Latest Headlines

Open letter to Socratis Hasikos

I have written an open letter to Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos following his announcement that the government intends to bring in legislation to address the problem of home buyers trapped without Title Deeds.

Open letter to Socratis Hasikos
I APPLAUD your decision to introduce legislation to address the problem of thousands of trapped home buyers who are unable to get the deeds to the property they purchased due to their developer’s outstanding mortgage debt(s).

But to be effective the legislation must include the release of a deed that is encumbered by other debts and memos, including taxes owed to the state and local authorities.

The legislation must also ensure that trapped home buyers are not, under any circumstances, required to contribute towards paying a vendor’s debt(s) and tax liabilities – and that the fees payable to effect the transfer of the property are no more than the fees payable had the property been unencumbered.

Furthermore, once the property is registered in the name of its purchaser that purchaser must be free to mortgage the property, sell it, gift it, leave it to their heir(s) or dispose of it in any way they wish within the law – and subsequent owners must also be free to dispose of the property without incurring any costs over and above those that would normally be payable.

Any proposed legislation that fails to embrace the conditions above would be disingenuous and unacceptable.

The present system unfairly penalises home buyers who are unable to obtain title to the property they purchased through no fault of their own. This must change.

As you openly admitted in July last year, the state – government and parliament – has failed miserably over the Title Deeds issue. Not only has this miserable failure contributed to the decline property sales, it has also resulted in tarnishing Cyprus’ reputation in the international community and reducing the inflow of revenue to state coffers.

Title Deed issuance

The most effective solution to the many problems associated with Title Deeds is to ensure that unencumbered title is available for transfer on delivery of a property to its purchaser(s). This solution would both:

(a) help to restore the island’s tarnished reputation and

(b) help the recovery of the island’s beleaguered property industry.

Other countries deliver unencumbered deeds on the delivery of a property, why not Cyprus?

There are numerous ‘idiosyncrasies’ in the present system. Perhaps the most obvious is that property ownership is dependent on whether a built property conforms to the permissions and permits issued for its construction; but only in some cases:

If a purchaser buys a property off-plan, a deed for that property will not be issued until that property has been completed and inspected by the Planning Authority and issued with a ‘Certificate of Final Approval’.

However a purchaser can buy a plot of land, pay the Property Transfer Fees and secure its title. That purchaser can then build a house on that land (having first secured the required permissions and permits) safe in the knowledge that they own the land and the house, regardless of whether the house has been issued with a ‘Certificate of Final Approval’.

Why is a purchaser who buys a property off-plan treated differently to another purchaser who builds a house on land they own? That’s discrimination.

Article 10 of the Streets and Buildings Regulations Law, Cap. 96, provides that no person shall occupy, use or permit any other person to occupy or use any building, unless and until a ‘Certificate of Approval’ has been issued in respect thereof by the appropriate authority. This law is almost universally ignored and, as far as I am aware, it is rarely (if ever) enforced.

What is the point of having a law that is never enforced? It might just as well be scrapped and replaced with something more appropriate.

A second idiosyncrasy is the fact that many home buyers are unable to obtain the deed to the property they purchased because their developer has failed to build roads, pavements and other infrastructure. Why should this be the case?

Providing the property developer has fulfilled his contractual obligations to the purchaser, there can be no reason for not issuing its deed. An inspection of the property prior to its delivery may be desirable to advise the purchaser of possible health & safety and other issues enabling the purchaser to make an informed decision whether to accept delivery of the property. Responsibility and costs associated with completing roads, pavements and other parts of the development would remain with the developer.

Site inspections are another issue. Does it really need the Planning Authority, the Land Registry and the local authority to each carry out separate property inspections? Why not establish a single independent inspection authority (perhaps a government agency) to take responsibility for all site and property inspections. The Planning Authorities, Land Registry and local authority could carry out ‘sample inspections’ (say 1 in 20) to ensure that authority inspections are being correctly executed.

Anyone who has dealt with the authorities in Cyprus will appreciate the paperwork and mind-numbing bureaucratic processes involved. As many as 10 different permits from various local & central Government authorities may be required before a property can be legally built, owned and occupied. This number needs to be rationalised.

