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Conveyancing property in Cyprus and due diligence

One of the issues that people face when buying real estate in Cyprus is that there appears to be no defined tasks that a lawyer is required to undertake when conveyancing property, which may lead to severe complications for the buyer at a later date.

CONVEYANCING is the act of transferring the legal title in a property from one person to another. This involves lawyers representing the purchaser and the vendor carrying out the legal work required, which entails checking the title and other matters concerning the property, making enquiries on behalf of the purchaser, drafting contracts, etc.

The conveyancing process culminates in completion (readers from Scotland will know this as settlement), at which time the transfer of legal title (ownership) of the property from the vendor to the buyer takes place together with the transfer of the legal rights and obligations associated with the property.

In Cyprus, completion occurs when the purchaser pays the Property Transfer Fees to the Land Registry. Shortly after, the Land Registry will issue them with a printed Title Deed bearing their name as the legal, registered owner of the property they have purchased.

Due diligence

In many countries, lawyers acting on behalf of those buying property carry out due diligence as part of the conveyancing process automatically – i.e. without being specifically instructed to do so. They will carry out title searches, local authority searches – and make enquiries concerning planning permissions, planning proposals, road schemes, etc. and all the other tasks required to protect the interests of their client.

In Cyprus, however, there appears to be no defined tasks that a lawyer is required to undertake when conveyancing a property; consequently, due diligence can be somewhat of a hit and miss affair. Some lawyers fail to carry out even the most basic of checks, which may result in severe complications and difficulties for those whose interests they are being paid to protect.

It is therefore essential that those buying property ensure that their lawyer carries out the required tasks to safeguard their interests. They should also ensure that their lawyer confirms all the information and advice they provide in writing so that there can be no dispute about what has been said and what has been agreed at a later date – and they should keep a file of correspondence together with detailed records of emails and telephone conversations.

How can a lawyer help?

When buying property in Cyprus, a lawyer should, as a minimum:

For all types of property

  • Confirm that the person selling the property is its legal, registered owner.
  • Confirm that the property is free from any claims/encumbrances (such as a mortgage) and prohibitions. If the lawyer finds any encumbrances or prohibitions, they should advise their client of the risks they present and possible steps that may be taken to protect their interests.
  • Confirm that the vendor is in a position to deliver title of the property.
  • Ensure there is free and legal access to the property from a public highway.
  • Deal with their obligations to pay property taxes in a fair manner.
  • Draft and finalise the legal contracts.
  • Arrange for the payment of Stamp Duty and the stamping of the contact at the tax office.
  • Deposit the signed contract at the Land Registry for Specific Performance. (Note that under the new Specific Performance Law, the vendor may also deposit the contract).
  • Ensure that the vendor pays any taxes due by him, thereby ensuring that a tax clearance certificate will be issued.
  • Check that the property is not affected by town planning proposal. Obtaining a formal written statement from a planning authority in Cyprus is not possible. The best that can be expected is an informal, non-binding, off-the-record comment from one of the officers. A lawyer should also advise clients about the zoning of the area, the building coverage and density, but not if a neighbour has applied for permission to set up a goat farm! And as the zoning may change at a later date, a lawyer will be unable to offer any guarantees on this aspect of a purchase.
  • Facilitate the transfer of ownership of the property from the vendor to their client and the payment of Property Transfer Fees.

For ‘off-plan’ property (property that is bought before it’s been built or during construction)

  • Establish the credentials and credit worthiness of the developer.
  • Confirm that the necessary Town Planning Permission and Building Permits have been issued for the construction of the property.

For resale property

  • Ensure that the property is shown on the Title Deed.
  • Obtain a structural survey and professional opinion on the asking price from a RICS surveyor.

For land

  • Establish the precise location of the land.
  • Establish that the land may be used for the client’s intended purpose. As planning applications can only be submitted by the legal registered owner of the land, all that can be expected is an informal, non-binding, off-the-record comment from one of the planning officers.
  • Obtain a survey of the land to assess its suitability for the client’s intended purpose.

For properties sharing common facilities such as entrance halls, stairways, exterior walls, swimming pool, tennis courts, gardens, etc.

