Should you buy property in northern Cyprus?

Mark Tilden explains why there is a nothern and a southern Cyprus, and outlines the risks associated with purchasing property in the north.

Up until 1974 the island of Cyprus was united in one country with the "north" and the "south" living peaceably together. However, all that changed in 1974.

The Greek military government in power in Greece in the early 1970s became dissatisfied with the policy of Archbishop Makarios, the President of Cyprus. Partly for this reason, and partly as a distraction from domestic opposition, in 1974 the junta organised a coup on July 13. Nikos Sampson was declared president and declared union with Greece.

The Turkish government protested and unsuccessfully sought British intervention. Seven days later, Turkey invaded Cyprus, claiming a right under the Zurich and London agreements to intervene in order to restore constitutional order. Heavily outnumbered, the Greek forces were unable to resist the Turkish onslaught. The Ayia Napa area was only saved from occupation because it lay behind the British Sovereign Base area, which the Turks were anxious not to invade.

The result was that 37% of the land fell within the Turkish occupation zone; 170,000 Greek Cypriots were evicted from their homes in the north, with 50,000 Turkish Cypriots following the opposite path.

In 1983 Turkish Cypriots unilaterally proclaimed independence which was, and still is, only recognized by Turkey and this is the important point to remember for reasons that I hope to outline here.

When you purchase property, be it a flat or house (called for brevity here a dwelling) what you are actually purchasing is the land that the dwelling sits upon; if there happens to be a dwelling on the land then that is a bonus, but what is actually transferred to you by way of title deed is land.

Because northern Cyprus was invaded illegally by Turkey in 1974, the land in the north is still owned by those refugees who managed to escape, or their descendants. If someone purports to sell you a dwelling in the north, then that is exactly what is being sold to you - just the dwelling, and you will not get the title deeds to the land as that person purportedly selling the dwelling to you does not own the land upon which it sits. It is owned by the person who fled in 1974.

If there should therefore be any sort of settlement between the north and the south in the future, you could be faced with the possibility of owning a lovely dwelling but not actually the land upon which it sits. Any title deeds given to you allegedly transferring the dwelling to you would be worthless, unless you own the land upon which it sits, which of course you cannot.

Many people are attracted to buy in the north as the prices there for property are considerably cheaper than in the south. Of course, ask yourself the question why, and is it worth the risk of having your investment taken away from you in the future?

Of course, if you are aware of the risk and prepared to take it then the north of Cyprus is very beautiful with lovely scenery and fantastic coastline. However, the only way to get access to the north is via Turkey, either through Istanbul or Ankara. Although some border crossing points have been opened, mainly in Nicosia, you cannot reply upon this as a main means of access to the north as mostly when you cross over you have to return the same day.

About the author

George Coucounis

Mark Tilden holds a BA (Hons) Degree from the University of Winchester and a P.G.C.E. from the University of Cambridge. He passed his Law Society finals in 1991 and after two years articles in Bath he returned to Plymouth where his father had had his own law practice since 1958. In 2006 Mark disposed of the practice and now practices from Cyprus.

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