THIS 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.
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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