  • Determine whether the required committee for the management of the common areas has been established.
  • Draft and finalise the legal contracts associated with the payment of management fees and insurance of the common facilities. (This only applies to resale property as there cannot be a management committee for properties that do not exist. For off-plan purchases, provision should be made for the establishment of such a committee with responsibility for common areas resting with the developer until such time as the committee is formed).

Readers' comments

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  • James JH Lockhart says:

    You are correct Andy. Only when the AG & CBA leadership decide to root out there bad apples will there be a just and fair property market.

    As to the silent majority of good lawyers, well their silence now for so many years I think shows they think the AG & CBA leadership will not change.

    The only way I see for the regime to change is through actions taken by a EU court – its getting a case to a EU Court the hard part.

  • Alan Waring says:

    My understanding of PI insurance is that it always operates on a ‘claims made’ basis i.e. the professional person has to have cover at the time the claim is made (which may be some years after the alleged negligence). In addition, if that person has not got retroactive cover for preceding years (the option is usually on the application form) then a claim will be denied.

    When a plaintiff lodges a claim against the professional person, the latter’s PI insurer takes over his legal identity wrt the claim. However, if the person does not have PI cover or the insurer repudiates the claim, that should not prevent the plaintiff from pursuing the defendant directly. It just means that the defendant will be responsible for all his costs and any settlement.

    There is also the issue of the level of risk insured. Usually, it will (should) be at least 1m GBP and typically for lawyers, accountants, doctors etc it will be at least 5m GBP. Bear in mind that a single claim may result in a settlement and costs of 1m GPB or more. If an insured party wishes to have cover for ‘any one claim’ as opposed to ‘in the aggregate’ then the premiums will be much higher. Typically, annual premiums are 2,000 GBP-5,000 GBP.

  • andyp says:

    Thanks Nigel.

    Confirms my thoughts and others that we really need the Cyprus Bar Association and in particular The Attorney General to get rid of the bad apples otherwise no one will have any confidence to buy property in Cyprus.

  • @andyp – I believe it was in 2009 that the requirement for professional indemnity insurance came into effect (but I am aware that some lawyers had insurance before it became mandatory).

    And you couldn’t make an insurance claim unless the individual was insured at the time the incident took place.

  • andyp says:

    Nigel is it not the case that the Lawyers only had to get insurance during 2009 and therefore claims could not be pursued through insurance companies for any negligence taking place before then.

  • Alan Waring says:

    James has brought the discussion back to a point I raised on the thread to the other piece on Lawyers, namely that unlike, say, the UK Bar Association and the Law Society, the CBA is not a true professional body. A true professional body exists to protect clients and the public against the activities, acts and omissions of charlatans, quacks and members who are negligent, fraudulent or corrupt.

    The CBA and Disciplinary Board together act more like a trade protection guild to protect (as they would see it) the interests of CBA members and not clients or the public. In essence, there is no real up-front protection in Cyprus for clients who allege wrongdoing by a lawyer. Instead, all they can do is bring a civil action against the lawyer and, as has been demonstrated so clearly over so many years, even that route to remedy is long, costly and uncertain – assuming too that the plaintiff can find a Cyprus lawyer willing to take his case against a fellow lawyer.

  • James JH Lockhart says:

    @ Nigel

    Even if lawyers have Indemnity and you are lucky enough to find a lawyer to fight your corner, it still does not answer why the AG & Cyprus Bar Association (including their disciplinary board) are doing little to nothing to protect the clients/victims ?

  • Andrew says:

    If we consider some extracts from the Cyprus Bar associations own code of conduct (shown below) it seems only reasonable and fair to expect ANY LAWYER who is registered with them to exercise due diligence. So it is absurd to think that an individual who has used a registered lawyer could somehow have chosen the “wrong one”, regardless of whether the lawyer in question has any connection with a developer or not.

    10. In the exercise of any duties assigned to them, advocates must always act in absolute independence, free of all forms of dependence or pressure, and in particular as may arise from their own interests or external influence. Independence in the exercise of the legal profession is a necessary prerequisite for ensuring a relation of trust with their client and before justice. Advocates must act according to the code of conduct and professional ethics and should not give advice with the aim of pleasing their client or as a result of external pressure.

