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
Fax +357 23 811 789