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Minister and opposition in row over Title Deed bills

A row between the Cyprus Interior Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis and opposition party DISY has broken out over delays in the long-awaited Title Deed bill amendments.

INTERIOR Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis yesterday urged parliament to vote for the government’s long-awaited town-planning amnesty bills and accused opposition DISY of stalling and trying to alter their provisions.

The Minister said that it is well-known that the dysfunction of the whole system of development control “but also a multitude of problems, violations and omissions by professionals in the construction sector, resulted, among other serious evils, in the victimisation … of thousands of property buyers, as well as the defamation of our country abroad.”

Sylikiotis urged parliament to vote for the bills, under discussion for the past 10 months, and accused DISY of stalling tactics.

“There are thousands of buyers and owners waiting for these bills to go through,” the Minister said. “The excuse put forward by some people, that this exhaustive dialogue in the House (Interior) Committee aims at improving the bills is inaccurate.”

He said the delay did not add anything toward improving the bills “but on the contrary, what it essentially achieves is to perpetuate a situation that only hurts the tens of thousands of buyers whose rights are not safeguarded while Cyprus continues to be degraded overseas.”

The Minister was referring to three of the five bills currently before the house dealing with various aspects of the Title Deed issue.

But he added that there was also a delay in processing the other two bills – which regulate the mortgage issue – currently being discussed in the House Legal Affairs Committee, chaired by DISY’s Ionas Nicolaou.

Sylikiotis urged DISY MPs to “abandon their stalling tactics and efforts to alter or neutralise the essence of the … innovations and reforms, which protect the buyers’ rights by overcoming past anachronisms.”

DISY responded in the afternoon, accusing the Minister of making baseless claims and spoiling the constructive climate at a critical moment.

MP Christos Stylianides said “despite their many reservations on various points … the parliamentary group has decided to support them, stating its reservations, in the hope that their implementation will reveal the imperfections that can be amended in order to arrive at the best result.”

Thousands of home owners remain without Title Deeds to their property due to irregularities at the time of construction or changes made later on.

For instance, residents of an apartment block cannot get the deed to their flat if one of the owners in the building turned his balcony into a spare bedroom.

Thousands were also left without deeds, even after paying for their house, because developers did not pay back to the bank the mortgage they took out to finance the development.

Sylikiotis said the five bills aim to regulate the sector and do away with problems of the past.

The two bills (regarding mortgages) currently discussed by the House Legal Affairs Committee provide a way out to buyers while setting safeguards so that buyers who have met their obligations can get the property transferred to their name, the Minister said.

“Buyers can claim their rights through better provisions included in the legislation,” Sylikiotis said.

One of the bills that concerns the sale of land, includes provisions also agreed by the banks “to create a mechanism so that when the buyer pays, their plot is freed and they can acquire the Title Deed,” Sylikiotis said.

As regards building irregularities that do not affect third parties or encroach in public spaces, they can be legalised by paying local authorities a fee.

Those fees will be determined through a general evaluation of properties in an area carried out by the Land Registry.

Title Deeds for properties with irregularities will be issued but they will be accompanied by notes specifying the wrongdoing.

Owners will be able to correct those ‘notes’ by paying the fee or keep the title as is and risk their property valued at a lower price since a potential buyer will be aware of the encumbrances.

Approval of the bills will also fetch much needed revenues for the government as every title costs around €8,000 in Property Transfer Fees.

Over 100,000 Title Deeds are currently pending but not all are expected to be issued at once.

Sylikiotis said the state can issue up to 20,000 titles a year, which means around €150 million in revenues for the government.

Readers' comments

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  • Denis says:

    Regarding the building irregularities and the traps in which buyers find themselves, these were caused solely by the Government’s inability (or refusal) to enforce the consumer protection law regarding the certificate of final approval. If the current law had been enforced no buyer would find themselves in this title deed trap situation. More damning is that this Minister has no plans to enforce this consumer protection law any time soon, hence the new law.

    So we now have the ludicrous situation where we have new law which specifically caters for the lack of the enforcement of current law.

    Moreover, this new legislation cynically tries to make buyers pay for the failures of the Government and also, more importantly, colludes in the developer’s breach of contract in failing to deliver a clean title to the buyer as called for in the sales contract. This does seem quite at odds with the EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices, not to mention Article 23 of the Constitution (immovable property rights) regarding ‘restrictions and limitations’.

    Imagine when any prospective buyers find out about this brand new pitfall of buying in Cyprus.

    You could not make this stuff up!

  • out of the frying pan into the fire says:

    I agree with several of the comments written, some even made me laugh, but not as much as the Cyprus government putting their property laws right, developers, lawyers, estate agents no chance.

    And of course there is a mug coming into the country every day just waiting to be robbed like the rest of us.

    And to close they don’t like our comments in the press, in the EU, TV , well lets keep it up. Why should we be the only ones having a bad day.

  • john rigden says:

    Defamation a false accusation of an offence or a malicious misrepresentation of someone’s words or actions.

    I thought for a second I had misunderstood the meaning of the word, had to look it up to reassure myself!!!!!

  • Stuart says:

    ‘DISY’ MPs just about sums them up!

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    Mr Sylikiotis acknowledges the “evils” being perpetrated on buyers but then includes as an evil “the defamation of our country abroad”. Is he saying that everything negative about this matter that is circulating abroad is a fabrication? Surely not!

    Or is he just regretting the fact that all the wrongdoing and dirty linen is being washed in front of the world – the very people who decide whether or not to buy property in Cyprus?

  • baileyboy says:

    Where has the Interior Minister been? He has suddenly realised the damage being done to Cyprus’s reputation by the non issue of title deeds.

    It has taken the Land Registry 18 months to issue 15,000 title deeds. At the current rate it will take about 10 years just to clear the backlog.

  • Peter says:

    I like the bit about. “Whilst Cyprus continues to be degraded overseas.”

    I know my developer took exception even to a ‘Snags list’ (AKA defects in the building – which is what it really was) and replied. “You have hurt me so much when I had so much respect for you”. Mind you he never came to repair the defects, on the pretence of seriously hurt feelings. They have a pride as thick as a crocodile skin and are as over sensitive as a cry baby.

    As for their name overseas too little too late, they have now found out and those here know them for what they are. The word is out and you have already lost your reputation. As the saying goes ‘You’re only as good as your last mistake’

  • andyp says:

    I agree with Costas. Not really looking for a solution only options to continue the fraud and save developers paying their dues. Why?

  • Mike C says:

    1960 all over again.

    Left-wing, corruption and greed.

    RIP – Cyprus

  • Costas Apacket says:

    After all these complicated opaque laws are passed, it’s still not going to be a simple transparent system is it?

    There’s an off the peg solution available, for free, being operated perfectly well in many other European Countries.

    Why not stop trying to re-invent the wheel and replace a perfectly good, already available, wheel with a complicated and crooked one?

    It’s not rocket science, even for the amateurs in the Cypriot Government.

    I think we all know the real answer, don’t we?

    Perhaps we should have a specific Cypriot Car, or a Cypriot Aeroplane because the ones already available in the world that work perfectly well are no good for Cypriot scammers.

    The real problem is that Mr Sylikiotis does not have the power to implement effective, clear, honest, efficient and transparent laws to govern the Cypriot property industry because the power is with those who seek to use the current fraudulent system for their own purposes.

    Until this changes then nothing will happen of any substance.

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