ALTHOUGH changes to the law in recent years have helped to reduce the risks when buying property in Cyprus, significant problems still remain in cases where properties are purchased for which no Title Deed has been issued.
Where no Title Deed has been issued for a property being purchased, depositing the sale agreement at a Land Registry Office prevents the vendor from selling the property to someone else. (However, a small number of cases have been reported where contracts have been removed from the Land Registry and the property sold to a third party.)
In cases where a contract has been deposited at a Land Registry Office and the vendor fails to fulfil his contractual obligations, the purchaser can apply to a Court demanding the transfer of the property to their name. But, of course, the property cannot be transferred if there is no Title Deed.
Furthermore, Article 10 of the Streets and Buildings Regulation Law, Cap 96, clearly states that “no person shall occupy or use, or cause, permit, or suffer any other person to occupy or use, any building unless and until a certificate of approval has been issued in respect thereof by the competent authority.”
Once completed, buildings are inspected to ensure they comply with the various permits and approved plans for their construction by the planning authorities, fire services, etc. These inspections also ensure fire doors and other vital health and safety measures have been incorporated in the building. Once issued this ‘Certificate of Approval’ together with the plans, permits, etc. is passed to the Land Registry who can then start the process of issuing the buildings Title Deed(s)
In more than 20 years I have not heard of a single case where criminal proceedings have been brought against anyone occupying, using, etc. building for which no Certificate of Approval has been issued. What is the point of having a law that is never enforced? And if it were enforced who is going to wait the many years it takes the authorities to issue this certificate until they can move into their new home?
Further problems arise when developers fail to complete developments, leaving roads, pavements, green areas, etc. unfinished. In these cases, it’s the hapless buyers who have to pay for any outstanding work to be completed before they can get clean Title Deeds. And in some cases, the planning infringements may be so severe that Title Deeds may never be issued!
What property is safe to buy?
It’s usually safe to buy properties that have been issued with their all-important Title Deeds. However, it’s not all plain sailing.
Encroachment, where a property has been built on a neighbour’s land, can be a problem in the villages. I would advise anyone buying an older property or land in a village to have its boundaries checked by a registered surveyor.
And in all cases use an independent lawyer to protect your interests and carry out due diligence on your behalf. By ‘independent’ I mean a lawyer who has no connection with anyone else involved in the transaction and who is licenced by the Cyprus Bar Association. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office publishes a list of English speaking lawyers available on their website at Cyprus – List of Lawyers and translators/interpreters.