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MEP questions clearance of Title Deed backlog (updated)

Update 24 April. MEP Robert Sturdy has raised a question in the European Parliament requesting the Commission for an update on the current state of affairs concerning the clearance of Cyprus’ Title Deed backlog.

Robert Study an MEP for the East of England

Robert Study MEP for the East of England

UNDER the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoU) Cyprus has agreed to eliminate the Title Deed backlog to less than 2,000 cases by the fourth quarter of 2014.

Robert Sturdy, a UK MEP representing the East of England, has asked the European Commission for an update on the current state of affairs, with reference to a change in the MoU reducing the agreed target to applications that have already been received.

Question for written answer E-002584-14
to the Commission
Rule 117
Robert Sturdy (ECR)Subject:  Cyprus title deeds  As a condition of the bailout given to Cyprus by the Troika, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) setting out economic policy conditionality was drafted. Part of the MoU stipulated that the Cypriot authorities had to eliminate the title deed issuance backlog to less than 2,000 cases by the fourth quarter of 2014.I understand from previous information given by the Commission in response to written questions that resolving the title deeds issue requires deep structural reforms in the housing market and the immovable property regulation. However, it has come to my attention that there has been a change in the agreement and that the MoU now requires only title deeds already lodged with the Land Registry to be completed.Following up on previous questions on this issue, I would like an update on the current state of affairs.1. Can the Commission confirm whether the MoU has been changed so that only title deeds already lodged with the Land Registry must be completed?

2. Does the Commission estimate that Cyprus will meet the deadline of the fourth quarter of 2014?

Answer given by Mr Kallas on behalf of the Commission (added)

While the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed between Cyprus and the ESM has introduced a clearer definition of title deed ‘backlog’, it did not change the overall objective. The MoU (paragraph 5.3) clearly states that the backlog is the sum of two items:

(i) Title deed applications that have already been lodged with the Land Registry; and

(2) Pending title deeds that are eligible for ‘ex-officio issuance’; This means any title deeds that can be issued technically, even if no application has been lodged with the Land Registry yet.

However, please note that this paragraph only refers to title deed issuance, which is mainly an administrative challenge. In contrast, the transfer of title deeds from developers to home owners is an integral part of paragraph 1.29 in the MoU [1].

Cyprus is making progress towards meeting the deadline of the fourth quarter of 2014 which is monitored closely and assessed during the regular programme implementation reviews.

[1] Support Group for Cyprus, first Activity Report: helping Cyprus pursue reforms and restore growth

See also: Memorandum of Understanding

Readers' comments

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  • Janner says:

    @Pete. If the legal route is too expensive and the ECHR isn’t interested and the Cypriot government isn’t interested then there is nothing that can be done. Cypriots have kept the money and the land!

  • Pete says:

    Janner,
    the ECHR has had a number of cases submitted and as far as I know, all of them have been refused. The reason given seems to be that “not all local remedies” have been exhausted. Quite what that means is open to interpretation (or should I say ‘misinterpretation?) but as we know, getting those responsible into court would take years and cost more than most of us have; but of course, the culprits already know this and that’s why they’re laughing.

  • Janner says:

    Re: Martin’s comments. Has the EU High Court of Justice been involved in any of the cases? I find it remarkable that a purchaser would be held responsible for someone else’s debt. The entire conveyancing system just seems completely corrupt and would surely not stand up to scrutiny at the High Court. Just think about the madness of this mess. Would it really be acceptable to the High Court? If so, why doesn’t every nation run things this way. It’s a great scam….

  • Susan Kerr says:

    I would like to know how many people who applied for Amnesty have been successful. We applied together with two of our neighbours only to be rejected because the developer had not completed the project. We were willing to complete the work ourselves only to be told that the developer would need to sign a document to allow us to do this! To file the application cost each of us 600 euros, I think the Amnesty process has become yet another corrupt money making exercise.

