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Insight on professional advisers

By Antonis Loizou

Amongst other matters requiring or being already under investigation, are the standards of our professional advisers (in the legal as well as in other professions).

While the majority of such counsellors are alright, there are certainly some in their number who are below standard, and yet others of a top quality.

The question is, though, how are people (foreigners in particular) to know who is who? In numerous letters, our readers have urged us to prepare a check list and place marks, as British universities do.

Which is a nice thought… but then we would run into trouble by having to face all kinds of law suits, to say nothing of the fact that we do not know everybody, in all professions, in a professional capacity.

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Nonetheless, over our 37 years of experience in Cyprus, and having been called in as an expert witness related to real estate matters in numerous legal disputes, we have become familiar with the range of standards applied by lawyers, as, of course, would occur in any other profession, too, including ours. Which leads us to offer the following thoughts:

  • Whoever you choose to appoint as adviser, agree their fee in advance, to include the never-ending postponements by the courts (due mainly to the prevailing system).

In one case in which we were involved, the court date was postponed around 10 times (considered “quite normal”) and we received a fee charge of €1,500 + VAT (approximately €150 per postponement).

Since a postponement can be sought by either the disputing lawyer’s side, commonly represented by trainee lawyers, who are normally paid (at best) €1,000 p.m., it is easy money – if a trainee gets 30 postponements per month, you do appreciate that either side gets a free income.

  • Referring to legal matters before your hearing, be sure to have several meetings with your lawyer and other witnesses of your own and hold a mock hearing, as well as a question and answer session, so that you are exposed to the other side’s arguments.
  • Do not be embarrassed to put questions and answers to your own consultants in order to ensure they know the case and your point of view.
  • If you are from overseas and do not speak Greek, bring an interpreter to court with you if you can afford it, to fill you in on the proceedings.
  • Don’t feel embarrassed to fire your advisers (including valuers and so forth) if what you were promised or if assurances do not turn out as represented.
  • Upholding a duty of care and doing one’s due diligence is a must by all. So, in the event that you notice such diligence is not being implemented – and even after a court decision is made, you might have a claim against your consultants. A recent High Court case against a lawyer for not doing what he was supposed to is an example for us all (the individual had to pay damages to his clients).
  • There are other practices on the part of all manner of consultants which, if we dared recount, would have the various professional bodies against us (see the last coroner’s report on a murder trial).

So, when it comes to advisers, find the best, even though they are, regrettably, usually expensive. There are those who are fighters and those who are passive, but remember always that in legal battles, more often than not, it is a matter of compromise, since the other side’s arguments must also be heard.

For one divorce case at the UK High Court, we prepared a claim, but our client purposely left out our vital information, which turned the case upside down.

Meanwhile, if you want to go with a young lawyer or professional wishing to build up their clientele and reputation, this is an option, but then, has he or she the knowledge and capability to do the job?

At the end of the day, dear readers, an adviser is only as good as the material you provide him with, depending also on the quality of the witness, and, of course, their own capabilities.

In one case at Coral Bay, and in order to prove wrong construction due to dampness, the buyer was watering the external walls, causing them to be wet. This we did not know (we were appearing as an expert witness on his behalf), but his neighbour told the court they had seen what he was doing and so we lost the case.

In another case 12 years ago, the supervising civil engineer was on “the take” from the contractor. Our client duly sued the contractor, with the latter to appear with photocopied cheques to the supervising engineer, who was appointed by the client!

Meanwhile, we have also seen several cases where a better-known name never appeared and the job was undertaken by young, recently-qualified staff.

On one such occasion our client lodged a complaint but the “name” said it was their office, and not they, themselves, who had been appointed. A similar situation exists with architects where supervision is carried out by young, inexperienced assistants.

Antonis Loizou & Associates LTD Property Valuers & Property Consultants, www.aloizou.com.cy, nicosia@aloizou.com.cy

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