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Sewerage blocks Title Deeds

After many years of waiting patiently for the Title Deeds to the properties they bought in Cyprus, some purchasers are finding that they cannot get clean deeds as they’re blocked by sewerage.

Sewerage blocking Title DeedsWHILE banks are preventing some of those who bought property in Cyprus from obtaining their Title Deeds through court rulings that judged the ‘trapped buyers’ law unconstitutional, other buyers are blocked from obtaining deeds due to developers flagrantly breaching their planning conditions.

I receive numerous emails from purchasers who cannot get their deeds because developers have encroached on someone else’s land or they haven’t built, roads, pavements, green areas, etc. or they’ve built boundary walls too high, while others have issues with their properties as they fail to meet fire and swimming pool regulations.

For some reason the Cypriot authorities that issue planning and building permits are either unwilling or unable to pursue developers who break the rules and so it is left to the purchasers to pay for the work necessary to obtain ‘clean’ Title Deeds.

One of the key problems is that there is no independent inspection of properties as they are being built as there are in many other countries. The ‘supervising engineer’ who is employed by the developer is responsible for monitoring construction work. Even if the engineer spots something wrong there is nothing they can do about it apart from bringing the issue to the attention of the developer and refusing to sign a ‘Certificate of Completion’.

Independent inspections of properties as they are being built could identify issues as they occur and the authorities could take appropriate action to ensure developers correct them (assuming the inspectors had the necessary powers to intervene and stop further building work until the issues have been rectified.)

Currently in Cyprus independent property inspections only occur after construction work has been completed, which could be several years after the properties have been sold and occupied by their purchasers. Clearly this is far too late to identify and correct planning infringements.

A disgruntled buyer contacted me recently to report on the progress he’d made towards getting the Title Deed for the property he purchased more than a decade ago.

When he purchased the property, he had high hopes of obtaining the Title Deeds fairly quickly. He had good reason to be confident – the contract of sale, which was duly lodged at the Land Registry, included a clause that the developer would do his best not delay the issue of Title Deeds. However, more than a decade later there is no sign of a Title Deed. He considers that rather than doing his best not to delay the issue of Title Deeds, his developer has done his utmost to prevent them being issued.

When the news broke about the Title Deed mess he contacted his ‘independent’ lawyer for help. But he soon discovered that his so-called ‘independent’ lawyer batted for the other team.

Eventually he took matters into his own hands and made enquiries to uncover any issues that would prevent Title Deeds being issued.  As a result of enquiries at his local Land Registry office and Municipality he discovered a number of things the developer had failed to do. However, with the assistance of the Municipality he was able to resolve most of the issues himself save for one – his development’s waste water system.

Rather than the more usual waste water system employing septic tanks and absorption pits, one of the conditions on the planning application was that the developer should construct and install a biological waste water system to comply with the Water Pollution Control Law. Biological waste water systems are significantly more expensive than septic tank and absorption pit systems and the developer probably broke his planning conditions to save money.

This issue lay undetected for nearly a decade and only came to light through enquiries at the Municipality, by which time it was far too late to help the hapless buyers who found themselves in the mess.

Those who bought property on this development consider there have been many people to blame along the way but it is they, the unsuspecting buyers, that suffer and who are left to pick up the pieces.

The developer flatly refuses to cooperate or pay to correct his failure which may cost upwards of €30,000. Theirs is a small development and raising this sort of money is out of their reach.  Through no fault of their own they find themselves in a position where their properties will be immensely difficult to sell and are practically worthless.

I wonder how many other nefarious property developers have breached the conditions of their planning consent to save money that their purchasers are forced to pay to get their Title Deeds?

This is a scandalous situation and blatantly unfair!

Readers' comments

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  • Tony says:

    Hi Nigel,
    Do you have information concerning which areas &/or developments are affected by this issue?

    Ed: The developments are in the Paphos area.

  • FrenchPeasant says:

    Will the injustices against ordinary folk in Cyprus ever end? Surely there has to be some recourse in these situations (I know it will take years to get through the courts). I am not an idealist (or a solicitor). I’m just an perplexed average consumer.

