The 31st of January 2020 marks a memorable date for the legislative system of the Republic of Cyprus and the rental market. The date witnessed the introduction of much needed changes in the legislative system regulating the rental of properties in the Republic of Cyprus and introduced a mechanism enabling landlords to retain a larger degree of control over their immovable properties towards statutory tenants.
Additionally, the introduction of the amendments served as a catalyst for the modernization of aspects of the legislative system, offset a considerable amount of workload from the court and by extension improved the public’s trust in the legal system of the Republic.
This article strives to present, on an informative basis, the amendments introduced on January 31, 2020, their impact on the affected entities and assess their consequences.
As previously mentioned, the amended Rent Control Law applies only to statutory tenants. Statutory tenants enjoy various protections under the Rent Control Law, such as the right to continue occupying the premises even after the termination of the tenancy agreement, provided they continue to pay rent and meet other obligations.
Non-statutory tenants, on the other hand, do not enjoy the same protections under the Rent Control Law. For properties erected after December 31, 1999, or those located outside controlled areas, the eviction process is governed by the general provisions of the Civil Offences Law Cap.148. This law allows landlords to evict non-statutory tenants more easily, as they do not enjoy the same level of protection as statutory tenants. The lawsuit for non-statutory tenants can be based on grounds such as breach of contract or trespass and can seek remedies such as eviction, payment of rent arrears, and compensation for any damages caused by the tenant’s continued occupation of the property.
One of the primary benefits unintentionally afforded to statutory tenants under the Rent Control Act of 1983 was the notoriously slow, complex, financially draining and time-consuming procedure for eviction, which in turn enabled various individuals to either not perform their contractual obligations (i.e. not paying rent) or forfeit them all together resulting in the detriment of the landlord.
Consequently, the availability of such protective mechanisms for the tenants who did not fulfill payment obligations would eventually result in numerous dragged-out cases overloading the judiciary’s work and systematically creating undue burdens to property owners.
As such, the introduction of the amendments for the Rent Control Act of 1983 apply only to immovable properties which fulfil the following criteria, namely:
Qualifies as being located within the “Controlled Area” as defined by the Rent Control Act;
Was erected and/or developed prior to or on 31st of December 1999;
The Occupant of the property is a statutory tenant (typically an individual who continuously occupies and retains possession of the immovable property despite the rental agreement being expired, void or terminated).
The mechanism introduced via the amendments to the Rent Control Act enabled the landlord to evict statutory tenants on a “fast track” basis, effect out of court settlements, decrease the burdens placed on the landlord vis-à-vis the tenant and enable justice to be achieved at a speedier and more efficient rate.
At face value the mechanism introduced by the amendments to the Rent Control Act was procedural in nature. Consequently, landlords are provided with a faster procedure under which they can recover possession of their property when a problematic tenant does not fulfill their financial obligations. Accordingly, this expedited procedure results in between 5-7 months for the adversarial proceedings between Landlord and Tenant to conclude and the property to be returned to the Landlord. The Mechanism is detailed in steps as follows:
The Landlord must produce a written notice to the tenant. The notice shall be indicative of the total amounts owed to the landlord and a 21-day time-frame allowing the tenant to comply with the demand for owed rents.
Upon the expiry of the 21-day time-frame and provided the tenant has been unable to meet the financial demands of the landlord, the landlord may proceed with filling an application for eviction with the Rent Control Tribunal.
The tenant retains the right to contest the application and can file a response application provided that the tenant can produce evidence that such rent demands were settled to either the accounting department of the Court, the Landlord or the Landlord’s bank account or their representative thereof. Filing a response to the Eviction Application without the accompanying evidence will result in the application being rejected.
The acceptance or rejection of the Tenant’s response, prescribed in point 3 hereinabove, will be communicated to the Court within 3 days of its receipt.
If the Court accepts the application for eviction, it will issue an Eviction Order, which is not subject to appeal and can be set at a maximum of 90 days for tenant to comply.
The mechanism introduced via the amendments provided a much speedier process for the recovery of possession of a property for clear cases where the statutory tenant of such property does not pay rent.
The new provisions of the law are not applicable to eviction applications filed in Court before the 31st of January 2020 or to rent due before this date provided that such due rent is settled within 12 months from the 31st of January 2020.
The amendments introduced on the 31st of January 2020, were effective in creating a procedural mechanism that considerably sped up eviction cases. In particular, the effectiveness is observed in clear cases involving non paying statutory tenants, and by removing a considerable chunk of the workload it enables the courts to work more effectively. Property owners benefited by being allowed to legally claim back possession of their property both commercial and residential and to swiftly collect their due rents.
Fundamentally, the effective amendments could be perceived as a reforming step providing fast legal solutions to clear infringements or breaches of contractual obligations. At large, initiatives such as these arguably served as a boost to the public’s confidence in a legal system that has been previously notoriously plagued by procedural delays and time constraints.
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