A RECENT mini-poll conducted by the Cyprus Property News showed that 52 percent of the 1,040 readers who expressed an opinion believed that the availability of Title Deeds was the most important factor in getting the Island’s beleaguered property market back on its feet.
Property prices should represent value for money came in second with 18% of the votes, followed by an improvement in the economic situation (14%), other reasons (6%), a reduction in interest rates (4%), golf courses and marinas (3%) and finally improved build quality (3%).
Among the ‘other reasons’ given were a need for improved legal safeguards for those buying property, more effective enforcement of the law, reduction of alleged incompetence and corruption by those in the legal profession (and others) and a greater determination by politicians to resolve the many problems affecting the market.
It is comes as no surprise that Title Deeds tops the poll as in some cases it can take 20 years or even longer for deeds to be issued. ‘Title Deed problems’ have been the subject of much media attention in the foreign press and questions have been raised in the European Parliament.
Many other countries in Europe and elsewhere operate a similar Land Registry system in which Title Deeds are issued on delivery of a property, or a few days later.
It is difficult to understand why Cyprus cannot investigate and adopt ‘best practice’ used by Land Registries and Planning Authorities in other countries as it appears that its current system is no longer fit for purpose.
Although the Cyprus government recently strengthened some property-related laws it seems that this has done little to inspire a recovery in investor confidence.
The adoption of a new ‘Specific Performance Law’ and changes to some other laws earlier this year attempted to patch some of the issues that resulted from delays in issuing Title Deeds. But they do not address the fundamental causes of the problem – mind-numbing bureaucracy within central and local government, developers who ignore the law and who profit as a result and the banks whose apparent reckless lending has resulted in even more problems for buyers now that the market has virtually collapsed.