Speaking at the annual general meeting of the Land and Building Developers Association (LBDA), Sylikiotis said the legislation aimed at removing the main reasons why developers effectively block the issuing of Title Deeds to the rightful owners of new property.
He went on to say that legislation was in process that would bring an end to the problem affecting the 100,000 properties bought by Cypriots and around 30,000 foreigners, most of whom are British.
The main reason in most cases is that currently land owned by developers can be mortgaged again and again, leaving those who bought properties without their Title Deeds for anything up to 20 years. The average waiting time, even for Cypriot buyers is 12 years.
“Draft bills have already been submitted to the Legal Service for scrutiny, covering the enactment of urban land-redistribution, the transfer of development rights between properties, and the registration of mortgages,” Sylikiotis said.
“Often, land developers – who are probably members of your association – unfortunately end up being part of the problem faced by thousands of Cypriots, EU citizens and others. It is therefore necessary – and here I’m referring to the question of the issuing of Title Deeds – for every organisation involved in land development, including all members of your association, to acknowledge its own responsibilities for the problematic situation we are facing today, rather than adopting the convenient attitude that all responsibility lies with someone else, and none with itself.”
The government has come under increasing pressure especially from foreign buyers who have grouped under the Cyprus Property Action Group (CPAG).
CPAG has taken a number of steps to fight back including lobbying the British government and the European Parliament.
“This is a complicated issue, one which is continually raised with me and discussed. It is also raised regularly in the European Parliament and the UK Parliament,” admitted Sylikiotis.
“Deals are being done and work started on the basis of an understanding, and because of this, when dealing with a Briton, for example, we must be careful not to send the wrong message,” he added.
He then referred to other proposals, including draft legislation, that have already been prepared as part of responding to the current situation.
“Regarding the transfer of mortgages, without wishing to build up expectations, a draft bill has been approved by the Legal Services, and I hope we will soon be able to submit it to the House of Representatives for scrutiny and approval. At the same time, we are in the advanced stages of working out amendments to the legislation covering construction and town-planning, as well as the registration of property ownership, with the aim of achieving the overall and particularly ambitious objective which some people are describing as a town-planning amnesty,” he added.
The Minister made it clear that he was not fudging the question of Title Deeds: “I am requesting figures from the Land Registry on a monthly basis in order to monitor how the issuing of Title Deeds is progressing, and with the new legislation in preparation, I am hopeful we can make progress on this issue soon.”
While acknowledging that “some colleagues” may have been responsible for the problems relating to Title Deeds, LBDA President Lakis Tofarides also blamed cumbersome government bureaucracy.
“There is not one civil servant working in the Land Registry who can issue a Title Deed on their own,” he said.
He suggested that if the government decided it did not have sufficient resources in place, it could outsource the work. In his view, cost would not be an issue, as “the government will earn millions of Euros by getting the Title Deeds issued resolved.”
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