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Creating and issuing Title Deeds

Many people wonder why it takes so long for Title Deeds to be issued by District Lands Offices; here is an article contributed by one of our regular readers explaining the process in detail.

Title Deed Gordian KnotTHIS ARTICLE is designed to shed more light on the often-opaque process of creating and delivering title deeds in Cyprus.

The general frame of reference used is that of a property that is being subdivided in one way or another such as a developer creating a new development on one or more plots of land whereby new title deeds must be created for each newly created property.

This article tries to provide more visibility into the actual work that goes on specifically within the Land Registry to generate a new title deed. It will cover the departments and steps involved from when an application is received until it is ready to be delivered to the buyer. The intention is to provide buyers and sellers with more knowledge about the steps necessary to be completed accurately and completely in order for the title deed process to proceed as smooth and as quickly as possible. At this point in time the whole process of creating title deeds is in flux given the many pressures now on Cyprus to deliver title deeds at a much faster pace. Given that, please consider this a work in progress.

The main content for this paper comes from interviews conducted at the Paphos District Land Office and is published with permission of those involved. It is not known if all Land Registry offices follow exactly the same sequence of steps outlined here. But it seems reasonable to assume at this time that the work needing to be accomplished start to finish would be more or less the same even if the actual steps or order vary slightly.


Title Deed Creation Process – Land Registry Steps

Once construction work is declared complete the developer will apply to the local District Office for a Certificate of Completion to be issued. This involves a number of final inspections and reviews to be signed-off by different district authorities and appropriate licenses received, fees paid, etc. When this has all been accomplished successfully a Division of Properties permit and Certificate of Completion will be issued to the developer of the property involved.

The developer can then make an application to the Land Registry to start the process of creating the actual title deeds that are to be attached to the newly created properties.

Note that it is the responsibility of the developer as seller to move this process forward, not the District Office.

The main steps involved at the Land Registry are as follows:

The developer will file the Certificate of Completion at the Land Registry along with all other relevant documents and the Registry will then begin the multi-step process of creating the separate title deeds for each of the individual properties on a project.

The Application Department receives all of the appropriate documents from the developer and opens a ‘division’ file giving it an AX number (ex: AX 123/01). This AX number will be the case number that follows the file throughout the entire title deed creation process. ‘Division’ means that an existing property or plot of land will be subdivided and new title deeds created.

If the project consists of several different plots of land being combined into one, the Land Registry must first officially combine the multiple plots into one plot. Depending upon the terms of the license for division of properties this might be accomplished under the same AX number so that only one file is opened. However sometimes it will be a separate file with its own AX number. Only once combined can this newly created single plot then be divided up into the individual properties each with newly created title deeds. This likely occurs at different stages in different projects depending upon project circumstances. But it is a precondition for any subsequent subdivision of title deeds.

Survey Department: After a file is opened and AX number assigned by the Application Department, the file moves on to the Survey Department. The basic action here is for surveyors to go out to the site and complete an accurate survey of each new property which will become the basis for the official property boundaries and subsequent maps, plans, valuations, etc.. However with the recent push to shorten the overall time needed to create a title deed and also to work faster through the current backlog, there have been some changes in the procedure regarding how this work might be accomplished. If the developer or seller has their own qualified surveyor (as some larger developers do) they may now be approved to accomplish the survey themselves rather than relying on those from the Survey Department, and then deliver the results back to the Survey Department for review and approval. This in effect increases the number of resources that can be brought to bear on this critical part of the chain.

Checking the Survey Results: Once all of the survey work has been done, the Checking Department within Survey double checks all of the survey results to ensure everything is accomplished correctly.

The result of the work of the Survey Department step is that all of the new individual properties requiring title deeds are now officially defined and mapped. From here the file is passed onto the next step in the chain – The Schedule Department.

Schedule Department: Here two main things happen:

  • All of the survey and property data is entered into the computer;
  • Official plans/maps are drawn up showing the newly created properties as defined by the survey.

Local Enquiry Department: This is the step where things start to come together. First, the plans as received from the Schedule Department’s work are matched-up with the list of purchase agreements already on file with the Land Registry showing the new buyers. These purchase agreements are normally registered with the Land Registry at the time of sale where they are held until the task to actually create new title deeds comes in. This is the step where the necessary match-up occurs.

Secondly, all mortgages on the existing property are properly matched up and/or divided over the newly created properties and the necessary written agreements to allow these mortgages to be cleared or transferred are obtained from the banks, the seller/developer, and new buyer. This can be a complicated process to determine what portion (fraction) of any existing debt is to be assigned to which new properties such that all funds are fully accounted for.

