LAST YEAR a law was passed that, supposedly, would have made it easier for buyers of apartments to obtain title deeds for their properties, title deeds for which they had been waiting for years. Although the law was hailed as major breakthrough at the time it has proved ineffectual, with big waiting, its only achievement being that it created more business for lawyers and more work for the courts.
Having a title deed issued, as one lawyer pointed out, required legal action against the vendor and the appointment of a third person who would issue title deeds on behalf of the vendor. To be able to take such action special provisions had be included in the purchase contract, which should also have been submitted the Land Registry Office within a specified time period.
We mention this merely to highlight the complexity of the matter and to show how last year’s, ‘breakthrough’ law has done next to nothing to resolve a widespread problem. Buyers are still being strung along by developers, being made to wait for years for a title deed which should, theoretically, be handed over as soon as they have completed the payment for a property.
A buyer would eventually be issued a title deed but this could take between two and 10 years, which is just not good enough. Yet the authorities are not concerned about this perverse situation nor do they see the need top protect buyers. This is because the deeds are eventually issued and very few buyers, if any, have been stitched up by developers. But can the possibility of a developer, who has not issued title deeds to buyers, going bankrupt ever be ruled out? Would buyers ever receive title deeds in such a case, or would the properties they had paid for in good faith, remain the ownership of a bank?
How much wiser it would be if the authorities took measures for resolving the matter before there is such a crisis. The current state of affairs suits only the developers, who avoid paying their tax dues for as long as title deeds are not issued; they could also use the deeds as collateral for financing other projects. As they are not penalised, they have no incentive to ensure the issuing of deeds. They build apartment blocks without securing a certificate of approval from the relevant district office without which no title deeds can be issued – this seems to suit them perfectly.
Speaking to the Sunday Mail, the assistant director of the Town Planning and Housing Department, said the delays in issuing title deeds are caused by two factors – the very big number of applications and the developers’ habit of building apartment blocks before securing a certificate of approval from the relevant district office. The first problem can easily be overcome by the employment of more staff to deal with the workload. As for the developers, the government needs to get tough and there are plenty of ways of doing this – it could impose heavy fines on developers who fail to issue title deeds or build without a certificate of approval. If developers faced a fine of £100,000 every time they ignored the law they would have no choice but to show some respect for the right of their customers.
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2006