THE FIVE draft bills designed to alleviate problems preventing the issue of Title Deeds have been approved by the Council of Ministers and are now with the House of Representatives.
Often referred to as a ’Planning Amnesty’, the draft bills influence other aspects of the Title Deed problem and change the following laws:
- The Streets and Buildings Regulations Law, Cap 96
- The Planning Law 90/1972.
- The Immovable Property (Tenure, Registration and Valuation) Law, Cap. 224
- The Sale of Land (Specific Performance) Law, Cap 232
- The Contract Law, Cap. 249
The main provisions of the changes are outlined below.
The Streets and Buildings Regulations Law, Cap 96
To speed up the whole procedure of issuing Title Deeds, changes to the law require:
- the simultaneous issuing of a division permit and a building permit;
- the application by the owner, within 21 days of the completion of the project, to the appropriate authority for the issuing of a Certificate of Approval, otherwise an administrative penalty may be imposed. (Another source reports that the ‘completion of the project’ may be 8 to 18 years after its building permit has been issued).
Where projects have not been completed, a partial Certificate of Approval can be issued.
Where projects do not conform to the permits issued for their construction (i.e. they have constructional irregularities), a Certificate of Approval can be issued together with a notification of those irregularities.
Where construction irregularities are ‘significant’, a certificate of unauthorised works is issued. This will result in a prohibition being placed on the Title that will prevent the affected property being sold, transferred, mortgaged, etc.
Regarding the planning amnesty, the changes to the law provides for the creation of a Commission that will examine applications and decide accordingly.
The Commission can impose a fee as a set-off for the irregularity and when the fee is paid any notices of irregularity on the Certificate of Approval and/or the Title are lifted.
The planning amnesty is only applicable to existing developments, and the owner of the property needs to apply to the Commission within one year of the law being passed.
The Planning Law 90/1972.
This contains similar provisions to those outlined above for the Streets and Buildings Regulations Law, Cap 96.
The Immovable Property (Tenure, Registration and Valuation) Law, Cap. 224
Changes to the law enable up-to-date Title Deeds to be issued following an application by the owner of the property or through discretionary powers vested in the Director of the Lands and Surveys Department. If the owner of a property fails to co-operate with the Director, an administrative penalty can be imposed.
As mentioned above, the Title Deed to be issued may be burdened with a “notice of irregularity” and/or a prohibition on any dealing of the property, on the basis of the relevant certificate of approval or a “certificate of unauthorised works”.
The Sale of Land (Specific Performance) Law, Cap 232
Changes to the law require that, where a unit or a building site is sold, the contract must be accompanied by a building or division permit, respectively. Also, the property being sold must be free of any mortgages and all other encumbrances.
The Contract Law, Cap. 249
Changes to the law require that, for any contract of sale of immovable property to be valid, it must be in writing and it must be deposited at a District Lands Office.
Before any of the above changes can become law, they need to be debated by Parliament (the House of Representatives) – and they may be changed, strengthened or watered down during this democratic process. It should also be remembered that the previous planning amnesty was a complete and abject failure.