Saying it wanted to bolster public safety in the wake of two balcony collapses, Paphos Municipality is taking action over nine buildings deemed dangerous or unsuitable.
The municipality is seeking an eviction order for three of the buildings. For five others, procedures have been underway for several months to render them safe, it said.
The announcement follows a meeting of the municipal council to discuss two separate cases of balconies collapsing last week – the first at the Sylva court on Nicos Antoniades street near Kennedy square which resulted in the hospitalization of three Nepalese workers, and the second on Poseidon Avenue.
For Paphos Mayor Phedon Phedonos, both incidents have highlighted inadequacies in the legal framework which he said allows unscrupulous landlords to exploit vulnerable third country nationals and asylum-seekers desperate for a roof over their head.
His harsh criticism, including of state policy to subsidise accommodation for asylum-seekers without checking living conditions, led to a harsh exchange with Interior Minister Nicos Nouris as to the respective responsibilities of local and central government over the safety and suitability of buildings.
In a statement, Paphos Municipality said it was taking action within the framework of the responsibilities assigned to it by law to end the risk of buildings and create an effective and functional legal framework to check the suitability of buildings as regards their static adequacy.
It said that the municipal council had reviewed the situation in the town as regards dangerous buildings in the light of the collapse of part of two buildings on Nicos Antoniades street and Poseidon avenue.
“Evaluating the technical data submitted to it and based on the advice and views of the municipality’s legal advisers, the council decided to take specific measures as a matter of urgency in relation to nine buildings which the past three years present problems of risk and/or unsuitability of use and habitation,” it said.
For the above, proceedings have started in line with the municipality law and the road and buildings law, which among other provide for a one-off administrative fine of up to €10,000 and a daily fine of €200 for continued non-compliance.
In three cases, the municipality said an eviction order is being sought. For five, proceedings have been underway for the past three to 18 months to end the risk, in line with the roads and buildings law. It did not elaborate which procedure was being applied to which buildings, nor clarify about the ninth case.
The municipal council also decided to ask the union of Cyprus municipalities to seek amendments to what it described as ineffective legislation regarding building checks so as to establish regular and strict controls of their suitability after a certain number of years from their construction – for example 30 – for the issue of suitability certificates at regular intervals.
In order to speed up checks of the suitability of old buildings with apparent external problems, it was decided to bolster the municipality’s technical services department with a civil engineer for two years. Approval has been sought from the interior and finance ministries.
“Paphos Municipality calls on owners of buildings within its boundaries to rise to the occasion and acting with responsibility, proceed with technical checks of their buildings and all the necessary maintenance and repair work as this is required by public safety and the town’s image and reputation,” it said.
Owners should know that potential accidents at their buildings could lead them to having to pay thousands in compensation, it added.
“The municipality also calls on owners of such buildings to end their unbridled exploitation of migrants (asylum-seekers, foreign workers) and other individuals by renting unsuitable premises, which in most cases leads to crowding and a real threat to public health and safety,” it said.
Finally, it urgently called on the state to establish a new mechanism to end subsidies of rents at buildings which are unsuitable and dangerous or do not have the permits required by law.