    Doesn’t the contract of limitations extend to 15 years if you just discover something new which you couldn’t have known at the time? The Banks have also done this dodgy thing with the statute of limitations – letting it start again from 2016 because they couldn’t get their own house in order. No one really understands it – not even the solicitors by all accounts.

    These are all material facts which “average consumers” didn’t know at the time of signing the mortgages (if you have mortgages) and are well known to Solicitors, Developers, Banks and Govt. It’s not fair you could end up in court by occupying your own property when there is no completion certificate and you didn’t know at the outset (deliberate omission of a material fact). It’s a material fact that should have been stated in the contract – along with the fact that deeds can take up to 20 years (not 4-5). This is a misrepresentation. They’ve told you that it takes 4 – 5 years, but not why. This is a deliberate omission.

    If you signed anything after July 2007 the UCPD (unfair commercial practice directive) is in force in Cyprus and relates to before, during and after the contract – so if the title deeds haven’t been issued you are technically during the contract. You also have laws covering quality and right to a hearing and free use of property (so I understand).

    The price you paid for this property was on the assumption that everything was in order. If it is not finished, it is not finished – and there are laws governing quality.

    If you pursue the Developer then he will just go bankrupt and arise phoenix-like in another form, you have to link it back to the Bank contract somehow and the UCPD allows those horizontal links. If the sales contract is invalid (because he hasn’t finished the contract) then the mortgage is invalid, but you have to get someone cleverer than us to argue the case. I’ve read the Banks are profitable once more.

    Complain to the EU about Cyprus consumer issues – they won’t intervene in individual cases but they might come down on Cyprus to pay attention (in my ideal world). They are obliged to investigate.

    The Govt has a vested interest – issue the deeds and loads of money in the coffers. Why wouldn’t it help? Or maybe it’s the Cypriot Govt you have to sue …. a lot of this seems to come down to policy and competitiveness (protecting their own).

    We all have to do something. These issues are systematically ruining many thousands of lives and they have been rumbling on for decades. We will never get that time back and the abuses will continue. Financial insecurity is a terrible thing. The uncertainty consumes you.

    Today, the EU is talking about enforcing the loans, but it has not done anything about the unfair terms in Bank and Developer contracts which have effectively cost buyers more. The Banks will try to enforce loans that cost more than they should have done. Clauses have been found to be unjust (and therefore unenforceable), but they continue and individuals have to take their claims to court because there is no mass ADR system in Cyprus, and the CCPS can say terms are unjust, but they won’t enforce it under the law. The fines are ridiculously small in the scheme of things and are no incentive to stop the bad practice. The money goes into the govt coffers (if it is not challenged and therefore reclaimed / unpaid). There is mass ADR in the UK (PPP for example) – so if you live in the UK and are under threat of repossession of assets in the UK, lobby the Ombudsman and if we can generate enough noise the Ombudsman could stop the Banks seizing assets in the UK until they have put their own house in order – recalculated the CHF loans.

    I’m not a solicitor, but I have been well and truly stitched up by buying property in Cyprus and I’m sick of being a victim. It’s time for everyone who’s been cheated – and there are many tens of thousands of us – to stand up and say enough’s enough. It costs about 4k euros to get the court proceedings lodged. It’s only then that organisations will start listening to you (and talking to you). It hurts to fork out more money when you know you are being stitched up, but for a small group, hopefully everyone should be able to find a small sum. Don’t make the group too big, be clear about what you want to achieve (don’t be wooed by promises of big fat damages), find a solicitor who is honest and clever enough to achieve what you want to achieve (solve the immediate problem) and then consider anything else a bonus. Resign yourself to the fact it will take years, but there has to be redress, otherwise there is no justice.

    If you are buying property in Cyprus now – there would be something to said to withhold a final payment until the deeds are issued rather than making a payment for those deeds, and given the costs of contingent liabilities that are coming to light, that should be tens of thousands of euros. Perhaps the Govt should think about that. The Developer only gets his final payment if he’s done what was promised.

    For anyone in difficulty – read up on your rights. You actually have lots of them (and you’ve the EU to thank for that) but you have to FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT and it’s time-consuming, exhausting and expensive. It sucks.

