that there was nothing the bank could do, as legally, all communication in such cases, must be made through the company’s administrators or liquidators.
The Cyprus Mail first covered the owners’ plight four years ago and it was subsequently filmed for a UK TV show- ITV’s Holiday Homes from Hell. One of the site’s few residents, Lance Hames, said that since then buyers have remained in a state of limbo.
Lance and Tracey Hames sank all of their money into their ‘dream home’ and paid the equivalent of around €240,000 for their villa. MDB Properties Limited was dissolved in 2009. The couple paid their last installment just a few months before MDB went into administration.
Hames said the levels of stress which buyers have been forced to face along with shattered dreams and an effective loss of huge amounts of cash has had a profound and negative impact on everyone.
“This is a ridiculous situation and we just want a solution; we need the bank to negotiate. Everything I have is invested here and the problems are always at the back of our minds. Two or three families have already broken up because of the strain. It’s putting a tremendous financial hardship on everyone.”
Owners at Paradise Hills waited for almost two years for MDB’s then administrator – One World – to come up with a rescue plan which included property owners coughing up on average an extra €10,000 each to finish the site, but they were subsequently informed that the bank has decided not to go ahead with the deal. One World informed the Cyprus Mail that it has since withdrawn itself.
A spokesman for the bankruptcies and liquidations section at the Registrar of Companies, confirmed that they were the provisional liquidator for MDB developers.
He said: “An official liquidator will have to be appointed, this will probably be a private company and will take some time as it’s a complicated case.”
He noted that a meeting of creditors and shareholders must be held first, which could take as long as the beginning of 2015 to occur. “It will be down to the bank to decide how much they need for the loans and all the owners can do is wait,” he said.
Hames said leaving buyers in limbo was illogical and that the best solution for everyone would be for the bank to release the charges and let them get on with finishing the site.
“There are two non performing toxic loans and the developer has gone bust, the current impasse doesn’t make sense,” he said.
Although 33 of the 46 or so units have been sold, only three are now permanently occupied, according to 77-year-old resident John Rowles. The ex-British Army serviceman, who once served in Cyprus, is the only resident in his block of flats and the lower part of the development.
“Some people have had enough and walked away. The prospect of getting our title deeds seems even further away.
Even though I love Cyprus and I love living here as it’s bright and I have wonderful views of the countryside, the development needs an enormous amount of work to put things right,” he said.
“I’m from a generation that was brought up to make the most of a bad situation and that’s what I’m trying to do. I have a roof over my head, but we have been well and truly shafted.”
Rowles paid the equivalent of around €90,000 for his apartment in 2006.
“I can’t see how this can be resolved. This wasn’t the way I imagined myself living when I retired,” he added.
The ghostlike estate is deteriorating badly in many parts, with staircases collapsing and dozens of properties lying empty.
Last October, the BoC petitioned a bankruptcy order which was issued against company director Martin Dean Bissenden, which was made at Canterbury Crown Court in Kent. This followed a statutory demand made by the bank on Biessenden for £2.4m in October 2012.
Hames said he is angered by the situation and believes both the BoC and government legislation is preventing him and others from selling his own property- through no fault of his own- and says they have all been badly let down.
We are stranded and trapped in a nightmare which was once a dream. The bank should never have given these loans out. The surety of only eight properties isn’t enough to cover it. The rest were already been bought and paid for.”
Hames says that although he tries to maintain the estate as best he can, it’s an uphill struggle. The entrance road was recently concreted, at a cost of €2,000. This was paid for by a number of the owners. Overgrown weeds were also cleared at their expense.
The disgruntled buyer said that he understands that an alternative outcome could see the bank attempt to auction the project off to a developer as they own the land, but as the buyers own most of the properties, the developer would have to reimburse them with the entire amount they paid for their homes.
“All the properties would be able to claim and it would be very expensive, no one in their right mind is going to do that,” he said.