By George Coucounis
The Municipal Council, District Officer or Community Council has the power to issue a building permit under which an interested person is allowed to commence building works, as long as the authority is satisfied that the permit relates to works for which the application is submitted in accordance with the Streets and Buildings Law and the town planning permit issued.
The building permit is valid for three years and can be renewed after an application by the person named therein, for as long as the town planning permit is renewed and is valid or provided the works to which it refers have started but haven’t been completed; the works must be essential and actively executed at the time of the expiration of the permit.
Moreover, it can be renewed when the works haven’t commenced during the validity period of the original permit due to a procedure pending before the Rent Control Court for the re-possession of the property to which the permit refers. At the time of the renewal of the permit the competent authority has the power to amend the terms under which it was originally issued or even dismiss the application for renewal, provided the power derives from a later and applicable regulation and that the new or the amended terms or the dismissal relate to the works which haven’t been completed.
Any person who constructs a building without a permit commits a criminal offence and independently of the imposition of an administrative fine and in addition to any other penalty, the court may order the demolition of the building or any part thereof within a period of two months, unless in the meantime a permit is obtained from the relevant authority.
Relevant is the judgment of the Supreme Court issued on 21.5.2018 where it examined the appeal of a company which had been convicted for the offence of executing works without a building permit and the court of first instance imposed a fine and issued a demolition order of the building alterations and additions made to the existing building.
The company alleged that the amendments and additions to the existing building did not fall under the provisions of the law for which a permit was required. The Supreme Court upheld the judgment and the manner the court of first instance interpreted the law and held that whether a structure is considered as a “building” or not is a factual issue. Furthermore, it referred to jurisprudence emphasising that the law strictly prohibits not only the construction of a building without a permit, but also the re-construction or alteration, additions or repairs.
The Supreme Court added that the issue of an order for the demolition of an illegal building can be avoided only when the deviation from the building terms is immaterial. It adopted the findings of the court of first instance that the works which were carried out on the existing building constituted building alterations and additions within the meaning of the law and which do not fall under the exemptions for which no permit is required.
There was an alteration made to the skeleton of the building, to the metal ceiling and to the floor of the building, to the glass divisions of the offices, as well as an addition of a new metal skeleton around the building beyond the building line and an addition of a corridor at the back of the building. These alterations and additions were not made for the maintenance and improvement of the approved building, but they completely altered its appearance and they are considered additions beyond the approved building line. Consequently, a town planning permit and a building permit should have been obtained by the appropriate authority and the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.