Landlords from Hell

One of the biggest parts of Cypriot economy is real estate, and short and long term rents out. The way this particular business plays out does change the quality of life on the island and affects the value of the investment.

This is a true story which took place in Paphos 2019, all names are changed.

This story might be a sign of a systematic issue, not just a bad story on its own, the way system has reacted (or not) to the landlords actions affects the community of tenants in Paphos in a long term.

The landlord-tenant deal seem to be straightforward – tenant’s job is to pay the agreed rent and the landlord’s job is to provide the agreed square meters and guarantee a peaceful or quite enjoyment. In Cyprus, Paphos, some landlords don’t grasp this simple concept.

Peaceful enjoyment is a legal term, enshrined in Cyprus tenancy law, which means that tenant has a right to be undisturbed by landlord in the rented premises while using them for all ordinary, lawful purposes.

Cyprus News have taken an interview with Electra. Electra is Cypriot, she is living in rented accommodations for decades. For years she had a normal experience with housing matters here in Cyprus until 2019 when she was forced to undergo a virtual hell by her landlords, not in one rented house but two accommodations in a raw.

At the beginning of 2019 Electra has signed a year long lease with Marianna in Geroskipou. Everything was fine until Marianna has decided that she wants to sell the house few months into the year long contract with Electra.

If the landlord wants to break the contract before the date, landlord must pay the sum which equals the payment for all the remaining months. This is a Cyprus contract law.

According the contract law a year lease obliges both sides to stick to the agreement throughout the whole period of the contract. It means that the side that wants to break the contract before the expiry date is up for paying the rest of the promised sums, that includes landlords as a liable side in the deal.

Instead of dealing with a matter with dignity Marianna and her family made their goal to live Electra out by all means possible, and there were no means they would shy away from. At the very beginning of summer, June and July Electra’s water was cut off completely and she and her daughter Elena were deprived of essential facilities: sinks, bathroom, toilet.

Electra shared with our correspondents “She (Marianna) made my life a living hell. The house stank without working toilet and sinks. My daughter was vomiting every day in this environment.” Electra’s daughter Helen pleaded – “Mom, we need to get out of here, even if we will have to sleep on the floor”.

Marianna’s husband Demis attitude is truly shocking – “How nice is it to shit when you don’t have water?”. This comment is an evidence of the blunt sadism and the absence of human compassion, in my opinion.

Almost every day of those two months Marianna, her husband Demis, their adult children and children in law Leonardis, Costas, Poline and Stelia were yelling obscenities at Electra : “You are a whore!”, “Get out of here, we had it with you, you, stupid woman” and so on. The bullying continued up to the point Electra and her daughter Helen moved out.

Shockingly Marianna’s son in law threatened to kill Electra – “You will get a death treat on the boat. Nice and last boat ride”. When such threats would lead to a police investigation in most European countries, there were no serious repercussions for landlord’s son in law.

More of it, Marianna and Demis were baselessly claiming that Electra is insane and should be locked up in a mental facility. Electra was taken by police for the psychiatric evaluation, where, ironically, doctor advised her to find a new home as soon as possible and get out of there, adding – “Those people want to hurt you”.

Those experiences are very stressful and in the long term (as they were) even traumatic, it would be hard to chew for a healthy person. Electra has multiple issues with her health, for protection of Electra’s privacy we are not going to list them, thou there are two speaking for themselves quotes – “My blood pressure is going to kill me one day”.

When we asked her if stress affects her health issues she said – “I am not suppose to have any stress”.

What is very alarming in this story for all those who are renting their flats and houses in Paphos is that there was no actual protection of Electra’s tenant and human rights by police or social services.

Electra complained to police over the matter immediately as water was cut off. Police took no effective action to regulate the situation, the matter wasn’t transferred to municipality, social services or any other institution with powers to protect Electra. In common thinking that is definitely not what we associate with “Europe”. Especially when it comes to vulnerable adult with health issues.

Electra and her family were in active search of a new home, which is stressful on it’s own. Making her and her family’s life unbearable during her search is inexcusable and clearly was driven by greed, impatience and total indifference to her life. It might be the case Marianna did understand that breaking the tenancy prematurely can lead her owning Electra the rest of the rental sums.

A lot of landlords pretend to be blissfully unaware of the tenancy law citing their obligations, or any of their legal obligations as landlords for that matter. Sincere unawareness is not an excuse either.

That prolonged story in Geroskipou has left a mental scaring on Electra and her family. She says that now she is overly anxious to stay without water and ensures she has plethora of bottles in her house – “I am in panic if I don’t have water”.

