Turkish Cypriot properties in the south leased to Greek Cypriots must first pass structural integrity checks to ensure they’re safe for habitation, under a law passed by parliament on Thursday.

The law, passed by a unanimous vote, mandates the Custodian of Turkish Cypriot Properties – the interior ministry – to see to it that such properties are certified for structural integrity before being leased to eligible persons.

These properties include residential units or business premises.

The issue came up after it became apparent the Custodian was leasing out Turkish Cypriot properties in an advanced state of disrepair.

On the House floor, Diko MPs Pavlos Mylonas and Zacharias Koulias asked whether the mandate should likewise apply to Turkish Cypriot properties previously allocated to Greek Cypriot refugees.

But they were reminded that no law can apply retroactively. As such the law passed on Thursday applies only to properties allocated from now on.

Disy’s Georgios Georgiou said the relevant legislative proposal which the House was voting on, was the outcome of MPs’ on-site visits.

He recalled cases where properties in an advanced stage of renovation were nevertheless not certified for structural integrity.

The state has both a legal and moral obligation to deliver residences that are safe and properly upkept, so that refugees do not live in fear and have to beg authorities for piecemeal maintenance works.

Georgiou also called it unacceptable that the state should charge market rent for unsafe houses it leases to people.

For his part, Edek deputy Elias Myrianthous wondered whether the new arrangement will end up creating even more delays in allocating properties to refugees, given that applicants will now have to wait for an additional bureaucratic step – the structural integrity certification.

Responding, Akel MP Nikos Kettiros – who chairs the House refugees committee – said the Scientific and Technical Chamber has assured them it takes 15 days for a structural integrity check.

“Fifteen days is something we can live with,” he noted.