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Call to outsource Title Deeds procedure

THE ISSUING of Title Deeds for new properties currently takes up to 20 years in some areas of Cyprus with thousands pending, the island’s developers association said yesterday.

Lakis Tofarides, the chairman of Cyprus Land and Building Developers Association said between four to seven years are needed to issue a Title in the Nicosia district while it could take 10 or 20 years to issue a Title in the coastal areas if there are no irregularities or changes to the property.

I assure you, in most cases there are changes and irregularities,” Tofarides told reporters.

An estimated 130,000 Titles are still pending, though many concern privately owned houses, the developers said.

The association suggested allowing private certified experts to carry out 11 of the 12 procedures currently needed to issue a Title, letting the Land Registry handle the final approval.

This, the developers said, would enable the state to issue 30,000 to 40,000 Titles annually, without an additional cost and receive at least €30 million more a year from transfer fees.

It will also free the property market from rigid bureaucratic procedures and Cyprus will stop being discredited abroad as a problematic property market that does not issue Titles and traps buyers.

The association welcomed the government’s decision to implement a building amnesty and suggested that incentives should be given so entice the largest possible number of owners.

If the amnesty succeeds it could fetch the state over €300 million in just a few years, the developers said.

They also recommended the introduction of a unified development authority that will have the form of a one-stop shop to handle all procedures for issuing permits, since it will include all relevant services like, town-planning, municipalities, and public works.

This will abolish the current bureaucracy, avoid unnecessary expenses and issue necessary permits in a short period,” Tofarides said.

The developers had several suggestions aiming to rejuvenate the property market that has taken the hardest hit from the global economic crisis.

They want the scrapping of transfer fees where VAT is imposed.

We are saying that government revenue will increase with a cut in fees,” Tofarides said.

Around 27 per cent of the cost of buying a property goes to the government.

He said transfer fee scales should be amended to reflect the current state of affairs.

They had been imposed around 10 years ago when an average apartment cost €51,000.

The state charged three per cent for the first €85,000, five per cent for the next €85,000 and eight per cent thereafter.

This was designed so that people could acquire a home with low transfer fees – in that case €1500.

But today, the same apartment costs €200,000 with people asked to fork out €9,000 in transfer fees and an additional €30,000 in VAT.

The figures are frightening,” Tofarides said.

The association called for a cut in the capital gains tax – from 20% to 10% – for a specific period of time to help land deals to be carried out in more reasonable prices and contain the phenomenon of undeclared cash that never enters the economy.

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