Cyprus agreed a target with the troika to ensure that the title deed issuance backlog dropped to less than 2,000 cases of immovable property units with title deed issuance pending for more than one year by Q4-2014, but there has been no public release on the reduction actually achieved. I know from the correspondence I understand that good progress was made, but can you advise how many cases remained outstanding at the end of 2014?

Over many years successive governments have made minor adjustments to the various processes involved in planning and the issuance of Title Deeds. These have all failed to reduce the time it takes to issue Title Deeds. Indeed it would appear that some of these adjustments have further complicated the system resulting in even longer delays. The ‘Town Planning Amnesty’ is a case in point.

Speaking in 2011 former Interior Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis said: “The approval by parliament of four of the five bills will solve the Gordian knot for the thousands of title deeds that have been pending for years now.” But once again, no official statistics on the number of deeds issued as a result of the amnesty have been released. Can you please advise?

What is needed now is a total review of the planning and Title Deed issuance processes and procedures by those with no interest in maintaining the status quo.

This review would be followed by redesigning and then re-engineering the processes involved to meet best business practices with the over-riding objective of ensuring that unencumbered title is available for transfer on delivery of a property to its purchaser.

In spite of the progress made to date there are still many thousands of properties waiting to be issued with their Title Deed as a result of unacceptably long delays in planning departments and Land Registry offices. In Paphos, for example, there are a number of cases where home buyers have been waiting for deeds since 1979.

Sincerely,

Nigel Howarth
Erimi, Limassol, Cyprus

Readers' comments

Comments on this article are no longer being accepted.

  • Mandy says:

    Nigel

    I have high hopes in those that care and are doing especially your letter..fantastically composed 😊

    I say to all, “We must not give up and do whatever it takes especially as In reality Cyprus is such a beautiful place, it’s the actions of certain people in powerful places that are tarnishing it’s reputation.”

    Come on everyone let’s stick together to achieve what’s right for all buyers that have invested and the good people of Cyprus.

  • Chris says:

    Yes agree a good concise letter drafted from Nigel but in reality probably in the bin with little or no chance of a response. There is plenty of talk on how the title deeds fiasco will be resolved but still not been resolved.

    Property prices are still falling and in my opinion will continue to do so as not much interest from overseas investors when you can buy properties in France, Spain, Portugal that the build quality and property specification is higher standard 50% of the cost.

    Once the NPL properties become available in the market this will flood the market that will have a negative impact of property prices as continue the downward trend. However the so called Government of Cyprus will still be blowing hot air.

  • Alexey Golovanov says:

    Thanks a lot for your honesty and integrity – as always.

  • shirley spratley says:

    Congratulations on such a sensible letter I hope action is taken swiftly to allow the release of title deeds. I have been waiting 10 years for mine, broken promises and latent lies from my developers caused me stress and anger.

    I pray someone takes the bull by the horns and gets the mess of deeds sorted, if only a responsible department was in charge, with employees who were accountable and would loose their job if not carried out correctly we may get out of this trap. Thank you, Shirley Spratley

  • Alan Davies says:

    Well done Nigel, a superb letter which we hope rattles all the cages.

    We are fortunate to have attained our deeds but this was only after the developer had paid off one mortgage on the property and then taken out an even larger one. The Banks who lend this money are just as responsible in my opinion.

  • Aggis Demetriou says:

    In June 2013 I had a meeting with Mr Hasikos regarding the titles fiasco, I handed to him a similar letter, the man has done nothing to date.

    Only last week he called me and we ended up in a big argument, I applied to Limassol lands office on 27th January 2015 for titles on 2 properties and still no titles, all my licenses approvals are in order.

    Nearly 5 months and no titles. Your open letter to Mr Hasikos is toilet paper, do you really think it will change anything? It’s time for street demos, these guys really don’t care.

    Welcome to Cyprus!

  • Jane Wilkie says:

    A big thank you Nigel.
    Your help and guidance in this situation is gratefully received.
    We must keep positive ……. Glass half full …… and hopefully we’ll all get the outcome we deserve.

    Once again …. Many thanks.

