Parliament has unanimously approved a bill that would enable thousands of joint owners of illegitimate residences or land plots to secure building licences and title deeds, although under strict conditions.
The bill, drafted primarily by deputies Demetris Syllouris (independent) and DISY’s Maria Kyriacou, hopes to set in order a “complex social and economic problem that has plagued the country for decades.”
Syllouris yesterday explained to the Cyprus Mail that, in the absence of specific legislation, over the years there have accumulated thousands of buildings without a permit. This has two major consequences: firstly, loss of millions of pounds for the government in registration fees; secondly, the co-owners of flats or residences that are part of building projects are deprived of all the benefits of holding a title deed.
As the deputy told parliament on Thursday, the main culprits for this state of affairs were developers who take advantage of the absence of title deeds so as to mortgage the same property several times.
According to the new law, affected co-owners have a way out of the mess, because they can now directly apply to register their domicile or land plot without having to wait for the developer to take the initiative.
However, Syllouris was yesterday keen to demonstrate that the law does not legitimise flagrant violations of urban planning rules, but rather provides a workaround for minor irregularities or derogations.
For example, in cases where a building coefficient has been exceeded by up to 25 metres or 10 per cent of the size (whichever comes first), it will be possible for someone to apply to a special committee to have these derogations legalised.
According to Syllouris, applicants will be subject to a string of criteria; and since most of these are quantifiable, it will be quite clear which cases merit approval and which do not, thereby eliminating any complaints about unfairness or bias.
The deputy added that this had not always been true in the past, when there were widespread rumors that the so-called “derogation committee” would overlook patent breaches of the law, fueling speculation about kickbacks and corruption.
At the same time, the new arrangements stipulate more severe penalties for those who continue to flaunt town planning regulations.
Although the bill has been hailed as an “innovation”, its effectiveness will be closely monitored, and in about two months’ time parliament will review the legislation and make amendments to it if deemed necessary.
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