Thirdly, a person from this department goes out and checks each property to ensure all licenses, certificates, survey information, etc. are all in place and everything is OK. Also, all fees due to be paid must be taken care of. The developer is notified if anything is not yet settled and is given a reasonable time in which to complete all paperwork and payments.

Note:   If the paperwork and/or payments are not received in the allotted time the Land Registry will simply put the file on the shelf, notify the developer that no further work will be done on the title deeds, and there it would sit until the developer acts. It is not the Registry’s job to put pressure on the developer to complete the process. Such pressure can only be exerted by the new buyers awaiting their title deeds, a provision for which has recently been put into law. See this article for more specific information on this. In summary, part of this new law implies that developers are not allowed to delay the title deed delivery process. Non-payment of fees or missing deadlines set by the Land Registry might possibly be considered sufficient grounds to bring a judgement against the developer through court action initiated by buyers. But this has yet to be fully tested.

When all of the required details are accomplished the new title deeds will be prepared. These are then passed on to the next step in the process.

Valuation Department: Here official values are established for each property that then becomes the basis for taxation.

Back to Local Enquiry for checking and closure: After the valuations have been assigned, all of the files are passed back to Local Enquiry for a double check that everything previously has been accomplished correctly. If so, at this stage the file is officially ‘Closed’ which means that it is OK for new title deeds to be issued. The new deeds are then finalised.

Back to Schedule Department for checking and closure: The file is then sent back to this department to officially ‘Close’ the plans/maps related to these new properties.

Store Room: After everything is closed out, the file with new title deeds is moved to the Store Room where the whole file is officially finished and the developer is notified that the title deeds are ready to be issued.

Note:   It is the seller/developer that is responsible for ensuring the title deeds are actually distributed, not the Land Registry. The seller/developer must notify the buyers when they are ready to be issued and organise the next steps necessary to complete the transfer.

The developer notifies the new buyers that the title deeds are ready and dates/times are agreed with each buyer to finalise the transfer.

Declaration Department: The developer/seller and buyer meet at the Declaration Department within the Land Registry where the buyer pays the Property Transfer Fees and the developer/vendor has to provide receipts confirming Immovable Property Tax (IPT), Capital Gains Tax, Sewage Board Tax, Town and Communal rates, etc. have been paid. The property transfer is then officially finalized. It is only at this point in time that the buyer of the property becomes the absolute legal owner of his/her property. The Land Registry will then send out the new title deeds within a few months.

Summary

As one can see there are a number of steps to the work that must be accomplished when creating and documenting an entirely new piece of property where none before existed. And since this work is the basis for all future transfers, property taxation, planning, provision of services, etc. it must be checked and double-checked to ensure accuracy.

Hopefully this will give the reader more insight into this process along with a better understanding of what work is being done at whatever step their particular purchase is at when they go to check progress at the Land Registry, as many do.

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Readers' comments

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  • @CyprusGirl at 8:22 am – I can’t see how the Land Registry could transfer title without the developer providing receipts demonstrating that he has paid Capital Gains Tax, Immovable Property Tax, etc. Plus the property has to be free of any encumbrances (such as a developer’s mortgage).

    I think what could possibly be happening is the District Offices may be issuing Completion Certificates with notes stating that part(s) of the development are incomplete. This will enable the Land Registry to issue Title Deeds for the units on the development, but they will have a note attached to them preventing their sale until the uncompleted work on the development has been completed. (This sounds like an extension to the Town Planning Amnesty). But the developer will still need to repay his outstanding mortgages and provide proof that he has paid his taxes before the transfer can take place.

    It seems to me that this change, if it’s true, is designed to help the government clear the massive backlog of Title Deeds rather than helping those who have bought property to obtain ‘clean’ title – and the government has not thought through the consequences of its actions.

    I know that the Land Registry has changed a little as it can no go ahead and issues Title Deeds once it has received an Approval Certificate from the Planning Authority without receiving a request from the developer to issue them.

    (Personally, if I was offered title to a property on the condition I could not sell it, I’d refuse.)

    I’ll make some enquiries.

  • CyprusGirl says:

    Has anyone heard about the new method of getting title deeds even without the developers compliance? Apparently, the district office can proceed to release deeds when the developer fails to do so but once you have them you cannot sell the property unless you finish of the uncompleted works to the development!

    This sounds to me like a way out for developers and more headache for property owners!

