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Reprieve for trapped buyers

The Cyprus government has vowed to continue issuing Title Deeds to trapped buyers despite the recent court rulings that left them in legal limbo according to a report in the Cyprus Weekly.

Reprieve for trapped buyers of Cyprus property

Cyprus Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides

THE GOVERNMENT has vowed to continue issuing title deeds to some 11,500 ‘trapped buyers’ despite the recent court rulings that left them in a legal limbo.

“We decided to continue issuing title deeds for the remaining 11,500 properties despite the court rulings, we will appeal the court rulings and we will introduce legislative amendments to correct the problem,” Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides told the Cyprus Weekly.

Limassol and Paphos district courts ruled against the Director of the Land Registry to transfer the Title Deeds into the names of the purchasers following appeals by banks.

The Transfer and Mortgage Law was amended in 2015 for the main purpose of protecting the entrapped purchasers. It was a requirement from international lenders under the bailout terms.

“The issue of title deeds is huge, by 2010 2011, there were over 100,000 unissued title deeds and, over the subsequent years, the Land Registry Department, albeit with limited resources, managed to drop that figure to 34,000,” said Petrides.

“In 2015, we also passed legislation regarding the trapped buyers, which affected about 14,000 cases,” added Petrides.

‘trapped buyers’ are a reference to home buyers who have completed their obligations, paid off their house but are unable to receive their title deeds because developers had mortgaged their properties to the banks.

“We have managed to issue 2,500 out of the 14,000 over the last two years,” said Petrides adding that the recent court rulings had taken the government unawares.

He indicated that consultations with Attorney General Costas Clerides are underway while the Interior Ministry is looking for ways to remedy the situation.

“The bottom line is this; the process will continue, we will continue issuing title deeds,” Said Petrides.

Petrides said that the government was well aware and recognised the distortions, wrong practices and “strange legalities” due to a “complex system” of the past.

“We did not face a normal situation as a government when we took over; we are determined, though, to solve it,” said Petrides.

“Let’s just say that it is a matter of national pride,” said Petrides, adding that it was also offering the people who chose to invest in Cyprus the assurances they are looking for.

The minister’s stance was echoed by Nigel Howarth, a property advisor in Limassol.

“It really looks bad for Cyprus’ reputation abroad,” said Howarth.

Cyprus has embarked on a policy to attract foreign homeowners to the island in an EU-approved citizenship for investment programme.

According to Howarth, the whole mess basically boils down to “bad banking and legal practices”.

“Banks have claimed that they didn’t know what was going on; they knew exactly what was going on,” said Howarth.

“A specific case in Paphos involved a buyer and a developer who banked in the same branch of a commercial bank. The buyer would transfer funds from his account into the developer’s account in that same bank. Is it really possible for the bank not to have known what was going on?”

Howarth also took the legal profession to task for not looking after their clients’ interests.

“A lawyer is supposed to protect his client, he’s supposed to check that the property he is purchasing doesn’t have any outstanding dues or is wrapped up as collateral.”

“A Supreme Court ruling ordered a lawyer to pay around €120,000 for professional negligence to a couple who lost their home because he didn’t act in his client’s interest.”

“Unfortunately, the case took 10 years to settle, so there definitely has to be tightening of the law,” said Howarth.

The Legal Services have, in the meantime, indicated that they will appeal the decision of the Limassol and Paphos district courts, giving impetus to the government’s efforts to deal conclusively with the title deed issue.

The Legal Services received new orders to continue implementing the current legislation, while the House Justice Committee will tackle the constitutional element of the courts’ decision.

House Justice Committee chair George Georgiou admitted that there were loopholes in the current bill and said amendments were necessary to protect the thousands of ‘trapped buyers’.

Copyright © 2017 Phileleftheros Public Company Ltd

Readers' comments

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  • Henry J 10 says:

    I do have court papers with my name and also my wife and the developer these are the ones he said was not aware of.

    I signed the contract on 16 June 2006 and it seems he took out the mortgage on 28 June 2006 I do not know when contract was deposited as the stamp is in Cypriot and not very clear so will contact the lawyer handled it seems I have been stitched up I think they also the developers affairs.

    Ed: It sounds as if you made the cardinal sin of using a lawyer who is/was also acting for the developer. I hope this particular lawyer is defending the action against you in court! (I have heard of this happening elsewhere – the lawyer failed to deposit the contract until after the developer took a mortgage.)

    You may have a case against your lawyer – in 2010 a lawyer in Paphos by the name Nicos Papacleovoulou/Papakleovoulou of was found to be professionally negligent and ordered to pay a British couple around €120,000. More information at Landmark ruling by the Supreme Court

  • Henry J 10 says:

    Paid a visit to the land registry and was told that because of the court case my title deeds are on hold because of the mortgage my developer took out with Alpha bank after I signed up to the contract and paid a deposit. The L/R said that I was one of 33 cases in this position with deeds in limbo and do not know when the situation will be settled.

