THE GOVERNMENT is trying to expedite a bill hoping to resolve the “very important” Title Deeds issue, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said on Tuesday as he cautioned that it was a complex legal issue that had to be examined thoroughly.
Petrides was responding to a written question by Akel MP Giorgos Loucaides regarding the government’s intentions on the matter.
In a bid to sort out the so-called trapped property buyers mess, parliament in 2015 passed a government bill granting the head of the land registry the authority to exempt, eliminate, transfer and cancel mortgages and or other encumbrances, depending on the case and under certain conditions.
The law sought to resolve the problems created by the failure to issue Title Deeds to people who had paid for their property, either because the property was mortgaged by the developer, or the state could not go ahead with the transfer because of outstanding taxes.
Since developers’ land and buildings were counted as assets that need to be offset against their debt to banks, this gave lenders a claim on people’s properties that had been mortgaged by developers.
However, following a string of court decisions in cases where banks objected to the law, the land registry suspended procedures, as authorities contemplated their next move.
The attorney-general subsequently instructed the departments involved to continue implementing the law while appeals were filed at the Supreme Court, which will have the final say on the matter.
Some of the court cases have been won by the banks, largely on the grounds that the buyer’s claim on the property infringed on the contract between the bank and the developer.
But in September, the Larnaca district court upheld the 2015 law, allowing trapped property buyers to obtain their Title Deeds irrespective of the developers’ own commitments to banks.
In his reply, Petrides said despite the matter not being resolved, the ministry had prepared a bill which it sent to the Legal Service for processing last October.
“As it transpired from the differing district court decisions, it is a complicated legal issue and due to this an in-depth study is required,” the minister said.
The bill will be forwarded to the cabinet as soon as it is processed by the state’s lawyers and from there to parliament for voting, he added.
“The Interior Ministry considers the issue of trapped buyers as very important and the delay in preparing the bill is due precisely to the difficulties cited above,” Petrides said, adding that efforts were being made to expedite the process.