    Anyone have any more info about this? We have been offered this on our property but it scares me more than not having deeds!

  • Pippa says:

    We are still waiting for the final inspection and obviously the title deeds after a mere 6 years, and there for we do not own the property. As a point of interest is this not contrary to the Cypriot Constitution, which states :

    Article 23 [Property]
    1. Every person, alone or jointly with others, has the right to acquire, own, possess, enjoy or dispose of any movable or immovable property and has the right to respect for such right.

    Just a thought!!

  • Jill says:

    Oh for goodness sake – no wonder we can’t get the title deeds!!

    I reckon the Greeks had less trouble inventing the flippin’ wheel!!!!

  • souni_db says:

    Thanks Nigel,

    That makes sense. I guess I’ll have to chase them up and see where they are in the process. The funny thing is – The house was already completed 18 months by the time I received the (land ) deeds plus I paid the full amount of transfer tax based on the purchase price of the entire property. It doesn’t feel right but I suppose its normal here.

  • @souni_db – there isn’t such a thing as a ‘temporary’ Title Deed.

    What you have, I suspect, is a Title Deed for the plot of land on which the property is built. Once the property has been built and inspected, a Completion Certificate is issued (providing there are no deviations from the permits issued for its construction) – and this Certificate along with the permits and some of the architectural drawings are taken to the Land Registry, which will then proceed to add the house to the deed and issue a replacement.

    This is what I did – I bought a plot of land, got the Title Deed (after paying the Property Transfer Fees) and then built a house on the plot.

  • souni_db says:

    Thanks Roger, some useful information. A few weeks ago, while I was away, a couple of people visited my property to perform a survey. By all accounts it was quite detailed and they even measured where the trees were in relation to the house. It got me thinking about why they were there even though I received my title deeds and paid tax over 4 years ago. I looked at my title deeds again and it looks like it only actually shows the plot division and not the house. Is this normal? I read somewhere that this is just a temporary title deed and that another would be issued after the house is added.

  • kufrahdog says:

    Roger Benson is to be congratulated for documenting at a high level this nightmare of a process, which might otherwise pass as a Crooks’ Charter.

    If ever there was case for some serious business process re-engineering this is it – but apply BPR laterally to all organisations and agencies involved in land control, sale and purchase, including banks, the law, the Cyprus Bar Association and the legislature etc, and not just the ‘silo’ of the Paphos Lands Office. KD.

  • Andrew says:

    Of course all of the above process is duly explained to each and every purchaser by their lawyer,or maybe not? Most lawyers probably lead their clients to believe that the process is simple and that title deeds will be issued within some hypothetical time-scale.

    Had all lawyers acted in the interest of their clients and explained that the issuance of title deeds would most likely drag on forever and that the whole process relied on developers paying their debts, then potential buyers would have walked away in disgust.

  • Peter Davis says:

    So in short…

    It’s the Government’s fault, and only they can fix it that title deeds are issued at point of sale.

    It’s the banks fault that they lend money against property already purchased by a third party and the Government’s fault the banks are not properly regulated.

    It’s the developer’s fault that loans are not repaid, together with the bank for not enforcing the conditions of the loan, and the developer’s fault that buildings are substandard and built on shifting land along with the Government’s fault for not checking on building regulations.

    So the common denominator appears to be our Government? So how many foreign MP’s do we have in our Cyprus Parliament or are they all Greek Cypriots?

  • M Hannah says:

    And ALL THIS TAKES 20 years Approximately to deliver the Title Deeds. Does it? What a loads of Cods Wallop. To be quite Frank, I got bored and gave up reading all that tosh after THE BIT where it says. Quote:

    “Note that it is the responsibility of the developer as seller to move this process forward, not the District Office.”…………….

    All the following reading. I have edited and done a compacted version, to make it sound like the kind of stuff everyone wants to HEAR & Read About;

    “Once construction work is declared complete the developer will apply for a Certificate of Completion to be issued. Certificate of Completion will be issued to the developer of the property involved.

    The developer can then make an application to the Land Registry to start the process of creating the actual title deeds that are to be attached to the newly created properties………………

    The developer will file the Certificate of Completion at the Land Registry, the Registry will then begin the process of creating the separate title deeds for each of the individual properties on a project……………..

    And everyone will get the Titles and it wont cost much and everyone will be Happy and spread the news and People will start Buying Houses AGAIN. THERE!! is that not a great deal better, than reading all that other dreary boring stuff. This is kind of Stuff that Fairy Tales are Made of. Have a nice Day.

