By Peter Stevenson
LOOKING at ways to boost its coffers, the government has decided, through the Public Works Department (PWD), to evict or increase rent on government owned land and buildings around the island.
The majority of the buildings in Nicosia are situated behind the presidential palace and have been inhabited since before the 1974 invasion by various people and organisations including the diabetics’ society, the scouts, the National Guard and three local councils of occupied towns.
“Due to the financial crisis the state needs to find buildings to house public service offices to reduce its costs and these buildings were seen as ideal but it has been a nightmare trying to evict some of the tenants who have reacted like they own the place,” an official at the PWD told the Cyprus Mail.
One specific house, the official revealed, is being rented to a former civil servant who refuses to pay his rent even though he owns his own block of flats.
“The amount of rent owed to the state reached over €15,000 and we were forced to take the matter to the district attorney and begin proceedings to evict him which has been extremely time consuming,” the official said.
She added that proceedings had begun on another five government owned buildings all adjacent to the presidential palace and expressed the hope that legal proceedings would soon begin.
“This hasn’t happened over night and we have sent numerous letters to the tenants informing them that rent would need to be increased and that eventually they would need to move out but they have ignored our pleas and forced us to take up legal proceedings against them so they can finally move out,” the official said.
Another is home to former House president Vassos Lyssarides and the official explained that there is no intention to kick the former EDEK leader out but they have asked that the amount of rent increases to match the value of the houses in the area.
A building in the heart of Nicosia on Lord Byron Avenue is currently being rented by the association of chartered accountants for a yearly fee of €34.17, which works out at just over €2 a month.
As well as Nicosia, there are buildings in Limassol which the PWD has been tasked to reclaim from tenants who have proceeded in defying town planning and construction laws, the official said.
“One specific case began before the 1970s in the Enaerios area in Limassol, next to the Holiday Inn Hotel. A former civil servant who was working as a plumber rented a plot of land there where he built a makeshift shed where he stayed. Eventually he had children and they built a large building with a home, a hair salon and an estate agent all housed on the land,” she explained.
The tenants were originally paying €3 a year for the land and that was eventually increased to €36 but the official said that despite numerous attempts by the PWD and the Land Registry Department to evict the tenants from the illegal construction they have been unable to get anywhere.
“Once these people get a foothold it can be very difficult to get them to move out and so we have asked for the district attorney and the local municipalities’ help to try and find a solution to the problem. The land belongs to the government though and people need to respect that and understand they can’t just build whatever they like or pay whatever rent they like,” the official concluded.