    11. Advocates are obliged to act having always in mind that relations of trust can only exist if an advocate’s personal honour, honesty, directness or sincerity are beyond doubt. Advocates must always act based on the said traditional virtues, which constitute professional obligations and duties for them.

    If there arises a conflict of interest, advocates must abstain from handling the cases of all concerned clients, since there is the risk of violation of secrecy or of prejudice to their independence.

    8. All advocates are obliged to strictly abide by the code of conduct, which is destined to guarantee and ensure the proper exercise of the function, recognised as necessary and essential for the smooth functioning of all civilised societies.

  • Denis O'Hare says:

    Hi Nigel,

    Re Mike’s question about Turkish Cypriot owned land, I don’t think the issue is whether the land is currently registered as such but more a question of whether it has been illegally transferred in the past, as has happened so much in the occupied areas.

    It is a fact that we have seen developers building in villages in the Republic that were always Turkish Cypriot villages – this could all be above board I suppose. Additionally, we at CPAG also see Land Registry officials involved in all kinds of skulduggery as I guess you do.

    Remember also that every single title deed has been modified since 1974 – with a 1980 valuation at least, so how can anyone be sure that everything has been 100% honest at the Land Registry?

    As a simple Land Registry example, a couple bought a piece of land in the wilds for 100k euros – they were buying the safe way, having a property built on it once the land title deeds had been transferred.

    The sales contract, clearly stating no encumbrances on this plot, was duly lodged by Land Registry officials without any problem. Only later did they find out that there was a prior developer mortgage for 200k euros on the plot – which was only worth 100k – and even less for mortgage purposes.

    How could this happen? – wouldn’t this need a bent lawyer, bent valuer, bent banker and especially a bent Land Registry official? Of course the developer has now gone bust and even more claims have been placed on this single title deed. Protected under Specific Performance law – I don’t think so!

    Let’s hope that this disputed land ownership is a minor problem in the Republic unlike the occupied areas. Nevertheless, in the event of a settlement to the Cyprob, where both sides have vastly differing views as to the respective ownership of land, how confident, especially a foreigner without title deeds, can everyone be that their home ownership is 100% guaranteed pending these negotiations?

    PS : just a small correction Nigel, the current Government did not have the ‘courage’ to do anything about the current mess – they were pushed into it after CPAG supporters lobbyied the EU, an activity in which of course you played your full part.

  • @James – Everyone makes mistakes – and lawyers are no exception.

    I understand that all lawyers in Cyprus are now required to have professional indemnity insurance cover – so it would be possible to make a claim against them.

    As for the other matters, it is really up to the authorities and government to improve matters – or suffer the consequences of their inaction.

    But what I find really frustrating is that there are excellent, trustworthy and professional lawyers and developers in Cyprus whose reputation and livelihoods are being damaged by the rogues and conmen. I would like to think that the good guys could get together and put pressure on the authorities to clear up the mess.

  • James JH Lockhart says:

    What happens if a Lawyer does not do due diligence to protect there clients ?

    The Cyprus Bar Association & Attorney general, have never struck a lawyer off the maximum fine is a 1000 euros they can impose on rogue lawyers.

    finding a lawyer to take another lawyer on in Cyprus is difficult, Civil court cases with adjournments/delays takes years.

    So will the Cypriot authorities change and produce a safe & fair property market for Buyers and Sellers, or will it continue to act as it does now looking after the vested Interests ?

  • @Mike – Yes, there is always an opportunity to defraud people and sell them Turkish Cypriot owned land, but I would like to believe that this is very rare.

    Title Deeds and cadastral plans for land are usually readily available and it is quite easy to check what you are being sold.

    And I think that fraudulent sales of TC owned land to non-Cypriots would be even rarer as most foreigners buying property will buy something that has already been built or off-plan from a developer. I only know of a handful of people, like myself, who bought a plot of land and then built on it.

  • @Kufrahdog – I do not know if the Cyprus Bar Association has any opinion on the matter or provides any guidance – apart from its ‘Code of Conduct’.