  • Dunn Good says:

    I noticed in the above article that some larger developers have their own surveyors!! I wonder if they are not Independent to the Developer, in whose interest are they working for? with so much talk about corruption, bonuses and commissions come to mind.

  • Peter says:

    Although now I sold my property in Tala I waited 9 years for my title deeds.

    I found once I arranged meetings with the Head of Department at Land Registry Paphos old and new buildings I became aware of this process which the article describes.

    This was a frustrating time, I was constantly told the division was a big job as it was an apartment.

    The developer’s uncle was a surveyor at Land Registry, and my file was with the survey department for years.

    I am convinced because when owners wanted to sell the developer would charge a hefty cancellation fee. It seemed this delay was in the developers interest.

    The cancellation fee was illegal but impossible to challenge.

    I had to pay the developers unpaid water rates bill to secure my title.

    My sales contract was lodged for specific performance but felt the content of my sales contract not worth the paper it was written on.

    I still fail to understand why when title deeds are issued property owners still choose not to transfer which means a lot of transfer tax not paid.

    MY DEVELOPER INSISTED I STOP GOING TO LAND REGISTRY AS I WAS MAKING IT UNCOMFORTABLE FOR HIM.

    All I know is I got the deeds eventually, many many visits to HOD Paphos, a seriously frustrating time, department checking double and triple checking the file.

    There seemed to be no urgency, but lots of coffee drank at Land Registry.

  • @Paul – Title Deeds can be issued regardless of any claims (such as a mortgage) lodged against them.

    But the transfer of ownership of a property from vendor to purchaser cannot take place until until these claims have been resolved.

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    A useful factual description of the process. However, I could not help noticing that in several places the article emphasizes that any delays at that particular stage are due to the developer and not the LR. I think we all accept that developers often do indeed drag their feet but so do the LR and Planning Dept!!

    Peter Davis cites his example of his file stuck in the Planning Dept for 23 months, presumably holding up the Certificate of Completion. But just look at the number of stages involved within the LR itself: 8. Some functions within LR (Schedule Dept and Local Enquiry) are involved twice. Although a logic is discernible in this long process, I am sure there are other far more efficient ways of securing the desired outcome.

    Cyprus seems to have created a unique monster of inefficiency in its Title Deed issuance process. It is no longer (if indeed it ever was) fit for purpose. Radical rationalization urgently required!

  • Graeme Sleeman says:

    A very useful article, BUT, many developers are now in receivership or are no longer in existence. With the amount of work and responsibility placed on the Developer in the above article, what chance of Title Deeds ever being issued ? Can this issue be addressed please as I suspect these may be the majority of cases.

  • Paul says:

    Nice article if only it reflected the real truth about the issuing system. Why are people waiting years for deeds- because so many corrupt developer have mortgaged and remortgaged the properties with the banks who allowed this to go on and never asked for the original loan or subsequent one to be paid off. So huge numbers of developments are encumbered by these loans.

    The danger for potential buyers is that they could actually become responsible for these loans and the banks wouldn’t tell them beforehand!!!

    The property and banking system is and has been incredibly corrupt this is the real reason why the issuance of deeds takes so long because he the banks insisted that developers paid off the loans then all the corruption would be exposed.

    It is naive to think that it’s just a paperwork problem!

  • Karl says:

    The system where I live in Australia is fairer and foolproof.

    The development is completed and the appropriate authorities are notified by the developer. The developer is eager to get the title deeds issued cause NO properties can be sold prior to the deeds been issued.

    It is that simple.

  • Tulloch Kempe says:

    Title Deeds:

    A very interesting article. Many thanks.

    What would also be very insightful would be to tabulate this alongside the process employed in the UK to acquire the title deeds of a new build, as we know that it doesn’t take any where as long a time in this country.

    Are there the same number of steps given that many of the systems in Cyprus were originally designed around ones employed in this country?

  • Peter Davis says:

    I actually found the staff at the Land Registry and Planning Office, Paphos very helpful.

    It turned out that the paperwork on our villa had been sent back by the Land Registry with a query to the Planning Office (different departments and in different buildings). The query had been filed for nearly 23 months in a ‘closed cabinet’ and forgotten.

    Members of the staff took the time and trouble to locate the file, the comments and query and sorted it out in 3 weeks.

    So if in doubt go and visit, ask, be polite they will help.

    I then paid by cheque for my deeds the cheque went out the same day in the afternoon, monies gone from my account, but it took over 3 months to issue title deeds. Now that is not acceptable.

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