    The developer says he had no idea of a court case and will look into it as his nose started to grow!!!.

    Ed: If the Alpha Bank had sought a court order preventing the transfer of Title to your name, you would have been named in the court order and received details from the court.

    Furthermore if the developer took a mortgage after your contract was deposited at the Land Registry, that mortgage will not affect you in any way. I suggest you go back to the Land Registry. If it was the one in Paphos they seem to be making up the rules themselves.

  • embapaphos says:

    “Let’s just say that it is a matter of national pride,” said Petrides, adding that it was also offering the people who chose to invest in Cyprus the assurances they are looking for.

    Only assurance is a clean title deed at point of sale, or in cases where no deeds exist payment of a small refundable deposit and the remainder of the purchase price paid as soon as a clean deed is issued…yet again this all ties into streamlining the whole process of getting to point of issuing deeds.

  • embapaphos says:

    @Nigel yet another article in incyprusproperty – The reefs of the trapped buyers dated today, doesn’t really say anything new. just re-iterates how archaic and convoluted the whole system is in general…

    Ed: Thanks – here’s a rough translation of the article (the problem only seems to affect those who purchased from developers who are now insolvent).

    The reefs of the trapped buyers

    Complexity of cases and procedures, abstention and tolerance of local authorities, buyers disinterest.

    The Land Registry have been 14,043 applications for titles, with most concern Famagusta and Paphos.

    Labyrinthine proved in practice the procedures to obtain property titles trapped homeowners who were victims of insolvent land developers. The affected not only ensure title to 6-7 months as was the original designs of the government, but faced one obstacle after another. Only in the Land locked homeowners should spend fifteen steps up to examine their application and gain the coveted title of ownership. Even more difficult and time-consuming are the procedures when local authorities involved, ie municipalities and provincial administrations. Lengthy procedures followed by local authorities epsexe days ago in the House and the Director of Lands Andreas Socratous as they have a key role in the issue of securities. The Land Registry, according to Mr. Socrates, not control two different processes, namely the forced transfer and issuance. He confessed that the two systems have failed over time thus accumulated large volume of cases with involved and interrelated rights. The Land Registry finds no satisfactory response from local authorities.

    As Mr. Socratous, everyday asking them to exercise their authority to proceed with the preparation of the required certificates to enable the Land Registry to issue property titles. He noted that while the system of Lands had failed because the area of ​​a local authority builds 200 and 300 homes without any planning permission. He noted that there are growths of 50 and 200 units completed and passed decades, buildings were damaged and the owner is not addressed to ensure the relevant certificates by local authorities to apply to the Land Registry for title edition.

    The Legal Service, which had signed the bill in the summer of 2015, has a message that the amendment is urgent as it faces many distortions and constitutional problems. Something which is found in the decisions of provincial courts when banks appealed. The new bill would amend it to improve the points considered as unconstitutional courts. The changes will focus on non-violation of Articles 23 and 26 of the Constitution concerning the right to property and to contract freely. In the following days the Legal Service is expected to register an appeal against judgments of the provincial courts. Note that total are registered in court 165 appeals concerning banks and citizens. In 65% of cases affected are foreigners.

    The provinces of … ah and Bax

    According to Land Registry data submitted 14,043 applications for real estate securities owners with most concern the provinces Famagusta and Paphos, which, according to relevant sources, are the areas facing the most serious problem. Of the total 6.057 applications were entitled but not been transferred in 7986 and was untitled. Specifically submitted 3.631 requests for evacuation property in Famagusta, 3314 in Paphos, Larnaca 2.774, 2.423 and 1.901 in Nicosia, Limassol. Of these 2,428 approved applications where trapped owners managed to extricate their properties. Details 681 property owners were entitled in Paphos, 619 in Limassol, Nicosia 560, 361 and 207 in Larnaca Famagusta. In 234 cases the Land Registry has sent letters requesting the production of more evidence. In addition to 39 cases under the law, the Land Registry has opened a special account to pay the amount not paid by the buyer to the land development entrepreneur. The amount to be collected will be allocated in the future to encumbrance holders and then sellers. Representative of Lands said the “F” that the special account has accrued a small amount. Also, for 81 applications buyers will have to pay the balance amount owed while 979 cases were asked to provide certificates that have paid their taxes. In 143 cases the banks and sellers lodged an objection with the court decree on Land Registry’s decision. Around 126 cases pending notification of transfer and 387 will receive transfer notice. Analytical 11,500 pending applications corresponding to 15 640 owners. Indeed, 8,146 are foreigners, 6.817 Cypriots and 677 companies.

