THE CYPRUS Interior Minister is considering measures and new legislation aimed at speeding up the issue of Title Deeds to the 100,000+ properties without them. However as any proposed legislation needs the approval of the House, MPs with vested interests could scupper his plans.
It is understood that these proposals will be targeted at clearing the logjam caused by various misdemeanours by property developers, buyers, and bankers as well as bureaucratic delays in the Land Registries.
In summary, the measures are as follows:
- Liberal building amnesty to enable properties that have not been built in accordance with the permissions and permits issued for their construction to be ‘legalised’ on payment of a fine by the transgressor. The level of the fine will depend on type, severity and degree of the infringement. The amnesty will not cover intrusions into neighbouring land or change of use, but it could be applicable in cases where building density and floor height limits have been exceeded.
- Division permits are to be issued at the same time as the cover building permit (currently these are applied for after cover building permits have been issued).
- Properties forming part of a development complex will be issued with Title Deeds; those with planning infringements being issued with a “temporary” Title Deed. Although the ownership of properties with “temporary” Title Deeds may be transferred to buyers, they may not be resold or mortgaged unless they are covered by the proposed building amnesty.
- If, when a property is sold, it is mortgaged (or the land on which it is built is mortgaged) the vendor will be required to provide the buyer with a mortgage release from the mortgagor.
The Interior Ministry has received a number of suggestions to further alleviate the problem, but has yet to take them on board:
- Privatisation of the surveying work carried out by the Land Registry, which is currently overwhelmed. Although it has been argued that the government will receive millions of Euros in Property Transfer Fees, it will incur a considerable additional cost by outsourcing this work.
- The appointment of an individual from the private sector to act as a ‘super coordinator’ responsible for the supervision and implementation of the above measures.
- Separation of the issue of a certificate of final approval from the legal occupation of a building. (Article 10 of the Streets and Buildings Regulations Law, Cap. 96, provides that no person shall occupy, use or permit any other person to occupy or use any building, unless and until a certificate of approval has been issued in respect thereof by the appropriate authority).
- The value of a property at 1.1.80 (on which the Immovable Property Tax liability is calculated) to be assessed by approved valuers at the time of sale and stated in the sales contract. This value will be reviewed by the Land Registry when it issues the Title Deed and adjusted accordingly. The buyer will be liable to pay Immovable Property Tax on production of the Inland Revenue receipts by the registered owner.
The report claims that the main cause of the Title Deed problem results from the recent property boom. But it fails to state that the problem has been around for many years and that although successive governments have made many vacuous promises, nothing’s been done to resolve the issues.
However, it does admit that problems are also caused by developers jumping onto the money-making bandwagon, the attitude of civil servants and staff shortages, the inefficiency of local authorities, and the greed of financial institutions who lend money to just about anyone who asks.
Meanwhile, pressure on the government continues to mount as news of Cyprus’ Title Deed problems reached the U.S.A. when the New York Times printed a story ‘Homeowners on Cyprus Turn to British Courts‘.