Make sure your tenant's agreement is watertight

George Coucounis gives guidance for property owners on letting in Cyprus.

Many people who have invested in Cyprus by purchasing a house or an apartment appoint agents to find paying tenants. By doing so, their main concern is to find any tenant without paying attention to who he is, his whereabouts, whether he will be able to pay the rent and without making a proper tenancy agreement. Properties are let either through an oral agreement or through a tenancy agreement that does not fulfil the requirements of the law.

According to the law, a contract relating to the lease of an immovable property for more than a year shall not be valid and enforceable unless expressed in writing and signed at the end in the presence of at least two witnesses competent to sign and duly authorised on behalf of the contracting parties. Furthermore, an agreement, the meaning of which is not certain or capable of being certain is void.

Lack of observance of the above provisions causes the agreement to be void and creates legal problems to the owner when a dispute arises with the tenant.

The tenant may fail to pay the rents or cause damages to the property or furniture or even insist on remaining in possession without paying the rent. The owner should identify his legal rights properly and decide correctly the course of action he will take to avoid a procedure that will go nowhere. A tenancy may be void due to the fact that it is of uncertain period of time such as an oral agreement that does not define the tenancy term or a written agreement for a period exceeding one year without being signed in the presence of the two witnesses. Moreover, the property could have been built before December 31st 1999 and be within an area under the provisions of the Rent Control Law.

Where there is an oral tenancy agreement of an uncertain term, it should have been for maximum one year in order to be valid. A term which is unknown or exceeding one year makes the tenancy void. The consequence depends on whether the tenant has entered into the property, remains in possession and how the rent is payable.

If the rent is payable weekly, monthly or annually, the tenancy is considered as such and to terminate it, the owner must give a proper notice expiring the last day the rent is payable.

If the owner does not wish to evict the tenant, he can claim the overdue rents without giving any notice to the tenant. The rents can be claimed through an action before the District Court of the district where the property is situated which has the jurisdiction to entertain the claim, even if the property was built prior to 31/12/1999. When the owner has given a proper notice to the tenant who continues to be in possession, he can claim the eviction of the tenant before the District Court, unless the property was built before the aforesaid date and it is situated within an area controlled by the law, whereby the tenant can be evicted only through the Rent Control Court.

A written tenancy exceeding one year without being signed in the presence of two witnesses is considered valid only for one year and thereafter it becomes weekly, monthly or otherwise depending on how the rent is payable. With regard to the termination of such tenancy, the aforesaid applies, unless the term stated in the void lease has expired.

Another issue which must be considered is the notice; the words used must be plain and unambiguous, claiming to determine the existing tenancy at a certain time. The notice must clearly indicate when possession will be demanded or given so that the tenant will know what is required of him.

It is for the owner to prove that the notice he gives expires on the correct date and that it is unequivocal.

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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