    But I do know that lawyers did receive some advice from the bar following the case in which Nicos Papakleovoulou was found guilty of negligence by the Supreme Court and ordered to pay €120,000.

    Finding a lawyer in Cyprus willing to take action against another lawyer is ‘difficult’ – but if you search for Papakleovoulou you will find the one of one who has.

    As for the lawyers on the British High Commission’s I cannot comment on their selection process – this is a question you will have to direct at them. Do they do everything on the checklist? I would like to think so.

  • @Eleni – I agree with you that the control of building should remain under the control of central and local government. But I am sure that there are many areas, including some of the myriad inspections that could be privatised. But I am sure that the unions would put up a fight.

    The new legislation does improve protection for those buying property to a degree, but there is still much to be done – and as you say the system ‘sucks’. It was designed back in the days when Cyprus was a quiet backwater and can no longer cope with the demands placed on it and is no longer fit for purpose.

    Back in 2005, the government promised an arsenal of weapons against unscrupulous property developers, but nothing happened – and there have a number of similar vacuous announcements in the past.

    And for all its failings, at least the present government has had the courage to do something to improve matters – and I would like to think that the new legislation is the first step and that ‘the system’ will continue to develop and improve.

    As for lawyers being “the last link in the chain” – I have to disagree. Lawyers are the first link in the chain when it comes to protecting the interests of those buying property, but sadly as experience shows, they often fail.

  • andyp says:

    @Kufrahdog

    There is also a code of conduct which can be found on the CBA website. Whether it is applied is another matter.

    My complaint has been with the CBA for over two years and I finally have a hearing scheduled with the Attorney General next month. Unusually I also have an Advocate, who is on this list, and will be representing me at the hearing.

  • Mike says:

    Nigel

    Thank you for an informed, concise and informative article.

    May I refer to Robert Briggs-Sept 11th 0646 and your subsequent response to him.

    I agree it would be difficult to sell someone Turkish owned property, however not impossible, but Turkish property (Land) close to or adjacent to an existing GC property could be passed off as being part of the lot being sold whereas it would not be identified as such on the deed (when and if finally received).

    Many GC properties utilise the TC property adjacent to them and some even build sheds, kennels, car ports etc. on them thereby giving the impression to anyone not in the know that it is part and parcel of the main plot thereby justifying an elevated price.

    Identifying a property boundary as you suggest is a must, sadly the scope for deceit is such that a normal purchaser would struggle if using the majority of Cypriot lawyers as we are all well aware. The system, it seems, is designed to facilitate fraud with no one being accountable.

  • Kufrahdog says:

    Nigel, Would you please confirm that the ‘minimum’ standards you have listed are supported by the Cyprus Bar Association. If one’s solicitor has not conformed to those standards would you please say how one can report a solicitor to the CBA. Do you know of any solicitors who are prepared to litigate on behalf of a plaintiff against another solicitor – are the CBA able to supply a list? Are you implying that the British High Commission list of recommended lawyers conform to the standards in your list? (The criteria for selecting lawyers on that list is not in the public domain as far as I am aware). These questions are key, so any comments you feel you could make would be welcome. My thanks in advance.

  • Eleni Papadopoulou says:

    @Nigel, the role of these laws (Roads & Building Act – Planning & Development Act) is to safeguard the safeness and appearance of the city; this area could not be privatized (you could imagine how the privatization would work in this place with the idiosyncrasy of Cypriots). Of course the developers who are unwilling to wait are wrong, even though they do not have an alternative solution. In simple words the issuance of the permissions / certificates according to these laws should become easier, as well as the issuance of the title of deeds. The system sucks from all the sides and our “fantastic” government does nothing to change it. The buyers must be informed on this problems and take his/her decision to invest in knowledge of all the risks. However nobody informs his/her. The lawyers are the last link in this chain and they pay for the negligence of all the others (promoters, developers etc), who usually take the money and make the profit. Is it ethical?

  • @Alan – the inspection carried out by the Planning Authority is to confirm that the building complies with the Planning & Building Permits issued for its construction. And in the present scheme of things a property may have to be inspected more than once by the Planning Authority if it fails the first inspection and has to be corrected and re-inspected.

