Around 50 Turkish Cypriot properties have been recovered over the past nine to 10 months from users who were not paying rent or where irregularities were detected, Paphos district officer Mary Lambrou said on Friday.
According to the instructions given by the interior minister – who is the guardian of Turkish Cypriot properties – the Paphos district office is set to recover any Turkish Cypriot shops whose users keep them closed, or home owners who owe large amounts in unpaid rents and do not cooperate even by settling debts in installments, Lambrou said.
The same policy, she said, has also been applied in the other districts.
Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos said last month that the redistribution of Turkish Cypriot land was already under way and that procedures had been set in motion to take Turkish Cypriot property from those who refuse to pay the higher rental rates introduced last May.
“In Paphos, there were some major problems with the management [of Turkish Cypriot property] and now there is an attempt to put things in order,” Lambrou said.
In the last two days alone, two houses have been recovered, she said.
On one occasion, she said, this concerned a person who is not registered as a refugee and had been living illegally in a house for three years after his application to use the property had been rejected in 2012. In addition, Lambrou said, it emerged that the person in question had not been using the house on a permanent basis.
The second house recovered was used by a two-member family who was using another Turkish Cypriot property as their home.
“There are still many needs that need to be covered so two people cannot occupy two houses,” Lambrou said.
All procedures were carried out in consultation with the interior ministry, she said, while the recoveries are processed by a ministry official in consultation with the district administration, she said.
Hasikos has been trying to clamp down on irregularities over the use of Turkish Cypriot properties after it was revealed two years ago, that many who hold such properties – especially business establishments – sublet them, often at inflated rates.
He introduced a plan aimed at amending outdated legislation and procedures – some in place since 1975 – and introduce a “just and meritocratic” distribution of Turkish Cypriot property to beneficiaries.
The interior ministry had also increased rent last year. Those who used to pay €10 as monthly rent would now pay €25. Those paying between €11 and €20 will now pay €35. Property renting from between €21 and €30 will now be €45, while for those paying more than €31, the rent has increased to €50.
The decision was met with discontent by many tenants who found the rent increase unfair because they had spent a lot of money over the years to fix the properties and had brought life back to deserted communities.
Hasikos responded that these expenses had been recouped over the years the property had been used at low rent.