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Cyprus Title Deeds: Miliband waits for action

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Chancellor Alistair Darling have been in communication regarding the ongoing Cyprus Title Deed saga

PROTECTING the rights of property buyers in Cyprus is being discussed by some of the most powerful names in UK politics, after a stream of disgruntled home owners have been forced to plead to British MPs for urgent assistance.

Most pleas come from residents that remain stuck in limbo with no end in sight to their title deed saga. A staggering 80 per cent to 90 per cent of all owners of properties still do not have their deeds.

In two letters seen by the Cyprus Mail, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Chancellor Alistair Darling have been in communication concerning the ongoing saga within the past ten days.

Darling, representing two of his constituents that are fighting for the deeds for a property they bought on the island, received a lengthy response from Miliband last week which stated:

I understand the concern about the practice in Cyprus of title deeds not being supplied on completion of a property purchase. The practice of property developers not supplying title deeds to purchasers has the potential to affect a large number of British citizens as well as other foreign nationals living in Cyprus.

In the letter Miliband also states that the British High Commissioner to Cyprus had “received assurances” from the Cypriot Interior Ministry that they would introduce a bill to address the situation soon.

L-R Cyprus Foreign Minister, Markos Kyprianou; Foreign Secretary, David Miliband; President of Cyprus Dimitris Christofias; Former Minister for Europe, Jim Murphy and Special Representative to Cyprus, Joan Ryan meeting in London, 5 June 2008.

Since Miliband’s arrival at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office two years ago, he has been seen to take a much more ‘hands on approach’ in comparison to his predecessors on matters large and small, and the Cyprus property issue is understood to be of ‘great interest’ to him.

A spokesman for the British authorities in Nicosia confirmed that a meeting between the High Commissioner and a high ranking official at the Cyprus Interior Ministry had taken place just before Christmas.

The meeting was productive, we have been assured that a bill on the matter would be submitted to parliament,” the spokesman told the Cyprus Mail, “We have not heard anything since then,” he added.

The spokesman declined to comment further on the matter, or say if a timeframe for the bill had been given, only adding that they are “watching developments closely.

Denis O’Hare of the Cyprus Property Action Group (CPAG) told the Cyprus Mail he had heard ‘absolutely nothing’ about any new bill being discussed by the government in Nicosia.

If the government does have legislation planned to deal with this dire problem which affects over 100,000 properties, why don’t they just tell us? Would it not be a sensible action for them to be open and frank and stop letting so many people lose sleep at night,” he said.

Title Deeds, which are officially referred to as “Certificates of Registration of Immovable Property”, are the most important evidence of property ownership, but with so few people receiving the documents after paying hundreds of thousands of pounds for houses and apartments, confidence from potential buyers is at an all time low.

A well informed source at the Ministry of the Interior said he was unaware of any new legislation being drafted to tackle the title deed dilemma.

In his lengthy letter to Alistair Darling, the British Foreign Secretary also stated that he “will continue to take a close interest in developments and look forward to seeing the measures by which the Cypriot government will attempt to resolve this matter.

More worrying for the battered image Cyprus property market, Miliband points to an updated warning on the Foreign Office Website which gives blunt advice for citizens thinking of buying property in Cyprus.

We warn British citizens of the risks involved in purchasing property in Cyprus, and that many British citizens face problems, including as not having title deeds.

The no-nonsense Foreign Office bulletin adds, We also advise British citizens to proceed with caution and seek legal advice from a source that is independent from anyone else in the transaction.

A well known property analyst told the Cyprus Mail that the government seem intent on letting the title deed problem continue to cause misery to thousands of people that had moved here for a ‘dream retirement’ in Cyprus.

Sometimes I think the Cyprus government, not just this one, but the last one think the title deed issue will just disappear. It’s staggering to see such an urgent and important issue being totally and utterly ignored by the state.

Miliband adds in his letter that the CPAG is in close contact with the High Commission and a reliable source for all property related information.

In a scathing letter sent to the Interior Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis late last year, Marios Matsakis MEP wrote that the title deed situation had, “reached the proportions of a scandal; and for which many people, both Cypriot nationals and foreigners, are totally unjustly losing or risk losing their homes. The matter is quite unacceptable by any standards of justice or fair play and it must come to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion soon.

But the bad publicity in the European and Russian media about the situation is said to be doing ‘irreversible damage’ Cyprus property market.

Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2009

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