European citizens can be statutory tenants in Cyprus

In Cyprus a European citizen is included in the meaning of the term statutory tenant, as George Coucounis explains.

Different legal views are expressed with regard to the Rent Control Law in Cyprus, whether it must be interpreted to include every European citizen who normally resides in Cyprus or only the citizens of the Republic.

So far, there are two judgements by the Rent Control Court issued by different judges who have a different view on the matter and the Supreme Court of Cyprus has not examined it. On the other hand, neither the government nor the parliament has cared to amend the law so that there will be no need for the issue to be examined under the provisions of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and the treaty for the Establishment of the European Union.

According to the Constitution of Cyprus, the aforesaid treaties supersede the native legislation and if there is a conflict, it is not applicable.

The Rent Control Law protects the "owner" of premises, regardless of him being Cypriot or alien, and it includes the government of Cyprus. With regard to the "tenant", the law is limited to the citizens of the Republic and excludes European citizens. Therefore, it is evident that there is discrimination due to ethnic origins, since protection is afforded only to tenants - citizens of the Republic.

The recently amended Immigration Law abolished the term "native Cypriot" and introduced the term "European citizen" without any discrimination of ethnic origins. Nowadays, a common market exists which ensures the free movement of goods, services and funds without any frontiers or restrictions, whereby settlement is closely connected with the rental of premises used for residence or business purposes, making the Law of Contract and the Rent Control Law applicable.

The Rent Control Law was enacted in 1983, in a different time, with the aim to cover the needs created by the tragic events of 1974. As time passes, even the Rent Control Court observes that it is rarely called to apply the provisions of the law with regard to refugees, whereas the cases referred to it are mostly commercial. There are a large number of people from other countries who live and work legally in Cyprus, something which was not happening 30 years ago. Consequently, there is no excuse for the non compliance with the aforesaid legislation with regard to citizens of countries members of the European Union.

The Judge of the Rent Control Law is quite right in stating that, from the moment a common market is created within which free movement and settlement of people exist, European citizenship is recognised for all the citizens of the European Union, the citizens of a state member are entitled to use premises in another state member, therefore they cannot be exempted from the meaning of the term "statutory tenant" as stated in the Rent Control Law.

The rights of ownership with regard to the owner are limited to the tenants who are citizens of the Republic. At the same time, there is also discrimination from the point of view of the tenant, since the relevant law affords different protection to tenants, thus only to Cypriot citizens, contrary to the procedures before the Civil Courts. Moreover, owners of premises who are not Cypriots, including the Republic, are protected by the Rent Control Law, even if they are citizens of the European Union or not.

The Judge decided that the interpretation of the meaning of the term "tenant" in article 2, in so far as it is limited to the citizens of the Republic, excluding the European citizens, is contrary to the relevant articles of the above treaties and consequently, the term "tenant" must be read to include citizens of the state members of the European Union.

About the author

George Coucounis

George Coucounis is an experienced lawyer practicing in Larnaca, Cyprus. Educated at University College (London) and Thessaloniki University (Greece), George is fluent in English and has been practicing law in Cyprus since 1982.

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