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Little interest in Town Planning Amnesty

Speaking at the House Interior Committee, the Interior Minister said that the public was showing little interest in the Town Planning Amnesty and that the numbers of applications submitted were unsatisfactory.

ALTHOUGH the number of Statements of Intent submitted under the provisions of the Town Planning Amnesty exceeds 11,000, there is still much room for improvement according to the Cyprus Interior Minister, Eleni Mavrou.

Speaking at the House Interior Committee on Thursday, the Minister said that between 125,000 and 130,000 Statements of Intent should have been submitted and that ”Although a large number of statements (11,000+) have been filed, this cannot be considered satisfactory”.

At the meeting, MPs discussed how public awareness of the Amnesty could be raised and Mrs Mavrou said that her ministry will pay greater attention to providing information to foreign buyers who may be unaware of its provisions.

Replying to a question about the imposition of sanctions, the minister said that her ministry placed great importance on the cooperation of the local authorities, which are responsible for planning and building control violations.

Asked whether her Ministry had considered changing the law for new buildings, Mrs Mavrou said that said that the most serious deficiencies were not in the law but rather in its implementation and monitoring.

Editor’s comment

Since the start of the millennium more than 175,000 properties have been sold – 52,000 to foreign buyers and 123,000 to local buyers. It is believed that many of these cannot be issued with Title Deeds due to planning infringements resulting from developers breaching planning laws.

However, rather than pursuing developers who have broken the law, the government is expecting those who have suffered at the hands of these law-breakers to pay to have planning infringements legitimised and then take legal action against developers to recover their costs.

Furthermore, it appears that the government has made no progress on helping those who have been duped into buying property built on mortgaged land and who face the very real threat of losing their homes if the developer fails or the bank forecloses on his loans.

Readers' comments

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  • Costas Apacket says:

    Nigel, it seems to me that, instead of being legally driven by the authorities, the whole property development process is driven by salesmen at Developers getting the most they can out of unsuspecting individuals who have been fed half truths about the whole process.

    For example, someone comes along,(the Developer), and buys a plot of land.

    The architect / civil engineer draws up some loose plans and the salesmen get to work.

    If a buyer wants to buy, say, one and a half plots and a bigger house, the salesman agrees, because he gets his commission, and the plans are altered.

    Detached houses on large plots become semi-detached houses on smaller plots, etc, etc.

    Once the true layout of the plots are finalised, then the planning permission is sought, by which time some of the properties may even be occupied.

    This is the cock-eyed way in which the Developers, Lawyers and Financiers (Banks) work in Cyprus and no laws or rules seem to be observed by any of them except the law of greed and deceit.

    No wonder there are then intractable problems, massive delays and shady schemes to extract even more money out of property purchasers, such as the laughable amnesty swindle, which has been born out of this lawless process.

  • @Janner – the owner of the land is shown on its Title Deed – the developer.

    The land and anything built on that land are inseparable in terms of title.

    Things like mortgages, loans, etc. that are granted using the land as collateral result in a claim (lien) being lodged against the title as security for the loan, etc.

    I suggest you read the relevant sections of the Department of Lands and Surveys Citizens Charter for more detailed information.

  • Janner says:

    The question is, ‘Who owns the land’? When a developer borrows from the bank to buy land, build properties, sell those properties to buyers who have also borrowed from that bank, for the developers to then borrow more money, to build more and then to sell the properties on once, twice, three times, to borrow again and again on the land. It is all so complicated. Who actually owns the land? Who owns the property? Who owns the title? Who pays the bill to the bank? How does the bank even know? Is it illegal? Who cares? What is the anyone going to do about it?

    Sorry to go on, but it just seems to be complete chaos. I understand that the EU government has asked these direct sort of questions (in a little more detail than my rant I’m sure) but when will Cyprus answer? What is the answer as there are so many questions?

    Personally, I think the problem is so huge for Cyprus that they can’t admit the scale of the problem. The EU may have to make the decision for them, but the EU knows that this will bankrupt Cyprus. Does the EU really want to do that but do they have any choice? If the law has been broken the EU must take action without fear or favour!

  • andyp says:

    Sorry to bang on but anyone who is occupying their house without a completion certificate, together with the lawyer and developer who told them it was OK, is breaking the law and in fact have all committed a criminal offence.

    If you take the logic a bit further the Government of Cyprus also allowed us to occupy our homes and as such they too are criminals by not enforcing their own legislation.