  • kufrahdog says:

    If my interpretation of his smart words is correct, from the reply by Mr Kallas on behalf of the Commission, it would seem that of the 130,000 title deeds estimated to comprise the backlog that:

    A) A number of Title Deeds would be issued because applications for transfer have already been lodged with the Land Registry and there are no ‘technical’ difficulties attaching which would prevent issue;

    B) A number of Title Deeds for which no applications to transfer exist would be eligible for issue provided that there are no ‘technical’ difficulties which would prevent issue. One assumes that Title Deeds in this category would be issued by the Land Registry on receipt of an application to transfer; and

    C) A number of Title Deeds for which no applications to transfer exist will not be eligible for issue even if an application to transfer is submitted due to the existence of ‘technical’ difficulties. One assumes that these so called ‘technical’ difficulties would be those laid down in the Town Planning Amnesty Law including undischarged memos lodged against the developer and on record at the Land Registry.

    One wonders how many Title Deeds will fall into each category and in particular how many will fall into the most disadvantaged category C.

    Of great concern to purchasers must be those Title Deeds that fall in to category C above, because it seems that they are the people whose properties would be repossessed by developers’ lending banks.

    For people in this category it may be worth considering Martin Pickert’s suggestion (Apr 25, 2014, at 6:29 pm) to contest, through the EU High Court, that such repossession is a violation of EU Law. A visit to the EU High Court website may be useful.

  • Frank says:

    @ andyp

    I believe that I actually can guarantee a result. Failure.

  • John Swift says:

    Keep up the pressure on the MEPs

  • andyp says:

    I think I realised some years ago that in reality we are all on our own. The cavalry is not coming to help any of us stuffed by the crooks, and that includes successive Cyprus governments.

    At the end of the day a fund is started to buy a bulldozer that all affected can share or we wait till loss is suffered and we sue the lawyers, the latter no doubt taking years, costing a fortune and no guarantee of a result.

    Welcome to Cyprus.

  • Pete says:

    It would be interesting to learn how many applications from Cyprus to the ECHR have been refused for whatever reason. It would almost appear that the ‘artful ways’ have permeated the halls of Strasbourg to the detriment of any with a grievance against Kuproulla.

  • Martin Pickert says:

    I think my observations did not cover the idea how to get title deeds, but to prevent repossession or sequestration of a property which the buyer had already paid for to the developer by the developers receiver or the receiver of the bank which has financed the developer.

    I am no Cyprus lawyer (and never will be one) but in any half-way civilised country (as of Roman times 1,500 B.C.) such measure takes a valid court order – and that can be contested as violating applicable EU Law. You don’t have to sue the ROC for this – you just have to get to the EU High Court to present this case (hopefully, a good test case will arise). That is hard work and takes going through the local instances, but I know of many cases (a lot from Germany) where individuals had won against unwilling member states. Maybe one could use the CPAG to identify suitable test cases for the “march through the instances”.

    And forget the ECHR – it is of no use here.

  • Martin Pickert says:

    @Nigel, Peter Davis: Thank you for remarks. The issue is maybe too complex for this kind of exchange and I’d like to point to the following: Of course, nothing may be expected from government bureaucrats in Cyprus. In theory, they have to apply EU law as well but I would not expect them to do it. The ECHR is not an EU court nor does it apply EU law – it has no jurisdiction in such cases. It also is not a question of retro-activity: as from the moment of accession, Cypriot courts or authorities may only act on compliance with EU law (among which the CP guideline) regardless whether the national (Cypriot) law has been transformed to comply. As lawyers, we call this an indirect retroactive effect. The earlier contract may stand as it is, but the receivers of a developers assets or a banks assets and the courts enforcing their applications may not give effect to a measure jeopardizing consumers rights under the CP guideline.

  • M Hannah says:

    Perhaps if the Russians come and buy the whole of Cyprus. We the Home-buyers will stand a better chance of getting the Title Deeds from them, we certainly wont get them from this perishing Government or indeed ANY Cyprus Government, now or in the Future.

  • jon frazer says:

    @ Martin Pickert.

    My wife bought (outright), a two year old resale in 2005- still waiting for transfer of title. With much help from CPAG, got admitted to ECHR in 2011. Recently informed that her case is inadmissible as she’d “not exhausted the local remedies”- in spite of being rejected by the CCPS.