    The Land Registry surveys the property to ensure that it is correctly situated on the plot and its dimensions are correct – and it also may survey the plot itself to ensure the boundaries are correctly located.

    I had a second visit from the Land Registry from a chap who was concerned about the covered patio areas. He spent about an hour referring to the architect’s plans asking questions and making notes. He said that he had two other properties to inspect that day and then had to go back to the office and write a report on each of them.

    And I also had a visit from the Mukhtar who needed to check – or so I was told by his office – that I had a pavement.

    I can imagine that my Mukhtar has much more important matters to deal with than running around my village checking pavements – it’s hardly a good use of his time.

    To my simple way of thinking, why can’t all these inspections be carried out at the same time by the same group of people?

    Privatise the whole thing and run it as a business. Have the Planning Department and Land Registry carry out spot checks to ensure there are no problems and that there is no ‘funny business’ going on.

  • Alan Waring says:

    @Nigel-2. I think you may be incorrect about the Planning Dept doing the only independent inspection. Our property has been inspected once by the Planning Dept (two years after which the CoFA was issued, twice by District Office (owing to developer delays invalidating their first inspection by being ‘out of time’), and once by the Land Registry for the so-called ‘Final Approval'(that was 4 months ago and we’re still waiting). All in all, 7+ years.

    As far as I could see,all these inspections were identical – they even put their theodolites in the same position each time!

    On the general problem, I even had a very experienced international developer today ranting and raving at his own problems with District Office. If developers can’t get a straight answer and efficiency from these people, what hope is there for mere mortals such as buyers?

  • Alan Waring says:

    @Nigel. I still regard a Title Deed as a glorified receipt of purchase. Why do so many (all?) other countries manage to issue Title Deeds immediately on completion of the sale itself and not allow any technical/planning entanglements to get in the way? Surely no one is going to try to advance an argument that only Cyprus has got it right and all other countries have got it wrong?!

  • andyp says:

    The bottom line is that the system is too complicated and not regulated as there are really no safeguards for the buyer.

    The property industry has failed to regulate itself and simply ignores planning regulations leaving buyers exposed.

    The Cyprus Bar takes little or no action against the unscrupulous in their midst again leaving buyers exposed.

    Buying new build of off plan properties should come with both health and wealth warnings.

  • @Alan – There are health and safety issues involved in this.

    For example, what if the balcony railings have been fitted incorrectly – or not fitted at all – and a child were to fall to its death? Or perhaps someone fell down the stairs in the dark because lights had not been fitted?

    As far as I am aware, the building inspections carried out by the Planning Authority are the only independent inspection that a property gets to ensure it conforms with the various permits issued for its construction.

    But on the other hand you could argue that the law does not prevent you from owning an older motor vehicle that does not have an MoT certificate. And if you decide to drive it and kill yourself in the process, that’s your problem. However, if you were to kill someone else while driving such a vehicle, you would have serious charges to answer.

    On balance, I agree with you. Technical issues should not impinge on your right to ownership or delay issue of Title Deeds. But were the law to be changed to reflect this, there would need to be some redress for those living in such properties if the Planning Authority were unable to issue it with a CoFA or if someone were to be injured as a result of a planning infringement.

    @Eleni – Just because the developers are unwilling to wait, that does not justify them breaking the law.

    Using that argument someone could justify killing their father because they were not prepared to wait for their inheritance.

  • Alan Waring says:

    @Eleni. Yes, strictly speaking you are correct that CoFA etc has nothing to do with Title Deeds. But the reality is that the Cyprus government has created this false connection e.g. without a CoFA, Title Deeds cannot be applied for let alone issued.

    As Prof Vassiliades has noted, a Title Deed as a public legal record of purchase and ownership should be issued on the day of sales completion to the buyer. Planning and other technical issues have no bearing on ownership and should be dealt with wholly separately and not as a condition of Title Deed issuance.

    Regrettably, the government failed to grasp the opportunity to simplify the monster it had created and do what other countries do. Many have speculated that the reason it did not reflected vested and corrupt interests.