    The whole property industry is quite simply an unregulated joke. The Government is now only slightly concerned because their cash cow has all but dried up.

    Had The Cyprus Government enforced their own Streets and Buildings Regulations Act which still exists, and is still ignored, there would not be ONE person requiring to go down the amnesty route as the situation could and should not have arisen in the first place.

    Does The Cyprus Government respect their own laws?

  • @Simon Edwards – you’ve hit the nail on the head – disrespect of the law and its lack of enforcement.

  • @Diver Dave – The problem here is that developers build the maximum permitted under the law to maximise their income (and sometimes more – hence the amnesty).

    This leaves the buyer with no opportunity to extend, etc until such time as the area is rezoned and the density increased.

  • Simon Edwards says:

    Thanks for the reply Nigel, I agree planning permission is necessary to keep everything in order. Brits should know this, however expats are still a minority although this site is geared towards them. The general environment shows no sign of any of this enforcement. When the authorities are seen to be turning a blind eye there seems really very little incentive to follow the rules. I believe this is the root of a lot of the problems here. Disrespect for authority and the law (although often warranted) is a self destructive process.

    When I first moved here a circus moved in next to my home for a month. I had screaming tigers, motorbikes riding walls etc etc for a long time. No car parking was provided or road crossings. No police presence to control the traffic. I literally was met with a camels rear end on my return home every night.

    On visiting the police station to complain I was told that I was extremely lucky to get a free show for such a long time! Another great example I have seen is the new building built next to the lunar park on Limassol sea front. Literally the big wheel is rotating within a metre of someones balcony. How can this be let through planning ? Although i do follow all the rules perhaps too anally at times living inside this system it seems rather futile.

    I used to work in the architecture industry producing the artists impressions you mention. I was constantly at odds with clients about being truthful and honest in the images trying to keep them as realistic as possible. However i don’t really think people are naive enough to believe everything they see it just gives them the basic ideas.

  • Martyn says:

    The Cyprus government just don’t ‘get it’, do they? Tinkering at the edges again!

  • Diver Dave says:

    Nigel, agree that in UK, planning regs exist for the very purpose of protecting neighbours, environment etc. What I have commenting on are those things that don’t require any planning permission in the UK and most civilized countries. Fixed BBQs, garden sheds, summer houses and green houses.

    I have built a small extension without Plan reg’s (size made it not necessary) Building reg’s yes.

    But come on, a shed 2mtr x 1 = 900 euro fine? what is the world coming to?

  • @Simon Edwards – I am aware that many people have been shown artists’ impressions, marketing material, plans, etc and have mislead into believing these showed what was being delivered.

    The vendor (developer or otherwise) is only obliged to deliver that which is stated in the contract of sale – nothing more, nothing less.

    The decent developers attach plans to the contract showing the room dimensions, facilities such as swimming pools, etc. as a formal annex.

    But I do know that the more nefarious developers and the lawyers who are in their pockets do not include the plans in the contract. This has been a particular problem in Paphos where people were sold properties that turned out to be considerably smaller than they had been led to believe. (The bank was complicit as it granted mortgages based on the larger size and therefore a much higher value than the properties were worth. I understand that two senior officials from the bank lost their jobs because of this and other ‘improprieties’).

    I’m sure that many people are aware of the planning rules but chose to ignore them. Would they put up an extension, build a garage, etc on their home in the UK without getting planning permission? I think not.

    @Diver Dave – getting the developer’s approval to build a BBQ, erect a shed, etc. is one thing. Obtaining formal permission to do so from the Planning Authority is something else.

  • Hilda Nixon says:

    When you think about it people who own land are in control regardless of being corrupt or not. One step should be that in the situation where an untitled property has irregularities and where that developer is bankrupt the person who paid outright for this property should either be given title deeds without transfer tax or government should pay to have irregularities repaired. Fair or not?

  • Simon Edwards says:

    Thanks for the update Nigel I’m glad that law was changed it was kind of ridiculous. I’m not sure though that the people were idiots. Perhaps they didn’t understand that once that had bought the house it wasn’t within their capability to make changes. I know of a few buyers who were shown planning drawings by developers which showed pools and other additions, only to find out later that the submitted drawings did not.

    In concept planning restrictions are a great idea and make places a better place to live, they just need to be enforced better especially during the building process.

