LEGISLATION designed to tackle the bane of unlicensed constructions across the island, as well as spelling out who is responsible for what in real estate transactions could be ready by next month and may at long last bring relief to thousands of ‘trapped’ property buyers.
It’s estimated there are some 100,000 Cypriots and foreigners without Title Deeds for their properties, the majority because of building permit violations.
Politicians are working on a cluster of bills involving a so-called ‘town planning amnesty’ and at the same time accelerating the issuing of building and town planning permits, which under the present circumstances takes years.
The bills should be ready to go to the plenum by mid-October, chairman of the House Interior Committee Yiannos Lamaris said yesterday.
“The town-planning regulations have two directions,” Lamaris said. “One leads to simplification of the procedures for issuing Title Deeds and of all those practices to which we had become accustomed so far.”
The second direction will allow people to ‘buy out’ minor violations, thus enabling the acquisition of a final certificate of approval for building and the Title Deed itself.
In certain cases, the violations will be disclosed on the Title Deed so that when a property is sold the buyer knows what they’re getting, Lamaris said.
Subsequently, the fact that such violations had existed would not impact the status of the structure, its functionality or the facilities available to the occupants.
“There shall be no arrangement which facilitates one person and inconveniences another,” Lamaris remarked.
One idea being mulled over is to have chartered surveyors furnish the property owner with a certificate attesting that construction works have been completed.
The Land Registry meanwhile is tasked with drawing up a ‘price list’ for violations which can be ‘bought out’ and thus ‘legalised’.
The list would class violations by type and by area, Lamaris said, although it was too early to say what the corresponding buyout fees would be. The cost list, when completed, would not require ratification by parliament.
DISY MP Christos Stylianides said that legislation to regulate town planning matters was long overdue, adding that it would “restore, finally, the relationship between the state and its citizens and the relationship between the buyer and the seller”.
He stressed that a solution to the problem was imperative to the island’s economic growth “but also, more importantly, to our country’s image and our efforts to maintain our credibility among tourists”.
“The ongoing discussion [at the House committee] is taking place in a consensual climate…and we feel that in the end, and with the assistance of government technocrats, we shall come up with a radical solution to a problem which for years has dogged our society and which sends out the worst possible messages abroad regarding the state of real estate development, Title Deeds and final certificates of approval in Cyprus.”
The backbone of the economy, the real estate sector has become heavily reliant on foreign buyers, particularly retirees. But the local market’s reputation has been dealt a blow after a series of allegations of property fraud, highlighted by the Cyprus Property Action Group (CPAG).
And earlier this year, a British couple won a landmark Supreme Court ruling by which they were awarded €120,000 as a result of their lawyer’s negligence in a property case.
The couple had sued their Cypriot lawyer for negligently handling a property contract in 1999, which led to them losing a significant amount of money while never getting the property. The lawyer had failed to inform the couple that the property had been twice mortgaged and had a charge registered against it. The developer who signed the contract subsequently went bankrupt and never finished the house.