  • Eleni Papadopoulou says:

    The Certificate of Approval is something different; when you construct a building you need a “building permission” before (!) starting any work. When you complete the construction of the building a “certificate of final approval” must be issued before this building is given for use. Nobody of the developers wait until the issue of these certificates/permissions which also take much time (years) to be issued.

    As concerns the certificate of final approval, unfortunately the person who is considered to be responsible in terms of law (according to Roads and Buildings Act – article 10 – it is a criminal offence) is the person who has the possession and uses the property.

    As concerns the building permission both the person who constructed the building (without obtaining this permission / or any other person who participated to the construction of the building in knowledge that there is no building permission) and the person who uses the building in knowledge that there is not any building permission, might be found responsible for another criminal offence (article 3 of the above-mentioned Act).

    Usually the court issues, inter alia, an order for demolition of any building which is constructed in contrast to this law.

    There are many Cypriots that have problems with these issues, but they do not have to do with the title of deeds and the transfer of ownership.

    However the existence of these permissions/certificates constitutes the legal status of a property and any lawyer who deals with a conveyance for the account of the buyer should make all the reasonable steps to get informed about these issues.

  • @jon frazer – Thank you for your comments.

    The whole point of having your Contract of Sale deposited at the Land Registry for Specific Performance is that you will be entitled to receive title to the property – and the transaction is not completed until the transfer of title takes place.

    In numerous contracts I have seen over the years, the work ‘Completion’ is used to indicate the date on which someone buying a property takes delivery of that property.

    However, this ‘completion’ must not be confused with the legal completion; i.e. the transfer of title.

  • jon frazer says:

    Nigel. Thank you for yet another interesting and informative article.

    I note the third paragraph of your article, just above the “Due diligence” heading.

    (In Cyprus)..” Completion occurs when the purchaser pays the Property Transfer Fees to the Land Registry.”..

    The word “Completion” is music to my ears. Not that I am in any doubt over the soundness of the appeal to the “Unfair Commercial Practices” Directive, on the grounds of an infringement taking place “during a transaction”, but this appears to reinforce just that fact – that the transaction is NOT completed until title deeds are issued.

  • @Robert Briggs – A good place to start when looking for a decent lawyer is Lawyers, law firms and legal advice.

  • @Denis – Thanks for your comment and I agree that this is a major issue that has yet to be resolved – and I am aware that several people living in Paphos have been taken to court for occupying a building for which no Certificate of Final Approval has been issued.

    I believe that the only way this can be resolved is by a radical re-engineering of the planning procedures. This could include the outsourcing of inspection to suitably qualified architects and engineers – and the government has already made some moves in this direction with the ‘Town Planning Amnesty’. But whether the political will is there to take things further remains to be seen. (And there is also the powerful Civil Service unions to contend with).

    Until such time, the option of lowest risk is to buy a property that has already been issued with its Title Deed.

    Incidentally, my house has been inspected four times: once by the Planning Authority, one by my village mukhtar, and twice by the Land Registry. And I have heard from someone living in Paphos that their property has been inspected seven times by the authorities.

    This is bureaucracy gone made and there is clearly considerable room for streamlining and accelerating the whole process of inspection and certification!!

  • Denis O'Hare CPAG says:

    Hi Nigel,

    I think we should mention that one of the main legal consumer protection safeguards for buyers of new property, the Certificate of Approval related law, has been, and still is, completely ignored by the authorities, building industry and buyers’ own lawyers regarding enforcement (hence the need for the previous, latest – and future Amnesties). Below is the requirement as enshrined in the new laws and replaces article 10 of the previous law:

    ‘Irrespective whether there are building and planning permits and consents, no person shall occupy (take possession) or use or provide or allow for any other person to receive, occupy or use any building or part of a building unless a Certificate of Approval has been issued by the relevant authority.’

    Wouldn’t you agree that no developer will be able comply with this law as has been the case previously, no matter how honest and lawful he might say he was? And how many lawyers (independent or otherwise) will point this out? This means that buyers of new property will still be at risk of not getting what they paid for (and perhaps worse) due to the non-enforcement of the law and of course without this certificate title deeds cannot even be applied for.

