By Angelos Anastasiou
The Bank of Cyprus has kicked off the process of liquidating foreclosed properties, exempting – for the moment – primary residences and vulnerable groups, the group’s spokesperson Michalis Persianis said on Wednesday.
Tougher foreclosure legislation for non-paying borrowers was enacted by Parliament earlier this year, aiming to address the significant bottlenecks created in the country’s judicial system, which translate to decades of legal back-and-forth between lender and borrower before a verdict can be issued. The rules, which came into effect on Tuesday, lay out expedited procedures for liquidating any collateral of insolvent borrowers who fail – or refuse – to make their loan repayments.
But only in those blatant cases where excessive borrowing funded a lavish lifestyle and dodgy business decisions and borrowers who now refuse to co-operate with the bank in finding an agreed settlement, Persianis hastened to add.
“If a client took out a loan in 2003, made no repayments until the 2013 crisis hit, and now sits in a five-bedroom beach-house in Protaras, sipping mojitos along with 40 friends, their property should be foreclosed,” Persianis said.
The first 25 cases of liquidation, for which the wheels have already been set in motion, relate to commercial properties, he added.
Per the new foreclosure rules, properties may be auctioned off at a price to be determined by two appraisers – one commissioned by each of the borrower and lender.
At auction, properties may be sold at a minimum 80 per cent of the appraised value – what is termed the ‘reserve price’. At this stage, properties may not be sold at less than the reserve price.
Should the bank’s first attempt at selling off the property fail, the lender is allowed three months to liquidate it at the minimum 80 per cent reserve price.
But if the property cannot be sold for one year after repossession, the lender may opt to buy it itself, or sell it at a minimum 50 per cent reserve price.
The 25 Bank of Cyprus cases were adjudicated prior to the 2013 meltdown, and begin with letters of notice to the owner.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Borrowers’ Protection Association (SYPRODAT) calls on all borrowers who receive such a letter to post replies.
“It is extremely important that borrowers check the balance due on the letter, and, in case of discrepancy to what they actually owe, write a letter of response explicitly stating their challenge to the balance, and asking the bank to remove all illegal surcharges,” the association said.
The association, it said, has posted a template letter of response on its website, www.syprodat.com.
As for bank letters regarding loans for which court rulings have been issued, the association urged borrowers to “check the balance they are asked to repay against the court-ordered amount very carefully”.
“The base amount for calculating the balance due must be the court’s decision, not the unjustified amounts quoted by the banks,” it added.
“Any discrepancies should be explicitly pointed out in a letter of response.”