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Giovannis Kouzalis writes about his struggle for Title Deed reform and his belief that the proposed changes to the legislation will not solve the problem unless they are made much stronger, more precise, and provide immediate solutions.

OUR firm has consistently fought for Cyprus Title Deed reform. Not only do we represent an enormous number of clients but as Cypriots who also have properties without Title Deeds. Being honest not only do we worry, but we fear that our children will still have the same and even bigger problems regarding Title Deeds. We believe that our fate is in our hands.

We attempted to take some actions to support the Title Deed campaign. Three years ago we held a seminar in Ayia Napa with Mr Antonis Loizou as main speaker, where we invited all parties involved: Bankers, Local Authorities, Planning Authority, District Office, Developers, Lawyers, Accountants and Agents. It is fair to say that none of the representatives of the three Famagusta local authorities and the District office invited attended. According to one of them “it was not our fault that there are no Title Deeds”. (This is the typical Cypriot attitude… it is not my fault… it is somebody else! It is never me…). What I do not understand though is why there are almost no Title Deeds in Ayia Napa, it takes 8 – 10 years to get Title Deeds in Paralimni and only 2 – 4 in Dherynia!

We have even gone as far as to meet with the Interior Minister; Mr Neoclis Sylikiotis, and present to him the problems of the current Title Deed procedure and at the same time ascertain how be could help the situation.

At the beginning, he was very negative with us as the ministry officials never presented him the letters we have been sending about the Title Deeds. It was such a surprise when he complained about us attacking him personally… however, when he had the opportunity to listen to me on the phone and I requested him to check all letters my office had sent, he realised that our attempt was not against him… but to support him to finalise the bills, stating our disagreement and our thoughts and suggestions. In my language this is constructive criticism. This is something that we lack on this island.

The minister then immediately arranged a meeting where we even presented ways to control how the employees can do their work and how to monitor who does the work and who does not. The meeting was very productive. (We do feel that though the minister is very eager to move things forward, we also feel that the governmental ‘machine’ and the governmental employees do not want him to do so. I hope we are wrong but this is the feeling we get. The bureaucracy is so extended that it’s impossible to achieve any results if things do not change.) The Minister promised late last year that the bills would be ready shortly. The bill, according to the minister, was actually presented to the Parliament – after consultation with the political parties – for enactment just before summer holidays in 2010.

However, there are now delays on the Cyprus Title Deed Reform and according to the ministry; apparently the Parliament intentionally did not check the bill before the summer holidays. We can safely say we have not given up the fight and we did write to all members of Parliament in order to have the Title Deed Legislation passed more rapidly. At least we thought that we should write to them to get their views as to why the bills were not approved or to find out why they were postponed. Well, being a Greek Cypriot

I must admit that I got… no answers from our members of Parliament. We then wrote to the political parties and we only got an answer from DIKO – by phone confirming that they will do their best for the matter! We also had a response from EDEK. But nothing concrete. We do feel that our MPs should at least show more interest to matters like this. I am actually a bit disappointed by the MPs, as I feel they cannot realise how important this issue is. It is not just about Title Deeds… it is about our Republic. It is about the existence of our culture and civilisation. On Friday I saw a good client who said that the only reason he didn’t buy property in the North is because he felt that Cyprus being an EU country is regulated and safe to invest. Well… he doesn’t feel like that today and I couldn’t bring myself to tell him he was right.

It is very interesting to note that according to the minister, he received a lot of pressure from the political parties not to send the bills to the Parliament. It seems that the developers owe billions to the banks – so it seems that certain sources are very right on that – and even if the bill is approved by the Parliament then still the developers wont be able to pass Title Deeds to the purchasers. Which, of course, gives no other reason to think that the land that innocent purchasers acquired properties on is still charged by the banks for developers’ loans. That seems to be unjustifiable!

This is something that both Mr Sylikiotis and Mr Orphanides of the Central Bank of Cyprus should really investigate. I know for fact that in many cases the banks, even when the developers paid in full their loans, did not remove the charges. Later on when the developers made more loans and couldn’t pay… the new loans, the banks enacted the small letters on the back of their contracts stating that they can use the charges for their favour! Well I hope that the bank can prove the contrary.

The latest news concerning the UK pensioners Mr & Mrs H., who were forced to leave their Cypriot home due to the previous owner still having a mortgage on the property, has made us ever more determined to continue this battle. We empathize with Mr & Mrs H. and we now demand that Parliament deal with this matter promptly and efficiently. Our task is to do all we can to achieve full protection for all Cypriot Property Investors, local and non local. We are in the European Union and this part of the EU belongs to the EU citizens and not to the very few… and not to the banks.