  • UBoat says:

    If they were expecting 125000+ applications they are obviously well aware of the problem and the cause. However they now realise that the new money making scheme is not as effective as they thought only 11000 takers so far.

    Face the fact, we and all the other buyers out there in the beautiful Sunny and corrupt island of Cyprus are not ever likely to get our title deeds. As the developers are not going to release the land to us. (give up the title) as for most of them this is probably their only asset as the rest has been spent on fast flashy cars and large homes (which the banks probably own anyway). But again for most of them this is also probably mortgaged to the bank as well as sold to unaware individuals (now mostly aware of the situation) whom lets say a percentage of those also have a part or full mortgage on the same land. granted by the same banks who know this. So basically the land most of our houses actually sit on is really not worth anything only a small bargaining chip.

    To coin a phrase “they are in the s..t right up to there eyeballs” and don’t know how to get out of it. Caused by allowing this to go on for years without redress.

    SOLUTION

    The government need to force the developers to issue Title deeds to all completed properties regardless of the state of the rest of the developments. that will give them money from transfer fees. Then the government need to sort out which developers have sold properties which are subject to another mortgage or have taken out mortgages on already sold properties. (title issue again) and go after them for anything they have. At the same time as fining the banks who allowed this state of lunacy to go on in the first place…… job done. slate clean start correctly again.

    But then I woke up !

    Welcome to Cyprus buyers !

  • Diver Dave says:

    Why do they expect a rush. If the foreign buyers are not here most of the time, going to the planing office to get the forms is low on the list of priorities. Restricted opening hours, the forms in only Greek. To be told that the installation of air con is a violation, together with small sheds, fixed bar-b-que. All things the developers say are OK? Expected fines (quoted at the planning office) at over 400 euros per sq metre. Will fly screens be on that list too, forgot to ask?

    No wonder the Cypriot neighbours think it funny that we Brits chase our tails to try and get them. There main house will soon be 3 generations without title deeds. Who needs them they say? Maybe the buried head in the sand is the best approach?

  • Adrian says:

    Mrs Mavrou is correct up to a point, the laws are in place but they do not follow up and prosecute the developers and lawyers who perpetrate these crimes which ruin peoples lives and cause breakups of families. If the lawyers and developers do not face up to their responsibilities, seize their assets and send them to prison.

    That however means going to court and then we’re back to dragging feet and facing up to responsibility.

  • andyp says:

    If they were expecting 125000+ applications they are obviously well aware of the problem and the cause.

    My views have been published on other recent articles so I won’t go there again.

    However when will they learn that that their cash cash raising scheme is totally flawed as there is no guarantee of the end result which buyers seek- TITLE DEEDS.

    If “52,000” buyers were offered their title deeds tomorrow there would be a stampede to pay up. Assuming 10k a pop that is a few euros in a short space of time.

    But no. They will just try and come up with another scam to protect the developers.

    Good luck Eleni can’t wait for the next scam.

    Fix the problem. It would be easier and produce a lot more cash.

  • @Simon Edwards – changes to the law that were introduced last year enable Certificates of Final Completion to be issued to those properties not affected by the idiots who have made illegal changes.

  • Simon Edwards says:

    Wait so because titles were not available at point of sale you’ll get penalised ? If the developer still holds the title it’s his responsibility. I would agree with the turn out in fact i’m surprised 11,000 were duped into it. I suppose it’s your only choice once your cornered. Hopefully this will come into the spotlight during the EU presidency and the impending EU bailout.

    Regarding whether the developer made the infringements or the purchaser without titles it’s still the developers responsibility. I have seen whole groups of buildings being held back because one resident made some changes.

    THIS IS ALL MADNESS…..

    I put it to the minister her solution for this situation is not considered satisfactory.

  • Janner says:

    Just how long can all this go on for (I’m talking about land with developers debt attached). Surely, at some point the banks will have to call in the loans from the developers’ if they are not paying them. Then, when the developers’ tell the bank that they can’t pay anything as they are broke, the bank will have to take the land back along with all the properties sat on that land.

    Unfortunately, people will lose their homes but for those with mortgages the bank will now have the remainder of that mortgage outstanding as the ‘owner’ is not going to continue to pay a mortgage for a property that has been taken back by the bank! If the bank doesn’t take the land back and allows the developer to simply walk away from their debt then there should be no problem being issued with title deeds! It just seems to be dragging on and on.

    When will this ridiculous situation end?

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