THE HOUSE Interior Committee began discussions on three of five bills that aim to reform the legal framework for governing building permits and the issuing of Title Deeds – a move expected among others to bring in significant revenue to the state.
The remaining two bills, which have to do with the legal aspect of the matter, will be discussed at the House Legal Affairs Committee.
“All the bills are centred on the buyer,” Interior Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis said yesterday. “The main aim is to give land owners and buyers, Cypriot and foreign, the opportunity to receive Title Deeds. We also aim to improve the property sector’s operation and increase revenue, putting an end to this massive problem with the Title Deeds, which has exposed us as a state.”
Apart from the financial aspect, the bills are of great significance for the Cypriot property market, which is currently in great disarray due to difficulties in acquiring Title Deeds.
Thousands of home buyers, including many foreign nationals, remain without Title Deeds due to various reasons. More seriously, many owners can’t receive their Deeds because a developer failed or was unable to pay off the building’s mortgage. Many foreign investors, mainly British, have taken the matter to their own governments.
Sylikiotis yesterday said the state was finally on its way to finding a permanent solution to the problem, after two years of discussions and consultations with all parties involved.
“In June the bills were published in the Republic’s Official Gazette so interested bodies could submit their views,” he said. “We then held meetings with all political parties and interested parties. We used all the suggestions, views and proposals to reach a collective conclusion that will resolve the problems faced by thousands of home owners,” he added.
The bills include provisions that will offer buyers the ability to acquire Title Deeds, even if their property is part of a development with multiple units, which wasn’t the case up until now.
“For example, if someone applies for licensing to build 200 apartments and builds 50, those who own those 50 apartments will be able to apply for their Title Deeds straight away instead of having to wait for all 200 apartments to be complete; as was the case until now,” Sylikiotis explained.
Local authorities will also be given the right to act independently, impose fines when the law is being broken and generally ensure procedures aren’t stalled by crippling bureaucracy.
Sylikiotis explained that the fines will be calculated based among other factors, on the extent of the discrepancy.
The expected revenue, he added, had not yet been estimated. “In the first months of 2010, there was a 30 per cent increase in property sales compared to 2009. If we consider that a Title Deed costs around €7,000 to €8,000, the bills are expected to enrich the state by around €150 million a year,” Sylikiotis said.
Interior Committee Chairman Yiannos Lamaris of AKEL applauded the minister’s efforts to find a solution to the problem, “which has caused great hassle to Cypriots and foreigners, and has exposed our country abroad”.
“We have reached a point as a society, where the institutions need operate completely as soon as this law is passed; we can’t start having problems again, otherwise these discussions will be pointless,” he said.
Christos Stylianides of DISY said there was no doubt the new bills would reinforce Cyprus’ prestige abroad and turn it into a desirable investment destination. “The problem is multidimensional, but we have a duty to reach a collective conclusion as soon as possible,” said Stylianides.