  • Jan says:

    Good letter Nigel, and very timely as our community of 23 houses is about to get more aggressive (not physically of course) in our dealings with our developer. We are a mixed UK, Cypriot, German and Russian community and we have been given the run around by our developer and his architect for the last 8 years. I shall be circulating this letter to our community. Many thanks.

  • Adam Lomas says:

    I have lived in Cyprus now for 7 years, not half as long as many of the people expressing concern, but I have been working with the government in Nicosia for some time. i share the scepticism of many of your readers, but would comment as follows:

    1) If we don’t believe that we deserve and will get “justice” on the title deeds issue, then we probably won’t !

    2) Only by sticking together and supporting folks like Nigel – who has done a phenomenal job keeping this on the front pages, do we stand a chance.

    3) the natural tendency on this (and many other issues) of the government has been bureaucracy and stalling… but

    4) I do sense a new urgency in Nicosia to repair the image of Cyprus.

    5) There are several other cases of “justice” e.g the mayor of Pafos, which we would bot have seen under the last government.

    6) Lets all hope the glass is half full this time!

    and I will be the first to raise a glass to Nigel Howarth and his organisation.

  • Chris says:

    Nigel
    Further to your very good letter detailed letter to highlight the continue lack of transparency with the title deeds fiasco do you honestly believe that you will get a response or at least some clarification if in breach of EU law to withhold title deeds to the rightful owner. Do not see this issue being resolved any time soon as it will expose several lawyers, Banks, Developers of gross misconduct.

  • My letter has also been published in the Cyprus Mail Comments section.

  • demetri says:

    Hasikos was on sigma TV today, again he mentioned the deadlock regarding developers, basically saying why should a buyer who has paid for his property in full not get deeds, the bank should have been more careful when lending money and making sure the money lent was used for the reason actually specified by the borrowing developer… i.e. building and completing a project…..

    He also went onto mention why should the buyer suffer and be penalised? if for example the developer hadn’t paid his employees social security contributions?……or why should a buyer be stuck if the actual state has some sort of memo on the land the properties were subsequently built on…….

    Personally, I don’t know if a bill will be passed to safeguard all those who have been conned by developers ….but hope dies last.

  • 明白 says:

    Thanks a lot Nigel!

    if they can accept your idea, then you save cyprus.

    now many chinese bought property in cyprus, but they begin to have this problem about title deed, as i know around hundreds family, if they begin to claim and put this title deed trouble in the world, cyprus will have very bad name for investment.

  • 明白 says:

    why only Cyprus has this title deed problem? if some property should blong to bank because developer cannot pay the loan, why the government permit developer sale it?

    if this trouble cannot be deal, for long term, no one will like to buy property in Cyprus, Cyprus real estate market will be destory completely. then the enconomic, then the country.

  • I’m pleased to say that the Financial Mirror printed my letter in today’s edition on page 12..

  • jjames says:

    Having been the recipient of wise & informed advice from Nigel, both through reading CPN articles and on occasions by email, I join with all here in applauding this comprehensive summing up of, and positive solutions to, the interminable saga of Title Deed issuance.

    I agree with Stuart that the bureaucrats in Brussels also need to read this and re-visit the many well documented accounts of false promises, stalling, etc. over the last years and join Nigel in demanding to see proper evidence of appropriate action – taken with appropriate urgency!!

  • Deanna says:

    A very detailed and comprehensive summary of property-buyers long-standing problems with both developers and authorities. Thank you Nigel.

    We look forward to the response from Mr Hasikos.

  • Lyn Hill says:

    Excellent Nigel, keep up the fight! Let’s hope the Cypriot Government listens and learns. Lyn

  • Whirlybird Rtd says:

    Hello Nigel,

    This is one of the best put letter I have seen in regards to bringing home to the government again how much they have failed home purchasers who should be home owners. Perhaps the President should have received a copy “just to make sure he is aware of it” However protocol ensues.

    Regards,

  • Campbell Findlay says:

    Well done Nigel – straight to the point(s) and no punches pulled. I know you will not let go!!!

    All the best,

    Campbell Findlay

  • Molliemoo says:

    Very clearly stated and all points covered. It is so heartening to see someone is actually doing something.

    Agree that an online petition might add weight to Nigel’s letter.

    Thanks so much Nigel.

