FOR SOME time now, there has been an attempt, driven mainly from foreign media, to present the Republic of Cyprus as an unreliable place for investment in the property market due to a problem of issuing title deeds.
The Ministry of the Interior and I have repeatedly, and in multiple ways, stated that those allegations are entirely unsustainable, and, in any case, they ignore our serious efforts for the reformation of the whole system of issuing property titles in Cyprus.
Our policy aims to boost the property market in Cyprus, introducing effective and comprehensive practices for solving this problem. Within this context, the Ministry of the Interior has already completed the drafting for the amendment of four legislations concerning property registration and building permission procedures.
The amendment of the four legislations primarily aims to address the current full dependency of the procedure for issuing title deeds of separate housing units in comprehensive housing projects from the will and initiative of the owner-seller.
Also, provisions will be introduced which will allow the competent Authorities to encourage developers to apply for the issuing of title deeds. In addition, the measures entail new regulations, which will enable the issue of permits for certain irregularities to buildings that are not covered by permit, by imposing appropriate conditions and obligations in respect to the compensation of such irregularities.
In fact, the amendments will be a significant reform of the planning system, and will largely improve the system of issuing property titles, providing for solutions to several problems identified in the current system. Overall, the proposed amendments will contribute to the speeding up of the issuing of title deeds, whilst our goal is the issuing of some 20.000 title deeds by mid 2010.
In essence, since proposed legislative amendments accelerate the process and remove obstacles for the issuing of separate title deeds for each individual unit in larger developments, any aggrieved buyer will have readily available the option of applying for a court order, which in effect will order the seller to transfer the title deed on the name of the buyer.
If the seller still refuses, the court orders another party to compulsorily transfer the title deed. Furthermore, amendments will allow authorities to enforce a penalty fine to any unwilling seller, in order to encourage timely responses and the cooperation of sellers, while the Minister will have the power to publicize the names of sellers who are not cooperating with authorities on these procedures.
These significant improvements will surely benefit, not only new buyers, but also people who have already signed such a contract for buying a housing unit that is part of a development project, and find difficulties in having their title deed.
Despite our determination to cut this Gordian knot with the introduction of new legislation for the improvement and reformation of the planning system, as well as the system of issuing property titles, it must be clarified here that even the current system and the existing legislation protects buyers and their ownership status.
In this regard, any aggrieved buyer can appeal to courts against the seller who refuses to abide to his obligations and transfer the title deed to the buyer-owner. It must also become clear that the ownership status of a buyer-owner of immovable property in Cyprus is definitely secured and cannot be challenged, as long as the buyer-owner has submitted the buying-contract to the Department of Lands and Surveys.
In conclusion, I should stress that in the Government controlled part of Cyprus, the case of a property-seller bankruptcy is quite rare; in fact, our record on this is much better than most other European countries.
In that sense, the property market in Cyprus is stable and secure, and property buyers must be absolutely certain that their investments are safe here; indeed, property investment is much safer in Cyprus than anywhere else. Indicatively, I could mention that despite the global financial crisis and the collapse of the property market all around the world, and in much of Europe, the estate market in Cyprus is quite healthy and still in positive growth rate.
Furthermore, there is something that one must not forget. Nobody and no Authority anywhere can ever challenge the property rights or the ownership status of buyers of immovable property within the territory which is under the control of the Republic of Cyprus.
The Cyprus Minister of the Interior
22nd July, 2009