BRITISH broadcaster Channel 4 is coming to Cyprus after being contacted by expats who have bought property on the island and not received their title deeds.
The property boom over the past few years is one of the main causes of the problem as the authorities struggle to stay afloat, swamped with applications.
Last Thursday, Parliament voted to extend the time period in which the law for the legalisation of a significant number of irregularities regarding immovable properties purchased before March 2005 is in effect.
In an effort to combat the huge delays, the government enacted the temporary law 18 months ago, but it was only valid until the end of September 2006. The extension now runs until January 1.
Lawyer George Couconis, a property specialist, has told the Mail that developers do not rectify irregularities in construction, while town planning and local authorities tolerate the situation.
He added that when somebody has not received their deed, legal action has to be taken against the vendor, with the appointment of a third party who will issue title deeds on his or her behalf.
But an amendment to the law involving no legal action is being sought by DISY deputy Ionas Nicolaou in an effort to combat the huge delays.
He is proposing that properties, such as blocks of flats, are divided into separate entities, with each buyer receiving a separate deed.
As the law currently stands, only the developer can apply for the deeds and not the individual buyers.
Lawyer and European Party MP Ricos Erotocritou is raising awareness of the issue before Parliament and he said yesterday that, “the whole procedure needs modernisation in a way that will facilitate its speeding up. The major cause of delay is the developers and I suggest introducing financial sanctions against them. If they then continue to delay, they should face criminal charges.”
Green Party leader Giorgos Perdikis agreed, saying more should be done to punish developers. “If they were threatened with jail, I’m sure they would be more co-operative in issuing deeds.”
Speaking from England, Vanessa Moussa, assistant producer for Ricochet Productions, who have been commissioned by Channel 4, said: “We are preparing a show called Selling Houses Abroad about Britons living in Cyprus who have had problems buying a property or who have had issues with their property after buying.
At this stage, I am in contact with people who have bought in Cyprus and who feel they have been victims of unscrupulous developers, estate agents and even lawyers and there are countless examples I could give you.”
She said the “typical situations are buyers who bought and can’t get hold of the title deeds for a property or who discovered problems with the house such as bad constructions due to inexperienced builders (house moving from ground or construction walls falling down.)
Some are trying to get the deeds but then have been faced with further legal problems. Others found themselves in strange situations where the developer has sold the land twice and are not sure where they stand in a legal system they don’t understand in a country foreign to them.”
Land Registry Director Andreas Christodoulou said the problem often lies with mortgages taken out by developers. “They will mortgage a property, but then sell off different parts of it, such as flats or shops. The flats will all get sold and the developers get their money but leave the property mortgaged.”
He said deeds couldn’t be issued until developers had paid off loans or transferred mortgages.
Spokesman for the British High Commission in Nicosia Nigel Boud said: “The High Commission has received a number of requests for assistance from British nationals residing in Cyprus who have had problems obtaining title deeds. Our advice, in what is a private or civil matter, is that people should seek independent and qualified legal advice.
Part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice for Cyprus states that before purchasing property anywhere on the island, the buyer is strongly advised to seek legal advice from a source independent to the seller.”
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2006