An ongoing review of how Turkish Cypriot commercial properties are managed has shown that about one-fifth of leases are problematic, according to just-released data from the interior ministry.
In a statement on Monday, the ministry said that of a sample of 540 checks done on Turkish Cypriot properties in the south, 58 were demonstrably in violation of the lease agreement while an additional 69 “merit further investigation as to their holding and use status”.
The checks were carried out from August 1 through to September 15.
The ministry added it is continuing the review process, planning to comb through another 4,000 lease contracts.
Back in July, the government announced measures to end the mismanagement of Turkish Cypriot properties following mounting claims of abuse, costing the state millions.
Many of the claims concerned properties in the popular Mackenzie area in Larnaca, but also in Paphos.
Allegations surfaced that people given Turkish Cypriot commercial properties were paying €2,000 to the state body in rent but subletting them for €10,000 a month.
At the time the deputy director of the Turkish Cypriot property service George Matthaiopoulos admitted that all 17 plots on Mackenzie beach were illegal, as they did not have rental agreements for the past two years.
He said the service had not been collecting rents for the past two years, with the state losing €1 million in income.
And during the previous 30 years, many ‘owners’ were paying very low rents.
It was decided at the time that authorities would enter negotiations to renew contracts with beneficiaries entitled to be given Turkish Cypriot property.
The first criterion is that they were displaced during the 1974 Turkish invasion.
Regarding the other aspect – collection of rent arrears on such properties – the ministry on Monday said the Turkish Cypriot property service is undertaking a series of steps to improve collections.
As a result of these efforts over the past six months, the revenues of the relevant fund have increased by €600,000, while total arrears have declined correspondingly.
In addition, they achieved out-of-court settlements for the repayment of a further €1.5 million, while lawsuits have been filed for arrears worth €600,000.
The ministry said also that it has completed the design of the technical specifications of software that will be deployed to help manage Turkish Cypriot properties. The call for tender for the software is expected to be announced by the end of the year.
Meantime the attorney-general is currently vetting government legislation revising the criteria for the granting of Turkish Cypriot properties. Once the bills get the green light from the attorney-general they will be ratified by the cabinet and then tabled to parliament.
Moreover, the statement went on, Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou has approved “a series of administrative and organisational changes to the administrative and operational model of management of Turkish Cypriot properties”.
These changes include restructuring and beefing up the Turkish Cypriot property service, as well as hiring people from the private sector specialising in land registry work and audits.
The ministry said it will continue assessing the efficacy of the measures already in place, taking additional steps wherever necessary in a bid to achieve “a streamlined management of Turkish Cypriot properties.”
Weighing in on the matter earlier in the year, Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos claimed that thousands of Turkish Cypriot properties – homes, commercial plots and agricultural land – had been granted to beneficiaries under dubious circumstances.
He said most properties given in the late 70s and 80s, when the majority were leased, were done with political motives.