The Title Deed Issue has already stopped a vast number of potential investors into buying in Cyprus. The government and opposition should have been under pressure to tackle the issue. Are they really? Or do they support the few developers that sponsor them? Can we have an honest answer?

Why was there such pressure to Mr. Sylikiotis not to push the reform? Can we at least have a response from the MPs? This time we expect them to inform us of the true reasons for this delay! But most importantly… we expect our MPs to push for the new bills to be passed.

It is fair to point out our position on the Legislation reform. Though we do push for the bills to be passed we do believe that they are not detailed enough. We believe that the proposed bills will not solve the problem. However some action, any action, is better than nothing. First of all we do believe that the five proposed bills should have been much stronger, much more precise and give solutions immediately. The Architects should have more power and more responsibilities as they have in other jurisdictions. Secondly there should be a separation of the Deeds:

a. The Deeds that the buildings are already delivered – with or without problems,

b. The Deeds for the properties that are now under construction,

c. The Deeds for the properties that haven’t started yet.

That would create 3 categories and immediately separate the work and the rules for each category.

A & G Kouzali Law Office
169, 1st April Avenue
P.O. Box 34328
5402, Paralimni
Cyprus
Tel. +357-23811788
Fax +357 23 811 789

Readers' comments

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  • Gavin Jones says:

    Mr. Kouzalkis’ words merely echo what many thousands have been saying and writing for years and I applaud him for it: better late than never.

    For far too long it’s been the dreaded foreigner who’s been sticking his head above the parapet and in most cases receiving the opprobrium not just from Cypriots but also from their own countrymen for (a) rocking the proverbial boat, (b) helping to depress property prices (c) not respecting the Cypriots’ ‘artful ways’ of doing things. Other spurious sycophantic utterances are legion and I don’t want to waste time listing them here.

    Websites such as this one and Cyprus Property Action Group’s have been in the vanguard of this defence of people’s legitimate rights and publicizing their understandable outrage and they should be rightly applauded for it.

    The fact of the matter is that the whole rotten edifice is corrupt from top to bottom: government, judiciary, financial institutions and construction industry. They’re ALL intertwined and reliant on their mutual self-interest and for ‘self-interest’ read chicanery on a huge scale. Both trust and credit not only domestically but also within the global community has gone and Cyprus has attained a basket case category of total corruption.

    Solution? This can ONLY be rectified if the EU officially recognizes this fact and actually steps in and takes appropriate action. Nothing else will do and certainly not yet another billion eurobond issue which the government is desperately trying to promote.

    All countries change but as an Anglo-Cypriot I’ve witnessed Cyprus degenerating into something which is unrecognisable from the sweet land that I remember and unless drastic remedial action is enacted the game’s truly up.

    Unfortunately, I suspect that the ‘game’ is ALREADY up both economically, politically and, more importantly, morally…

  • Andrew says:

    Mr. Kouzalis should be applauded for his honest letter and he should also be encouraged by the support that is being shown here.

    Every society can be changed for the better when decent people start to band together. Cyprus is a democracy and people have the right to vote for a government that represents the ordinary people. Make sure these issues are in the manifesto of the party that you vote for.

    In the meantime write to your euro MP because they too are elected to represent the people and surely we are all people of Europe.

    Title Deeds should be issued without delay to owners who have paid for their homes .

    Banks should sort out their own debt issues with developers and not hold innocent home owners to ransom.
    It is not too late for Cyprus to turn this problem around, but it sure is getting close.

  • Liz says:

    Sorry to correct you Steve, the Minister promised to have the new legislation through by the end of 2008!

    Please see : https://www.news.cyprus-property-buyers.com/2008/06/20/new-title-deed-law-by-year-end/id=00444

  • Steve says:

    Mr Kouzalis’s article paints a familiar picture of inaction by the Cypriot authorities in what is, from the property owners’ point of view, a desperate situation. The Minister of the Interior undertook to have the necessary legislation introduced and passed through parliament by the end of 2009, whereas by the close of 2010 parliament will probably not have even discussed it. Ironically this may be a good thing because the legislation is so flawed it will take the situation backwards with no prospect of an early revision of the obvious flaws that have been outlined in some detail in a number of articles on this web site. However, if Mr Kouzalis thinks that any action is better than nothing, we need to explore why there has been no action. I can see two major clear reasons for this:

    First, the MP’s in the Cyprus parliament do not see this issue as being related to the votes that they need in elections to keep their seats, so there is no political urgency.

