THE NEW legislation aimed at speeding up the issuing of Title Deeds with the ultimate aim of a clearing a backlog of 100,000 is an ambitious project that will not necessarily be successful. At least the Cyprus Interior Minister, Neoclis Sylikiotis, is prepared to have a go at it, in stark contrast to the Ministers of previous governments who refused to touch it.
The prevailing view was that it was preferable to pretend the problem did not exist, as everybody appeared to be happy with the situation. Buyers did not have to pay the transfer tax (eight per cent on the value of the property if it was worth more than €170,000) or the final instalment to the buyer for the issuing of the Title Deed. In a way, the system suited many buyers, especially if they intended to live in the property.
Some deputies took up the issue however, a couple of years ago, and tried to come up with some legal arrangement that would open the way for the issuing of Title Deeds. Nothing came of the initiative because this was a complex issue that required the involvement of several departments and the drafting of detailed regulations. There had to be regulations for dealing with violations of building permits and the issuing of final approvals by the Town Planning Department, without which approvals no Deed could be issued.
All these matters would be tackled by the proposed legislation drafted by the Interior Ministry, assuming that it is approved by the House of Representatives. It would open the way for many property owners to secure Title Deeds. An owner of a flat penalised for building violations by the developer, or other owners in the same block, would be able to have a Title Deed issued for his property. Someone who has violated his building permit would pay a fine and final approval would be issued by the authorities.
It is ironic that these measures would not be much help to the foreign property buyers who had campaigned for action. The Title Deeds of many foreign buyers are held by the banks as security for loans given to developers and there is nothing the government could do about this as this is considered a private contractual difference between the buyer and developer that could only be settled in court.
Sylikiotis said that he hoped the backlog of 20,000 cases at the Land Surveys Department would be wiped out by the middle of next year, thus clearing the way for the issuing of more Title Deeds. This urgency has been dictated by the poor state of Cyprus’ public finances and the government’s desperate need for funds. Whether it will be successful remains to be seen. The Ministry has done all it could, but there is a suspicion that only people who were planning to sell their property would be prepared to pay the transfer taxes and possible fines to have a Title Deed issued. The rest might not be in a big hurry to get their Title Deeds.
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2009