    What does the law passed by Parliament in 2015

    Through the bill passed in September 2015, the House, the trapped homeowners will vest and would ensure ownership of the property with title deeds. The bill covers those who have made a large percentage of the purchase amount, 80% or 90% for example, and that if they have other money, you can deposit the amount in a special account and by the Director of Lands may to ensure the title deed. Within 45 days trapped owner may take title to the property, after written notice registration in the press relate to the mortgage lender-contractor. However, there is a safeguard for get-take of the state, if the buyer the transfer duties appear not to pay to receive the title of the property. The law ignores encumbrances, ie mortgages and MEMO and allows the transfer of a property to the buyer. Requirement to submit a request to katatethesei the purchase contract to the Land Registry and can prove that he has paid the seller of the property and left only a small rest. The Director of Lands goes automatically to all necessary actions to transfer the property in the name of the buyer.

    (A virtually identical article was published yesterday in Phileleftheros)

  • Henry J 10 says:

    Sorry to ask the same question again about people who have received paperwork regarding court cases, are they still not allowed to obtain deeds under these changes. I think I was only weeks away from closure as neighbours are receiving theirs it seems they just cherry picked some to challenge in the court.

    Ed: I don’t have an answer. But the minister was reported as saying “We decided to continue issuing title deeds for the remaining 11,500 properties despite the court rulings, we will appeal the court rulings and we will introduce legislative amendments to correct the problem.”

    I suggest you check with the Land Registry to see if they’ve received any instructions on the matter.

  • embapaphos says:

    @all, it is all good and well that deeds will continue to be issued to the trapped buyers, this is no small thing!

    By nature I am paranoid and suspicious of all the promises and so I hope I don’t get banned for repeating this query: what effect if any will the proposed changes to the current unconstitutional law have on those who are due to receive deeds or have received deeds already via the current law?

    Legal person I asked said once you have the deeds there is no way for this to change, then I put the question to him in a different way “can the change to the law open a back door for the banks to somehow taint these peoples deeds? and allow the banks to have some kind of claim on them if the deed holder does not pay up yet again the debts of developer?” I don’t think so was the answer.

    As for MPs only one of the 5 that replied to me said there will be no affect.

    Ed: I don’t believe anyone can give you a definitive answer until the revised law has been passed. Personally I don’t believe those who have already received their deeds under the provisions of the ‘trapped buyers’ law will be affected in any way.

    One person who contacted me after receiving her deeds has sold her property and moved on. It’s unthinkable that the person who bought her property (with its clean Title Deed) could be affected in any way. If the law allowed this to happen everyone with a clean Title Deed, regardless of whether it had been obtained via the ‘trapped buyers’ law would be put at risk.

  • I.Gerges says:

    Hi Nigel, our infamous developer (currently in prison) built up 5 houses when his original plan was for 4 houses only!!

    All houses are sold to buyers who paid for all their properties in full before 12 years and still waiting for their title.

    We submitted all docs 2-3 years ago when law passed but have not heard back from of of land registry yet.

    We asked placed our case to Head of Land Registry on TV show. To my surprise, we could not get a straight answer, he just stated the history of the problem and admitted responsibility of the state for the mess.

    I wrote to European High Commission of Human rights but no reply so far.

    When this mess would be cleaned up and this nightmare is over once and for all?

    Ed: I hope it isn’t going to be too much longer – the Government needs to pull its finger out. I know of people who have been waiting since 1979 to get their deeds. A ‘proper’ amnesty is needed – issue the deeds (providing there are no health & safety issues) with no penalties or notes on deeds, ensure the law is strictly enforced in future and isue Title Deeds on delivery of a property.

  • Ange says:

    What about people that the developer has duped and put the deeds in his wife’s name!!! This has happened to me and going through the courts.

    Ed: If your contract was deposited at the Land Registry the only way this could have happened is collusion between the developer and the Land Registry.

  • Campbell Findlay says:

    This hole just gets deeper and deeper despite all the promises and false hopes raised.They (the whole bloody system) has been so systemically corrupt for so long they know no different. People are trying but they are shovelling poo uphill.

    Ed: As I wrote in 2008 ‘You cannot polish horse manure‘.

  • steve r says:

    If the figures in this article are true then the land registry need a pat on the back. To reduce the title deeds waiting list from 100K to 34K in a short period of time on limited resources is a great achievement.

    Keep it up.

  • Andy says:

    What about the people who cannot get their Title Deeds because the builder won’t pay for his permits we are still trapped.

    Ed: I had to pay for planning permission, building permit, completion certificate and adding my house to my Title Deed. This was not my building contractor’s responsibility. Check your agreement with the builder.

  • Andy says:

    Well done to the Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides who I believe is going to do the right thing for the people of Cyprus and those who invested in our beautiful country. Now let’s see if he can come up with a solution for this problem of agricultural land that the last interior minister left behind.

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