By Antonis Loizou FRICS
The government is trying to introduce new ideas and methods in its effort to bring the existing legal system introduced 150 years ago into the 21st century. Thanks to the years of delays experienced in litigation proceedings a new approach to solve minor disputes including land law cases (property sales etc) arbitration is going to be introduced (waiting mind you for five years since the announcement).
Of course arbitration already exists in the legal system and judges may suggest the appointment of an arbitrator (according to the case nature an appropriate professional is appointed) to provide an independent opinion. The procedure adopted is less costly, informal and speedy and a case that might take years in court, may be expected to produce a decision within 12 months through arbitration. As the system is, however, either party can appeal both to the local/high court (in the sense that it is up to the judge to adopt or otherwise the arbitrator’s decision and of course appeal later to the high court). So it could drag on again but at least the bulk of the arguments will be dealt with and the facts will be sorted out within a short period of time. The Cyprus Technical Association has embarked into a training course to educate those of its members who want to deal with such arbitrations.
There is a glimmer of hope for the thousands of real estate disputes, including compulsory acquisitions, to be dealt with within a short period of time. A case in hand was a recent multi million dispute on a breach of contract, where the endless arguments were avoided and the arbitrator had to decide on the facts given by the witnesses from both sides.
The rules and legislation have not been set out, but we expect that whereas in the ordinary courts the actual court costs to be minimal.
A word of caution, since the arbitrator is not a judge a period of time, one to two years, will be needed for the public to accept these decisions. A similar court regarding tax matters failed to succeed due to gross inefficiencies and trial delays by the ‘court’. This is a good tax court as a concept but it is a great shame not to be extensively used because of the wrong ‘judges’ involved.
A recent decision to introduce an arbitrator between financiers and borrowers is most welcomed. The arbitrator will hear both sides of a case and try to come up with some sort of an acceptable deal between the two parties.
Specialised courts exist already regarding matters of rent control, family court etc, but a Lands Tribunal/Arbitration proceeding if established correctly would make life much easier for Cypriot citizens and reduce costs both to the parties involved and the government.
A case to note is that because of our inefficient legal system, foreign companies who do business in Cyprus place in the contracts that arbitration will be referred to the UK (most shocking and embarrassing).