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Our View: Without better protections, landlords will keep their properties off the market

Residential rents have gone up significantly in the last few months and not just for university students who seem to be the only ones complaining. The arrival of foreign companies, setting up operations here, has increased demand for rented accommodation and pushed up prices. The fall in disposable incomes, because of inflation, combined with rising interest rates has also meant fewer people are buying homes, entering the rental market instead.

In places like Limassol, which has attracted most foreign companies, rents have been unaffordable to people on average wages for some time now, but rents in other towns are also moving upwards. Increasing the supply of housing through construction of new apartment blocks would be the answer, but it would take a few years for this to happen.

A more immediate solution was proposed by the head of the Council for the Registration of Real Estate Agents, Marinos Kineyirou. He argued that there were landlords that refused to rent their properties because of the bad experiences they had with tenants. They could change attitude if there were safeguards, such as a change in the law ensuring they could collect unpaid rents. He also proposed the setting up of a register that would include the names of tenants that had court rulings against them for not honouring rental agreements.

It is doubtful political parties would approve any such arrangement, even though they have allowed banks to have a register of debt defaulters. Such a register would not be very helpful considering the snail’s pace at which the court’s operate. In the seven or eight years it takes for a court to try a rent dispute, a tenant could have left several landlords unpaid.

There is only one way, landlords could be given protection. The creation of a special court or tribunal that deals promptly with rental disputes and issues eviction orders, with immediate effect, on a tenant has failed to pay two or three rents. There was such a bill at the House but deputies used the pretext of the pandemic put off its discussion until things returned to normality. Now, they will probably claim they cannot pass the law because of inflation and high energy bills.

Political parties have a habit of seeing people that do not honour their contractual obligations as victims. They have been legally protecting people not repaying their housing loans for years, so it is unlikely they would anything about the existing rent laws which enable tenants to stay in someone’s property without paying rent for years, knowing that courts would take seven or eight years to issue an eviction order. A landlord has no protection from the law, which designed to safeguard the interests of bad tenants.

Without a change of the law, landlords that can afford to keep their properties off the market will carry on doing so.

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