    We should specifically note that the new law has a permanent provision (i.e. not just part of the temporary Amnesty) for the issuing ‘tainted’ title deeds, after a Certificate of Approval with irregularities marked thereon is issued by the authorities, should the developer e.g. stray from the permits he has been issued.

    Readers might also be interested to note what the new law says about its enforcement :

    ‘The holder of the building and planning permits under this law must notify the authorities within 21 days from completion of the project that such works have indeed been completed. Completion of works means the removal, for any reason, of all machinery and workers from site and the stoppage of any works for a continuous period of two months.’

    How practical is this? and how on earth could the authorities monitor the last part – i.e. before they have been notified? And how many developers would complete a whole site, wait 2 months, notify the authorities and then wait for a Completion Certificate to be issued before they let buyers move in?

    Our view is that only by purchasing a resale property with full title deeds can new buyers be reasonably protected. Buying new property direct from grossly indebted developers in this lawless country is now just too risky. These new laws allowing dodgy deeds to be issued after buyers have paid in full for a kosher property just made it even more risky.

  • Robert Briggs says:

    @ Mr Nigel Howarth, where in Cyprus can you find a decent reliable solicitor? R.B.

  • Odd_Job_Bob says:

    Am LOVING all the comments by all the writers below (and to the previous article as well).

    Old investment question (I actually believe it was taken from the fiendishly difficult Civil Service exam papers for the Foreign Office): Would you rather accept the handshake of an honest man or a 200-page legal document from a dishonest one?

    The correct(?) answer (and I like this so much its untrue) is as follows: There is no such thing as an honest man. No-one is “good” or “bad”, they just do “good” or “bad” things, according to their circumstances, what pressures they are under, what the system in which they operate is prepared to tolerate and what sanction there is if they get caught.

    If you believe that someone is genuinely dishonest, DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH THEM. There is the further question of how do you know…

    If, however, you believe someone is genuinely honest, then you STILL need the 200-page document as you have no idea what pressures he’s under etc., NOR WHAT THE SYSTEM WOULD TOLERATE NOR HOW IT WOULD SANCTION HIM if caught being naughty.

    In brief, as you have no choice other than to go through the legal fraternity (the word exists for a purpose, more so here than anywhere I’ve ever been) when buying property here and as everyone seems to be concluding, DO NOT DO PROPERTY BUSINESS IN CYPRUS. You may omit the word “PROPERTY” from the above (for the cynical) or append the words “without title deeds” (which is what alot of the contributors to the forum would do, to be fair to them), but even with title deeds, once the hundreds/thousands(/ tens of thousands?) of repossessed properties are released back onto the market, what price even titled property?

    The best way to paddle through treacle is simply don’t.

  • @Robert – It is extremely unlikely that anyone will be sold land in the south that is owned by a Turkish Cypriot – and anyone fraudulently selling such land would be in very serious trouble with the authorities.

    As for the boundaries, this is something that needs to be checked – but this is just not possible for those buying off-plan as the boundaries will not have been set.

    And your comment highlights the absolute necessity for anyone wishing to buy property to take independent legal advice from a reliable lawyer. And by independent I mean a lawyer who has no connection with anyone else involved in the transaction.

  • @Alan – Thanks for your comment. I totally agree that a buyer should not have to do any of this – and the analogy you draw to a doctor is very good. After all, you don’t keep a dog and bark yourself!

    However, given the number of emails I receive about lawyers who, quite frankly, have done an awful job, I feel this advice will help to educate future buyers and help them to avoid potential problems.

  • Robert Briggs says:

    Do these Solicitors check that the land in question is not old Turkish owned land under dispute & that there is a clear correct and genuine Title Deed including established, accurate boundaries to this land? Please inform ASAP. R.B.

  • Alan Waring says:

    Thanks Nigel. However, is it right that a buyer should have to do all this? After all, it is the lawyer’s own professional responsibility to show all due diligence, including doing his own internal checks.

    No one would normally expect to closely monitor and supervise their doctor, for example.

    By rightly highlighting to unique way that Cyprus lawyers cannot be trusted en masse, it will unfortunately continue to discourage new buyers.

  • The views expressed in readers' comments are not necessarily shared by the Cyprus Property News.

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