  • Mike says:

    Bravo Nigel. You are a gem and I suggest an invaluable asset to all ex-pats on the Island. Hopefully your letter will make the Interior Minister think and more importantly set aside the enormous pressures from the developers and legal lobby to maintain the status quo.

    Well done.

  • Steve R says:

    The open letter is honest and covers every scenario that I have heard of over the last 9 years worth of dealings with the system. The system has been designed so that there is only one winner. The Government. Why are we under the misconception that the Government are likely to want to change things in favour of the purchaser. Sitting back and doing nothing is not an option but when you look to the EU for help and they tell you that they can not get involved with they internal politics of how the country is run then you do start to get a little bit disheartened.

    We must keep plodding on with this situation but a lot of people I know who are trapped are starting to run out of years now and the next generation are not interested in carrying on the fight. Lets not forget that it isn’t just the British people who are in this situation. A lot of Cypriot people and other nationalities are too. After all the bad press worldwide that has highlighted the scenario in Cyprus why oh why are people still purchasing off plan properties on this island?

  • sandra says:

    You are so right Nigel. There has been too much tinkering and rushing half baked ideas into practice. No one seems to have sat down and looked at the problems as a whole. The whole system is inadequate and fails to protect innocent buyers who have various problems not just mortgage defaults, but numerous other reasons. Why, because of inadequate laws, cannot get their title.

    Many people have been forced to engage lawyers to try and extract Title Deeds, which causes unnecessary stress and expense. Hardly a good advert for buying in Cyprus is it? So it is not surprising the market is down. People are not stupid and the information is out there on the net, only property with Deeds will sell. This creates an unfair market too.

  • Stuart says:

    Congratulations, Nigel, for composing a letter which embraces every aspect of the Title Deeds fiasco and states the case in clear and unambiguous terms. It will be interesting to hear the reply you receive from Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos following the delivery of your registered mailing.

    Although you’ve already discussed the vexed question of Title Deeds with the Troika, would it not be a good move to copy this open letter to them too so they not only have a reminder of the problem faced by thousands of properties waiting to be issued with their Title Deed but can hold the authorities to account for yet further lack of progress on this issue?

    After all, it was supposed to have been tackled by the former Interior Minister in 2011 and again by the Troika in the MoU which set a target date of Q4-2014 for the reduction of the backlog to less than 2000 cases but, like you, we all need to know what has or hasn’t been achieved to date. Lack of data on this topic usually means little or nothing is happening.

  • kufrahdog says:

    Excellent, Nigel, you said what had to be said and what many of us have been thinking. Let us see from the nature of his reply how the minister measures up to being an honourable man.

    With thanks, KD.

  • @demetri on 2015/05/25 at 9:53 pm – I sent the letter to Mr. Hasikos this morning by registered mail.

  • demetri says:

    Superb, and not to insult Mr. Hasikos but would be a good idea if a translation of letter into Greek could be forwarded onto him……

  • pils says:

    Nigel well put in your open letter, it is about time more action is taken by authorities to eliminate endless talk on title deed fiasco and more time given submitting approval of title deeds to property owners.

    My own mind set, more of the same, plenty of hot on this subject.

  • Peter McGowan says:

    Well done, a logical well balanced letter. Can we have an email address to send as a petition? This needs to be passed round everyone on the island and delivered to the “powers that be”.

    Can the authorities no see that if they made the system simpler and charged reasonable for the Title Deeds, giving a six month period to apply for them, the Govt. would have a massive increase in revenue now.

    Peter McGowan

  • Pippa says:

    Thank you Nigel for once again taking on the mantle of our spokesman with the government. Hopefully Mr Hasikos will actually reply to the points raised, and follow up on some of the sensible suggestions for addressing the appalling situation many of us find ourselves in.

  • Pete says:

    Well said Nigel; let’s hope Mr Hasikos acts on the contents in real time instead of Cyprus time and involves people such as your good self when setting up the scheme to drag this country out of the 18th century.

  • Gary says:

    Nigel,

    As ever, thank you for all your hard work and effort in pursuing this issue on behalf of everyone caught up in this mess.

    Here’s hoping your excellent letter has the desired impact with the Interior Minister.

    Thanks,

    Gary

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

  • Text size

Back to top