    I wrote twice to inform the court that the developer was using blackmail and extortion techniques in relation to greatly inflated IPT demands. I ensured that I’d jumped through all their hoops, including sending ample international pre-paid reply coupons. When these letters were ignored, I wrote to the President of the ECHR, Dean Spielman. He ignored me also. (I write carefully and civilly).

    I note that the Legal Secretaries to the Registrar both have Greek or Cypriot names, as did the person who signed the inadmissibility letter. For the record, my wife’s case was heard by a single judge, V.A. de Gaetano.

    This recent decision is final, with absolutely no right of appeal and the Registry would give no further details, or engage in any further communication (what’s new?).

    Oh, and the file will be destroyed one year from that final letter…

  • Peter Davis says:

    @ Martin Pickert

    I tried to get my title deeds using the consumer protection acts and unfair contract terms. Having been refused protection under these Acts by the Cyprus Minister (as my contract was signed in 2002) I went to the ECHR only to be told in long words that Cyprus wasn’t covered by my contract, even though my contract was still on going and stipulated that payment must be made on completion of the contract which ended in the transfer of the deeds.

    I maintained my contact was still pending and ‘still in action’ but the Cyprus Government is a law unto itself.

    Truth is Cyprus joined the EU only for the grants and to get friends to help with the fight against Turkey in the North. The first part worked. The second not so much so.

  • Martin Pickert says:

    1st, apologies for the bad spelling. It is difficult to write with a small smart phone, if more than a few words.

    @Andrew: The EU cannot act directly in any individual case, other than exerting influence on the member state. It is the hard hit individual who has to take his case to court and invoke that Cyprus law and practice in winding up banks and developers contravenes the EU guideline I have mentioned. But there is hope: in several cases, the EU High Court of Justice has overruled national law if not compliant ot cogent EU guidelines and has held member states liable for damages suffered therefrom. Fight for yourself and don’t wait for rescue from the state!

  • @Martin Pickert – Thank you for your comment.

    In Cyprus we have a Competition and Consumer Protection Service (CCPS) which is the competent government service responsible for the enforcement of the consumer protection laws aiming at safeguarding consumer interests.

    Many of those who suffered at the hands of nefarious developers and lawyers put their case to the CCPS with the help of the Cyprus Property Action Group (CPAG).

    However, all of these cases relating to contracts entered into before the the law came into force on December 12th 2007 were rejected. According to the EU Directive:

    ‘1. This Directive shall apply to unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices, as laid down in Article 5, before, during and after a commercial transaction in relation to a product.’

    CPAG then helped a number of those who had their cases rejected submit their case to the ECHR. These cases too were rejected and complainants were told they had no right to appeal.

    As for suing the Cypriot state, this will prove extremely expensive and will take many years. (A case involving a lawyer took 11 (eleven) years to conclude).

    Regrettably consumer protection and the legal system in Cyprus fall way below the standards we take for granted in other EU member states such as Germany and the UK.

  • Andrew says:

    @ Martin Pickert. Regretably the EU appears not to have even and audible bark on this matter, let alone any substantial bite. The dog just runs around chasing it`s tail, in order to keep the duped buyers amused.

  • Martin Pickert says:

    Being a German lawyer anbd real estate pro (we run a law firm and a real estate asset management co.) I wonder over many comments and news on this page I have looked into out of curiosity – just passing my 4th holiday on Cyprus since 2008.

    It seems strange that no one so far has raised a in my eyes rather crucial issue. Cyprus is since 2005 EU member, The EU has passed a guideline to be transformed in national law on consumer protection, in force since 1995. The admission treaty requires Cyprus to transform this guideline into national law AND it forbids any government authority, court or whatsoever state agency (sequestrators should fall thereunder) to act in contravention to this guildeline which insofar has direct effect on any member state. This applies also to contracts concluded earlier (before admission) if such act is shown to be inconsistent with the Consumer Protection Guideline.

    For Germany (which has a very extensive set of protection rules for real estate buyers) we discuss since several years whether this system must be amended to offer better protection for innocent buyers who have paid up front to developers who in turn fail to deliver or go bust.

