IN THE ABSENCE of tangible government action, main opposition AKEL said on Wednesday it will be preparing two proposals designed to iron out kinks in a 2015 law that sought to sort out the Title Deed mess, offering relief to so-called trapped buyers.
The law sought to resolve the problems for homeowners who had paid for their properties but were not issued with their Title Deed either because it 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 government had said it would seek ways to plug any loopholes.
AKEL MP Aristos Damianou said the matter was revisited by parliament in July 2017, after decisions, mainly by courts in Paphos and Limassol, that found the law unconstitutional.
It had been decided at the time that government departments would look into the matter together with the Legal Service, in a bid to make corrections and secure the rights of trapped buyers.
“We waited for over six months. We had warned at the time that in the absence of government initiative parliament would not remain idle,” Damianou said.
On Wednesday, the party’s parliamentary group decided to prepare and submit next week, two proposals that will be jointly tabled with all parties aiming at tackling “this huge social problem”.
Damianou said government departments will be invited in due course to offer their views but parties could no longer wait for the executive to act.
The AKEL MP said the proposals will seek to safeguard buyers who have paid the full amount of their purchase and were not at fault. Encumbrances will be taken into account but the proposals will weigh the wider public interest.
“In our understanding, the wider public interest is to cover all those people who have paid off the price as per sales contract, but they cannot get a deed because the businessman has outstanding issues with the banks,” Damianou said.
He said banks will have a say in the matter but they will not be able to veto decisions.
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 Deed irrespective of the developers’ own commitments to banks.
The attorney-general had 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.
Earlier this year, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said that 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.
Damianou said parliament knew about the problems but it could not remain idle any longer.
“Inaction on this matter cannot be justified in any way.”