Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cypriot Holiday Homes at Risk

APEuropeans are being warned against buying property in northern Cyprus.
NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Linda and David Orams carved out their own paradise two years ago in the tiny northern Cyprus village of Lapithos, building a dream villa on the side of a mountain that slopes down to the blue Mediterranean Sea.

Now a court here has told them to tear down the two-story villa -- and threatened to confiscate their property back home in Britain if they don't.

The Orams are in the middle of the latest fight in war-divided Cyprus -- this time over luxury real estate. Cyprus' entry last year into the European Union is adding more ammunition.

Europeans who long bought property in northern Cyprus at cheap prices -- often land confiscated from Greek Cypriot refugees who fled the island's north after a Turkish invasion in 1974 -- now face the prospect of losing that land because of Cyprus' EU entry.

The British newspaper The Observer wrote in a full-page report that buying holiday property in northern Cyprus "could become a legal and financial nightmare."

The flood of court cases against Europeans occupying former Greek properties has also fueled similar cases by Greek Cypriot refugees against Turkish Cypriots living in their homes.

Recent court rulings, including one by the Human Rights Court of the Council of Europe, have reaffirmed the property restitution rights of Greek Cypriot refugees.

In the Orams' case, a Cypriot court ordered the couple to demolish their villa in the north and pay hefty compensation to a Greek Cypriot refugee for illegally using his property.

With Cyprus' EU entry, the ruling has greater clout because British authorities could enforce the decision against the Orams, resulting in the possible confiscation of their property in England.

Much of the property that has been sold to Europeans is land allocated to Turkish settlers who sell it to developers, then return to Turkey.

Lawyers and politicians from both sides warn legal battles between Greek and Turkish Cypriots could hurt relations amid flagging UN-led efforts to reunite the island.

"This is a complicated issue and it can only be settled on the basis of an overall settlement of the Cyprus problem," said Greek Cypriot Interior Minister Andreas Christou.

Nevertheless, Christou backed legal action against foreigners.

"There is a difference between a Turkish Cypriot who has been forced by circumstances to move into a Greek Cypriot home, and a foreigner flouting the law by buying property belonging to a Greek Cypriot refugee for a holiday home," he said.

Last week, British estate agents and 200 mainly Britons, who have bought property here, met in the northern town of Kyrenia to engage a firm of British lawyers and to launch a 1 million Cypriot pound ($2.5 million) appeal fund to defend their cases.