When Electra finally found the new flat in Chloraka she hoped that the nightmare was over. It took a while to find a new apartment because Electra has pets: two small dogs. There might be an argument of a bad lack, but equally the argument of the pervasiveness of the bad trait with Paphos’s landlords, when Electra’s new landlords in Chloraka turned out to be as bad as previous once in Geroskipou, if not worse.

For a business-minded landlord Electra is a desirable tenant due to the fact that she receives government support – her rent is paid electronically by government and oft in advance. Landlord Androula and her husband Panagotis definitely did not have good business on their mind giving an awful treatment to Electra in the Chloraka apartment.

Androula received a notification from the government via bank system that three following months of the rent were back paid. You might think – well that’s a wonderful thing, advance payment, who wouldn’t like that. Androula presented that message as if she was charged from her account and Electra is somehow defrauding her out of the due rent payments. Payments were made electronically, there were receipts and bank statements, however Androula claimed that she was somehow stiffed out of 100 euro, and she wanted Electra to pay the community payments which were between 15 and 60 euro. Apparently in her mind it gave her and her husband Panagotis an excuse to repeatedly harass and threatened Electra.

Electra – “They were trying to rip me off”.

Panagotis was threatening that he would throw Electra from the balcony and shoot her. They were cutting off the lift. Landlords claimed that they did not know about the dogs and Electra did not discuss pets with them before moving despite the fact that they were fully aware about the dogs from the very start of renting negotiations and there were multiple witnesses to it. When landlords were calling police on Electra, she was presenting the receipts to the officers and it was police’s turn to tell the landlords – she has paid, there are receipts, what is your issue? Landlords behaved funny when were presented the papers saying that they are “confused” by them. There were threats of litigation from the landlord’s side which did not scare Electra – “I would have a laugh at court after all the threats and lies she (Androula) sent me via e-mail”. At the time when Electra was asking police to actually influence the situation police has advised Electra to file a complaint to the Independent Police complaints office (it’s a tiny government office, with very restricted resources).

Harassment in Cypriot law is defined as a behavior which is intended to cause distress and alarm, and must happen on multiple occasions. Behaviors of Electra’s landlords described above seem to be an almost notebook definition of harassment in action.

Panagotis threatened to kill Electra – “I will shoot you and your dogs”.

Electra – “There were moments when I were waking up and thought it was all a nightmare, that it could not go on for real”.

Death treats is a criminal offence in Cypriot law. It can be punished by imprisonment up to ten years.

Androula and Panagotis were demanding from Electra to live the house – “Get out, we had enough of you”; they were trying to get Electra out of the flat prior to the date up to which she paid the rent. Electra did not have an emotional resource to go through litigation, so she never pressed that matter to go to the hearings.

Direct quotes from Electra – “They were devils. My kids went through hell in Chloraka. I prayed all day and night for us to get out of that damp.”

“And all of that for the (alleged) 100 euro! That’s how much the life and the pride cost. And they call themselves Christians”.

In our correspondent’s conversations with many foreigners who live and work on Cyprus and have a rough time with landlords and Cypriot businessmen, often assume that bad treatment stems from the local xenophobia. Cyprus New asked Electra what were her thoughts on that argument, Electra disagreed with a preposition saying – “Actually, if you are Cypriot they don’t prefer you at all”.

Eventually Electra has found another flat where she now lives with her daughter and two dogs. The flat is not in perfect condition with some utilities breaking down, but she is positive about the place and a landlord – “He takes time to fix everything, but he isn’t bad.”

When Electra was asked how all that experience in 2019 has changed her she answered – “I still have nightmares and I don’t trust anyone. I expect bad [treatment] from everybody”.

We also asked Electra what gave her strength to face courageously all those events, she said – “God gave me strength and hold my hand throughout this nightmare”.

Electra still did not get the response from the Independent Police complains about the complaint which she filed in 2019. At today’s day this complaint is year old.

Yes, there are good and decent landlords in Paphos, but they are overcast by unpunished behaviour of indignant landlords and indifferent police. The fact that landlords in this particular story broke multiple laws and in practice got away with it, undermines the investment into Cypriot economy. Police had to address at least half of the issues that occurred between Electra and her landlords. The system did not work as it supposed to. When lands and real estate are sold on Cyprus, working infrastructure is part of the value preposition. If foreign clients would know that they can buy a property but basic law wouldn’t work in practice they might reconsider to invest in this country, looking for a more secure place.

Barbaric behaviour of landlords in no uncertain terms is bad for economy, let alone the reputation of Paphos.

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