George Coucounis explains how the owner of an immovable property in Cyprus can transfer it and still keep the right to enjoy and reside therein during his lifetime.
The owner of an immovable property in Cyprus can transfer it and keep the right to enjoy and reside therein during his lifetime, provided this right is registered at the Land Registry in Cyprus. This can be done in favour of the owner or in favour of any other person he chooses, i.e. his spouse or a friend, at the time when the property is transferred through a relevant note on the declaration form.
Parents sometimes decide to give their property to their children, i.e. a house, apartment, land or other property, by way of a gift but reserve for themselves the right to enjoy, use and reside in the property or get the benefits from it during their lifetime. The children in such a case being the registered owners have no power over the property nor do they have a right to claim or collect any rents thereof, since the beneficiary owners of the property are the parents. The right to use, enjoy and reside in the property and get the benefits from it belongs to the parents.
Article 11 (1) of the Immovable Property Law, Cap 224, provides that no right or way or any privilege, liberty, easement, or any other right or advantage whatsoever shall be acquired over the immovable property of another except: (a) under a grant from the owner thereof duly recorded in the books of the District Lands Office. Therefore, the right to use, enjoy and reside in a property is described as an estate in land or an easement which enables the beneficiary owner to have absolute power over the property for his use and benefit. The only obligation the beneficiary owner has towards the registered owner is to keep the property and not to destroy it.
It is quite obvious from the above that the beneficiary owner of an immovable property is the only person entitled to possess, use, rent and enjoy the property. Thus, he has the legal right to claim, collect or increase the rent, to claim the eviction of a tenant, statutory or not, or to take any legal steps regarding the protection of the property.
In the Rent Control Law, the meaning of the word “owner” includes any person, physical or legal, except the tenant, who in the absence of the provisions of the law is entitled to the property. According to the same law, “tenancy” means the renting out of the property in writing or otherwise, or its possession, according to which a relation between the owner and the tenant is created.
Consequently, the existence of a tenant does not confirm any right for the registered owner to take himself a legal action against the tenant for collecting the rents in arrear or for an increase in the rent.
Although the property has been transferred, the right to use, enjoy and get the benefit from it is held by the beneficiary owner during his lifetime. It is he who has the power over the property under the estate in land or easement created through the transfer. It is an absolute right which enables him to be a litigant in any legal proceedings before the Court. The registered owner has only the right to be registered as such in the record book of the Land Registry but the real ownership belongs to the beneficiary. He will be entitled to exercise his rights as the owner of the property after the beneficiary passes away, unless the beneficiary gives his consent for the removal of the relevant easement created and ceases to be beneficiary.
Article 12(5) of Law 9/65 which refers to the transfer and mortgage of an immovable property provides the meaning of an “estate in land” as the immediate claim over a property, an encumbrance (lien) or any other existing obligation over the property in accordance with the provisions of the law.
Following the above, the beneficiary owner is the one who has the absolute power and authority over the property, the one who is entitled to use, enjoy and get the benefits from it.
In reality, he is the owner, with full rights of ownership except the right to transfer or mortgage it since it belongs to the registered owner. The aforesaid right of the beneficiary can be registered upon his whole share either absolute or in co-ownership with others.
George Coucounis is an experienced lawyer practicing in Larnaca, Cyprus.
Educated at University College (London) and Thessaloniki University (Greece), George is fluent in English and has been practicing law in Cyprus since 1982.