    What I have read from the various articles and comments make it crystal clear to me that Cyprus law obviously is not only stone age in that respect but also clearly is contradiction of the EU guidelines – meaning courts may not enforce it in this way nor may the state allow this to happen, barring government liability. These rights may also be enforced by an individual having suffered losses for such failure to comply provided such person has enough firepower left to lead such a litigation. Why does none of the obviously many ill affected take this to court?

    The EU High court has made his position (up to government liability for failure to comply) quite clear and what it takes to go through the instances to reach a ruling. In this respect, I think, EU offers better protection than Akrotiri or Dhekelia. Good luck to it!

  • Adrian says:

    I am not going to say anything negative about Cyprus, Title Deeds, bankers or lawyers and developers because I want people to flood into Cyprus and buy up property and moor their boat at Coral Bay Marina and don’t worry about NPLs and people scaremongering. The unfortunate people giving technical advice have their work cut out.

  • Frank says:

    @Nigel

    Your suggestion to Clive of Payia: “So if you can find yourself a plot of land that meets the above conditions – and live on it (presumably in a tent or a caravan) for a period of 30 years – you may be able to acquire it.” sounds more viable than trying to get Title Deeds from a Developer who has squirreled away the sale proceeds. The tent/caravan option probably represents better value. After all, you would actually OWN the tent or caravan: while saving many thousands of euros, plus a probable future liability for the Developer’s ‘limited company’ debts.

    Some ‘buyers’ may yet find themselves with their money gone,their ‘fully paid property’ confiscated and, perhaps, grateful for a tent or caravan.

  • MartynG says:

    Another good question.

    Another Eurospeak, weasley-worded answer.

    Which suggests of course that the key aspects are well behind target, surprise, Surprise!

  • andyp says:

    Another helpful reply from EU.

    Sellout confirmed.

  • @Clive of Payia – A person can claim ownership of a property by ‘adverse possession’ (aka squatters rights) after a period of thirty years.

    However, there are a number of conditions:

    No title of immovable property may be acquired by adverse possession where the property belongs:

    ➤ to the State,

    ➤ to any owner whose property is registered (there is a title) in his/her name. The protection provided to the registered owner is not withdrawn due to his/her death,

    ➤ to any community (communal property).

    So if you can find yourself a plot of land that meets the above conditions – and live on it (presumably in a tent or a caravan) for a period of 30 years – you may be able to acquire it.

  • Clive of Payia says:

    Is there any law in Cyprus that gives people who can provide proof that they have “lived” on a certain plot of land for a number of years ownership by default free of any debt of the original owner, “developer.” Squatters Rights if such a thing exists here. Just a thought.

  • anthony babbington says:

    We need more people like Mr Sturdy to keep up the pressure on the Cyprus government & banks. The Bank of Cyprus tells us we could loose our homes even though we have paid the developer in full, but then refuse to discuss why or the amount he owes.

    The government refuses to answer questions about title deeds, if you cannot answer straightforward questions you must have something to hide.

    I still do not know of anyone in my area who have received title deeds this year or last year, have you?

  • andyp says:

    I applaud any questions (there has been many) being asked at the EU regarding what I consider to be fraud against EU citizens by a sovereign, member, state.

    I do not recall any helpful replies.

    For many of the conned time is running out and the EU has done nothing, in my humble opinion. A disgrace.

  • Andrew says:

    Question 3 : Does anyone know where the goalposts are at present , because we may need to move them again quite soon?

  • Mike says:

    Is this not one of a series of similar questions each of which has been met with a non committal answer full of political buzz phrases which in essence say nothing and certainly do not answer the direct question.

  • MartynG says:

    Good that this MEP is ‘on the case’…….

    But, surely, he should have added a supplementary to Question 1…

    “and if so WHY?”

  • Robert Briggs says:

    Good luck to this Gentleman, in trying to obtain a straight answer out of Commissioner Rehn and the EUSSR! RB.

  • Chris Elliott says:

    The back log of issuing title deeds to the rightful owners will never be resolved until more transparency is shown by the Cypriot Government on all the illegal bad practices have gone on during the good times.

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