    Second, and more damning, even with the adverse publicity that the mortgage and title deed scam has attracted, new developments continue to be sold to new buyers in Cyprus, so as far as the developers are concerned, when the global financial crisis is sorted out, it will be business as usual; and they are probably right. There is no critical incentive for progress to be made

  • Ian Cracknell says:

    If a respectful Cypriot Co. as this cannot get a ball into their own goal what chance do us non residents have.

  • Clive Fletcher says:

    Good article but again doesn’t tackle the real problem why many title deeds aren’t or cannot be issued. The developers loans have in all probability been sold off by the Cypriot banks as Toxic Debt to non-EU banks at 60% of their value. Now the MPs may, allegedly, well have their sticky little fingers in this, hence they aren’t taking any action.

    If only purchasers could get the information from the Cyprus banks that originally made the loan(s)/mortgage(s) and then find out where they are now, Russia, Syria, North African banks etc the whole issues could be exposed. Only pressure from the EU Central Bank could make this happen. Meanwhile the misery for many purchasers goes on.

  • James JH lockhart says:

    Giovannis very frank letter shows just how bad the situation is in Cyprus, letters never answered (as many will know) a country run by developers & lawyers for there own personal interest.

    Even the Minister is helpless to achieve change.

    Clearly for Cyprus to change for the better there appears no will on the part of the (lawyer) deputies

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    Good stuff Mr Kouzalis and thanks for sticking your neck out.

    Costas Apacket is right. A Title Deed is really only a glorified receipt acknowledging ownership. What a TD has got to do with all the planning compliances etc heaven only knows. TDs should never be entangled with such nonsense. Only Cyprus does this, much to the amusement and annoyance of the rest of the EU and other countries whose citizens are being tricked, trapped and defrauded.

    Jon Frazer is also right. Many people are also asking, for example, how it is possible without a conflict of interest for the Attorney General as a very senior officer of the government to also sit on and chair the Bar Association Disciplinary Board (a supposedly independent professional body). It does not look good, does it, when complaints of misconduct or even fraud against lawyers seem to be routinely ignored or dismissed peremptorily. Justice must not only be done but be seen to be done.

  • jon frazer says:

    Our thanks to Mr. Kouzalis for the article and his continuing probing of this important issue. He is ideally placed to get hold of facts and convey them to the public.

    It is clear that the main problem is developers who have borrowed at great leverage against buyer’s assets, and who cannot now repay, and are stalling the process, with the help of their chums (the lawyers), in the political arena.

    There are about 2,000 lawyers listed in Cyprus. The population is about 700,000. They therefore make up about 0.3% of the overall population. Yet I understand that they make up nearly 70% of parliament. This disproportionate representation of an already powerful almost unaccountable body should be made very clear to the EU, in any communications about the situation here. It tells one, at a stroke, a great deal.

  • Peter says:

    Simple, buy a property in Cyprus and you will never get the title deeds to own your own home.

    And one day the bank will call to collect the mortgage to sell it to clear off someone else’s debts.

    The moral to the story is don’t buy in Cyprus and tell your friend how corrupt the people are, the banks are, the developers are, and the Government is.

    Cyprus as a destination is finished, dead in the water.

    Pass the message on, because Cyprus deserves the bad publicity.

  • Costas Apacket says:

    A good article, and quite frightening to hear that even a Cypriot Law Firm cannot get any clear response from the Government or make any sense of the delays in this important area.

    All of these issues could be resolved for future property sales by the Government passing a law ensuring that both new and existing properties must be sold with a legal title deed registered in the name of the purchaser at the point of sale.

    Regards issuing titles for existing properties, there needs to be a much more transparent system to enable purchasers to identify just where they are up to in the planning and legal process.

    If there were, for example, 12 clearly defined steps between planning approval and issue of individual Title Deeds it should be made simple for purchasers to find out where they are in this process and who is dealing with this stage.

    This information could easily be made available online on the Internet

    This would at least give purchasers the ability to question and chase up either the developer, district planning office or anyone else who is holding up the process, including the Banks.

    The fact that there are simple solutions to this crucial issue which the Cypriot Government are ignoring, in favour of complicated and long winded legislatory machinations, leaves me in no doubt that there are influential forces at work here protecting vested interests amongst the privileged brotherhood.

  • The views expressed in readers' comments are not necessarily shared by the Cyprus Property News.

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