    If anyone is interested in pursuing the UK ombudsman route private message me, as I’d like to get a small group together (it won’t cost you anything). You need to live in the UK and have been cheated by the banks in some way (and are currently being chased for the debt in the UK, or you’ve had a European payment order issued). It’s a long shot and there are no guarantees. As I say, I am not a solicitor. I do not want, or expect any kind of remuneration. My self-interest is that I am trying to gather information and extricate myself from a sticky situation. I believe there is power in numbers. We have to fight back.

    Ed: If anyone would like to get in touch with ‘FrenchPeasant’, please contact me through my Contact Page and I’ll pass the information on.

    Regarding the Statute of Limitations, the clock starts ticking from the time you made the discovery (not the time the issue occurred.)

  • embapaphos says:

    @Aggis & ED, for sure if deeds exist then it is a no brainer, if deeds don’t exist and it is off plan then a small deposit that is refundable in cases where vendor doesn’t comply with sales agreement and doesn’t produce deeds further down the line. Or how about make it real simple and make the ‘system’ prohibit any vendor flogging properties until title deeds exist for them?

    Ed is right, too too many people can’t afford to pay to rectify developers ‘illegal’ builds, and as a matter of principal why should anyone do so? Back to the system being the issue whereby the innocent purchaser got lumbered with the developer problems….thankfully for some the trapped buyers law was a window whereby this was partially addressed but it all needs a major overhaul, starting with the Cypriot mentality.

    Ed: Believe it or not it’s an offence to occupy a building unless it’s been issued a ‘Completion Certificate’, which confirms that the property complies with the various permits issued for its construction, fire regulations, etc. However to my knowledge this law has never been enforced – I understand that no penalty’s been set for breaking it. But if it was enforced thousands of people would end up in court!

    The problem with buying off-plan is that developers’ business models rely on purchasers paying for the property as construction progresses. They simply do not have the financial resources to fund the construction work from their own resources.

    Even if you buy a property with Title Deeds you still need to check there are no debts lodged against the Title and that it’s owner hasn’t added any illegal extensions.

  • Aggis Demetriou says:

    To avoid any problems simply buy a property with a clean honest title, cheap is always expensive, you wouldn’t buy a 500€ car without a title?

    No title No deal, walk away.

  • Deanna says:

    @ Peter Davis; I had same problem with Land Registry after I bought our shop (with Title) back in 2008. I just had to pay the inflated amount; tbh was taken aback and therefore not prepared.

  • embapaphos says:

    @John H, I feel for you total nightmare and totally wrong innocent buyers footing the bill for the vendors wrongdoings. BUT if we are talking about ‘small’ amounts and getting together with others affected to share burden may in the long run be the best option…all depends on how big the final bill, I for one paid up and preferred to do so and have deeds in hand rather than sitting on the issue….

    Ed: Some people have contributed towards the cost of rectifying problems, but not everyone can afford to do this. If the development company hasn’t ceased trading the Municipality should pursue the vendor – as he breached the conditions of their planning consent and should be held responsible for clearing up the mess.

  • John H says:

    We’re in the same boat. Eleven years down the line and still waiting for TDs.

    Now, out of the blue Paphos Council won’t sign off our final certificate unless the back-wash water from our pool is re-plumbed into our sewage management tank.

    It’s a ludicrous situation when more than a decade after completion of the property, the authorities now demand compliance with a hitherto unspecified regulation.

    The Developer of course, is nowhere to be seen.

  • embapaphos says:

    @Richard,partly agree, how about target ONLY the DODGY Gc developers who I am pretty sure have invested their ill gotten gains in the uk?

    As for other posts on boom or not, civil engineers and architects I speak to whilst not confessing there is a boom are not complaining there is a lack of work either.

    I won’t go too much into my nightmare, but for a fact I know that the ETEK certified architect responsible four our build signed off that all the works had been carried out according to the plans that were approved, yet you had to be blind to see they had not…..developer I am sure thought he could swing it his way (grease some palms) with the relevant authorities to get these discrepancies ‘ignored’. Developer then did a runner when certificate of unauthorized works was issued! and landed us residents with a hefty cost to remedy the mess!

