THE ADVANTAGES which Cyprus has are evident to all – friendly and hospitable people, beautiful countryside and many others too numerous to mention.
The disadvantage which Cyprus has is the Internet – not the speed or reliability of the data transfer, but the fact that anyone who is contemplating buying a property in Cyprus will use the internet for their research. After only a few minutes searching, they will surely come across those websites aimed at expatriates which contain countless horror stories relating to Title Deeds and the sharing of communal expenses, and will rapidly come to the conclusion that their property purchase should be made in another country.
I would like to propose two measures which would help to overcome these problems which could help rejuvenate the Cypriot property industry and encourage more foreigners to buy property and spend money in Cyprus.
The first relates to Title Deeds. Any foreigner thinking of buying a property will not proceed if they think there will be any problem with obtaining their Title Deeds. In most major countries, every single property – whether pre owned or a new build – will have its own individual Title Deeds available before the property is put on the market. I believe that it will be in Cyprus’ best interests if it adopts the same procedure. I realise that this will be a major change in the way it has been done for years but sometimes one does have to change in order to progress.
Developers should be taken to court if they start a development without the appropriate planning permission. During the construction phase, there should be regular inspections of the development to ensure it is being built in accordance with the building permit. A final permit should be issued only on completion and a developer who permits buyers to occupy the property before being in receipt of the final permit should be fined. You could ask your representatives in major western countries to research the purchase procedures for a new build property in the countries in which they are serving and for Cyprus to adopt a “best practice” after reviewing the various alternatives.
The preceding will take time to implement. In the meantime, prospective buyers will be following the Title Deeds fiasco for those who have been waiting years for them. Although measures have recently been introduced to expedite the issuance, the problem is that many developers will not be able to finish complexes (“no money”) or obtain the final permit nor be able to pay off their outstanding tax liabilities. The result is that many innocent buyers will not (probably never) obtain their Title Deeds. This will become evident very quickly and will put off prospective buyers.
It is quite unreasonable that innocent buyers should be held hostage by the failure of developers to find the funds to pay off loans, tax obligations or even to finish the complexes. I believe that previous administrations must bear some responsibility for – can I be blunt, this mess – but you have an opportunity to revitalise the property industry by introducing both the measures I am suggesting.
In regards to Title Deeds, I would propose a proper Amnesty, not aimed at developers over minor issues, but aimed at the innocent buyers who have been caught up in a mess which is not of their making. I would propose that Title Deeds be issued to all those who are waiting for them and are in occupation of the property whether the complex has been fully finished or not and for these Title Deeds to be issued by the 31st of December 2014. It would then be the responsibility of the various government departments/banks to sue the developers for not having complied with their obligations – loans, tax, failure to comply with the building permit etc. etc. – and not hold the innocent buyers hostage to failings of other parties.
My second measure relates to the handling of those owners who refuse to contribute to the communal expenses in a complex. There are many threads on the internet where a prospective purchaser will quickly learn that it may be possible to take non payers to court but it will take many years with several lawyers advising that it will not be worth it until the arrears amount to several thousand Euros. Non-payment causes much anguish and stress and complexes which have non payers quickly become run down. Indeed, any visitor to Cyprus cannot fail to notice the many tatty blocks of flats which can only impart on the visitor a feeling that they have entered a third world country.
I would propose that non-payment of communal charges should become a police matter. A complaint from an authorised residents’ committee to the police should result in that complaint being investigated within a matter of days and, if the complaint is deemed to be justified, the non-payer should be given 28 days in which to start making payments acceptable to the residents’ committee or else the police should be able to impose an “on the spot” fine with further fines to be imposed every 28 days until the miscreant starts to make his payments.
In conclusion, the question on which your administration should focus is this:
Why on earth should any foreigner buy a property in Cyprus which will undoubtedly result in lots of stress with the likelihood of owning a property in a complex which will become more and more run down and with the prospect of not even holding the Title Deeds?
I believe that you now have an opportunity to transform the property industry in Cyprus which will result in satisfied buyers, more income for Cyprus and more Cypriots employed spending more money. The alternative is for the property market to remain moribund with fewer and fewer buyers and more and more empty and partly finished developments with even the occupied developments becoming more and more run down.
A foreign Cyprus resident. Name and address supplied