PROPERTY buyers have accused the Cyprus government of misleading the British government by giving assurances of new legislation to tackle the Title Deeds issue when no such plans exist.
Interior Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis was invited to a meeting of home buyers last week in Paphos but opted instead to send Andreas Symeou from the Land and Surveys Department. During a short speech by Symeou the atmosphere soon turned sour when it became apparent that no new legislation for existing owners was actually being drafted.
“During the meeting Mr. Symeou was forced to disclose that the only legislation under review was another amnesty for developers who had broken the planning laws and were unable to obtain a Final Certificate of Completion; plus legislation to protect future buyers was being developed. We note that an amnesty was tried three years ago and produced no tangible results in the issuance of Title Deeds then, as the overriding problem is the developer loans, currently these are estimated at €4 billion,” said Denis O’Hare, who leads the Cyprus Property Action Group (CPAG).
“The Ministry misled the British Government and the thousands of worried buyers who had been promised suitable legislation. But this irresponsible Cyprus government was now admitting that many buyers were being left to sink with their developers who will surely go bust in today’s economic climate.”
O’Hare’s sentiments were echoed by property advisor Nigel Howarth, who was also at the meeting.
“The atmosphere of the meeting turned from high expectation to shock and anger when we learned that the plans were nothing more than hot air,” he said.
The ongoing Title Deed fiasco, which has left some 100,000 home buyers – including 30,000 foreigners – without their Title Deeds could turn ugly as fed up residents say they may be forced to resort to direct action.
At the packed meeting of disgruntled home owners last week, it was decided that the time for talking was over. Hundreds of property buyers are now in the early stages of planning marches and demonstrations in both Cyprus and the United Kingdom.
“Enough is enough, we are fed up with empty talk, false promises and being fed lie after lie,” one owner told the Sunday Mail, “We need to be marching, shouting and taking action against a corrupt system that puts profit above honest people.”
Over 500 people crammed into the Elysium Hotel in Paphos for the gathering organised by CPAG, which is demanding that long-suffering home owners finally be given the deeds to their properties.
Those at the event say they are just ordinary hard-working people that saved hard to purchase their holiday and retirement homes and that they won’t give up without a fight.
In December the government assured the British High Commission that legislation to deal with the problem was being drafted, but since then nothing more has been heard about the matter.
A British High Commission spokesman told the Sunday Mail that they were in constant contact with the government and had been assured that legislation was being drafted to solve the matter, but could not give any timeframe or further details. “We are aware that the government is trying to address this issue, and we have no reason to believe otherwise,” he added.
One owner from Paphos, who has waited twelve years for his deeds, mocked that promised legislation by the government was “pure fiction“.
When a suggestion was made to ‘up the ante’ and take direct action, the crowd gave a wave of applause, with some audience members even cheering.
Until recently, Cyprus had seemed like the ideal place for pensioners to spend the rest of their lives, but for most their hopes have quickly been marred by property scam nightmares and the Title Deed shambles.
“It is sad that it has come to this but the full blame for the need for this action by these desperate homebuyers who brought their wealth to Cyprus only to be treated in this shabby fashion now lies with this government,” O’Hare added.
One couple spoke of trouble trying to sell their property without the deeds: “The pain, despair and anger gets worse actually, we desperately wanted to sell, but the people that have viewed our property ask one thing, have we got the deeds?”
Title Deeds, which are officially referred to as “Certificates of Registration of Immovable Property”, are the most important evidence of property ownership, but with hardly any buyers receiving the documents after paying hundreds of thousands of pounds for houses and apartments, confidence from potential buyers is at an all time low. Under present legislation it is the developers who took out mortgages on those properties – either to build them in the first place or to finance other projects – who remain, as far as the banks are concerned, the legal owners until those mortgages are paid off. In the meantime, the Title Deeds are kept by the banks rather than the people who actually bought the individual houses.
The situation is now so dire that CPAG are receiving an unprecedented amount of calls and emails every day from people pleading for help.
“We now take on average 100 or more telephone calls and emails daily, it really is getting out of control,” O’Hare added.
Prospective property buyers are already cautious about investing in Cyprus and a recently updated warning on the British Foreign Office Website gives blunt advice.
“We warn British citizens of the risks involved in purchasing property in Cyprus, and that many British citizens face problems, including 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.”
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2009