  • Richard says:

    It seems to me that if you are a British investor – getting title deeds for your property (that in many cases people invested and PAID for) is like winning a lottery ticket!

    Once we Brexit – perhaps we should play the same dirty tricks on all Greek Cypriot owned houses and businesses here in the UK – and take their assets off them? If we did – what’s the betting the problem would be fixed in a couple of months?

  • Corinne Twining says:

    No lessons have been learned, and no safeguards put in place. Boom time (fill your boots time) is back and it will happen all over again. Cyprus may now be a good investment (Saturday’s Daily Telegraph) but not for all.

    Ed: I understand the DT article mentions my name – I haven’t seen it and no-one from the DT’s spoken with me.

  • Gerry Head says:

    As Nigel points out the solution is obvious, a planning inspection department to check that buildings adhere to their planning permit during construction. Simples!

    Why this is not implemented and sanctions imposed for infringements could possibly (perish the thought) be something to do with the old boy network or even (dare I suggest) corruption. Most unlikely here in sunny Cyprus…

  • Peter Davis says:

    When we went to collect our title deeds we were told that there was obviously a cash payment made “off books” as the villa was worth more than the price in the contract, so we would be charged on the full price as set by the land registry.

    So my question was is the tax office going after the developer? Is the developer getting prosecuted for fraud? The questions about him were ignored, all the land registry was interested in was getting more money from me for my title deeds.

    When I refused to pay up I was offered deals in reducing amounts. Surely I pointed out that this blew their theory to bits, I either owed the full amount or else I owed nothing more, they were trying it on to get money they knew they weren’t entitled to.

    Eventually the developer came and I got my title deeds. The council worker are ‘chancers’ who take advantage of people who have bought in good faith. We never made payments under the table and would never have agreed to such an arrangement. But the developer had the power to swing it as he knew the boss at the land registry, but it left a very bad impression and bad taste as to how ‘them’ do business.

  • Andrew says:

    So why does the Council/government not take the developer to court? I know when I do not pay my tax, or any government bill, they take you to court. If the developer has broken the building/planning permit, just take them to court, immediately.

    Why should any developer be allowed to break the law and it is OK?

  • Costas Apacket says:

    It is interesting that the authorities seem to have the capacity to identify these planning anomalies at the point when someone applies for their Title Deeds, but not before.

    Same amount of work – wrong point in the process.

    I suppose if they found problems during the construction phase, this would cause a problem for the Teflon developers rather than the hapless purchasers, and we couldn’t have that now, could we?

  • Chris says:

    My well known developer built for me a nice three bedroom house with pool. However, when I obtained a copy of the plans that had been submitted to the planning office they bore no relationship to what was built. Therefore no Title Deeds and impossible to sell except by the original developer.

    Of course that was the intention.

  • Molliemoo says:

    I agree. An Amnesty would be a good idea.

    Now that some of us have applied under the ‘trapped buyers law’ for our Deeds we find that if we cannot afford to correct our Developers (fled the island) expensive shortcomings we won’t get ‘clean’ Deeds.

    Having ‘dirty’ Deeds means not only will we be prohibited from selling our properties but will also HAVE to pay for these worthless Deeds when they become available. Therefore we have to pay for the privilege of being trapped and unable to sell even if we could find a Buyer.

    The whole thing is disgusting and needs an urgent overhaul.

  • Gary says:

    The whole process is a shambles from start to finish. An amnesty is required and a proper, robust process put in place. We had a similar issue with sewerage system. It was illegal and our small development of 9 houses threatened with demolition.

    We had to install a new system – developer had long fled the island – and pay for it ourselves. We’ve also paid for a pavement as this was part of the planning permission and may even have to tarmac a public road external to our development.

    The public authorities do not care the developer has fled and expect the residents to pay in full for any work that was in the original planning permission.

  • Cousin Jack says:

    This would seem to be a classic case of developers “NOT GIVING A… !!!”…….. but hey!, this is Cyprus so about par for the course.

    How about naming the developers, who knows, they may even still be in business? And then if they sue for defamation (or should that be defaecation) it will take so long to get to court that it will probably be a case of a corpse suing a corpse.

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