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Battling the Church for Title Deeds for 13 years

RESIDENTS of a Paphos development who have been waiting for Title Deeds to their properties for 13 years are still stuck in limbo with no end in sight to their saga. According to the owner of one of the properties of the Kitrikes Village Development in Armou, the Interior Ministry took the residents to court […]

RESIDENTS of a Paphos development who have been waiting for Title Deeds to their properties for 13 years are still stuck in limbo with no end in sight to their saga.

According to the owner of one of the properties of the Kitrikes Village Development in Armou, the Interior Ministry took the residents to court in May last year for, “illegally living in their houses without title deeds“.

The Ministry also instigated proceedings against the Ayios Pavlos Church, accusing the institution of failing to obtain a completion certificate and title deeds for the 22 properties it sold over ten years ago.

Civil engineer Graham John Cooper-Selley told the Mail that despite Church assurances to finish all the work required to complete the site as per the planning permit, it “still has not been issued with a completion certificate and it will also take further time to achieve this.”

The 68-year-old added that the Church has been promising an end to their suffering for years.

When we turned up in court, the government solicitor suddenly announced that the case against the residents was being dropped and no explanation was given. Additionally, the Church was given a further four months (to get a completion certificate).

Cooper-Selley added that when the Church re-appeared in court on September 27, the government announced that the case against them had also been dropped.

We’ve had no apology for being dragged into a courtroom. In fact when I spoke with the District Inspector, he had no explanation from the government-appointed lawyer as to why this happened.

Last February, the Paphos Bishopric acknowledged the problem and promised that the situation would be resolved, with people receiving their deeds by the end of the year, saying it was “important that the people do so“.

We thought that buying from the Church would guarantee no problems for obtaining the title deeds and I wonder whether other property owners living in their houses without first obtaining their deeds realise that they may be classified as criminals?” Cooper-Selley wondered.

I, along with the other residents involved, am very upset and disturbed over what has happened as we have done everything we can to push the Church, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Hitting back at the criticism, the Ayios Pavlos Church insisted that all the necessary work has been completed and that it is simply a formality now for the issue to move forward.

The District Officer will be heading down to the site shortly for an inspection and I am fully confident that he will issue a completion certificate. Once that is done, we can submit the application for the residents to receive their Title Deeds.

Cooper-Selley however brought it to our attention that the Church still appears to have an obligation regarding an outstanding mortgage on the land.

We are worried about this because until the amount is settled, there can still be no issue of Title Deeds.

On hearing of the case, Denis O’Hare, one of the co-founders of the Cyprus Property Action Group (CPAG) made the following statement: “The issuance of a Final Completion Certificate under Article 10 of the Streets and Buildings Law CAP. 96 is one of the most important legislations for the safety of property purchasers.

“This law is however routinely and conveniently ignored by developers, estate agents and even buyers’ own lawyers.

“Unlike other countries where much better safeguards are in place, this inspection by the local or district authority is the only independent check that the building complies with the building laws and the building permit i.e. is legally complete and is what the buyer paid for.

He added that the CPAG has been contacted by many buyers who have suffered due to this law not being enforced.

Many buyers are also exploited after they have paid in full when developers ask for extra money to install basic services which would have been required for the Final Completion Certificate to be issued and before the clients parted with their final payment.

“Additionally, without this Final Completion Certificate the title deeds application process cannot even be started, leaving buyers in the risky title deed trap, for many years in some cases.

It is understood that the CPAG is currently lobbying the government to ensure that the law is strictly enforced in order to protect the public’s interests when they buy property on the island.

O’Hare concluded: “We are dismayed that the government seems to have interfered with the course of justice in this landmark Armou case, especially when they were the very ones to initiate it in the first place. Unfortunately, along with many other buyers, the Cooper-Selley’s and their neighbours are still trapped by developers in this type of unsatisfactory and unlawful limbo.

“All we at CPAG can now suggest that the Cooper-Selleys do, having been so badly failed by the system here in Cyprus, is to petition the EU Parliament for their fundamental EU rights.

George Coucounis, a lawyer specialising in Immovable Property Law also commented. He said that the relevant provision of the law states that, “no person shall occupy or use, or cause, permit, or suffer any other person to occupy or use any building, unless and until a certificate of approval has been issued in respect thereof by the appropriate authority.

In this case, he added, it is, “nevertheless obvious that both the purchaser and the vendor contravene the aforesaid provision of the law, especially the purchaser who occupies and uses the building. Therefore, if he appeals to the appropriate authority to take “criminal” steps against the vendor, the authority is in the middle having both parties violating the law.

“The authority will be reluctant to intervene in such a civil dispute, especially if the building was built according to the relevant permit/s.

According to Coucounis, “the right procedure for the purchaser to follow is to file a legal action against the vendor in accordance with the provisions of Law 96(I)/97 which give the Court the authority to issue an order against the vendor and to set him under the Court’s observance to issue the separate title deeds within reasonable time.

Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2007

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