In the Cyprus property market the lack of title deeds has been in issue for many years without being resolved. Now there is hope for action to be taken, as George Coucounis describes.
There is very little demand for purchasing immovable property in Cyprus at the moment and no one can anticipate how much the global economic recession will affect real estate in Cyprus. The indications are negative and, as a result, the prices of all categories of properties are being dropped.
Everyone understands that there are no prospective purchasers and that most of the foreign purchasers who invested in properties in Cyprus now wish to sell. The question now is who will be interested in buying these properties, especially with no separate title deeds.
The lack of title deeds has been in issue for many years without being resolved. More and more people indicate this problem and that a solution must be found, expecting the Government, the relevant authorities and the vendors to react. Up to now, they have all been comfortable, the developers making profit and the Government and the authorities collecting taxes and charges. Now that times are hard, there is hope for action to be taken so that the necessary procedure will begin for this problem to be resolved.
The issue of title deeds within a short period of time, with simple procedures will benefit all, the Government, the developers, the purchasers, the creditors and will improve the property market.
Committees could be created in every town, municipality and district, under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior, with the participation of the District Officer, the Town Planning and Housing Department and the Land Registry, to record and classify within 3 months all the properties for which a separate title deed has not been issued. At the same time, people could be asked to assist them in their effort, by giving particulars of the properties and of the problems which prevent the issue of separate title deeds. Anyone could give particulars, the vendors, the purchasers, the contractors, co-owners, even if the agreements are written or oral, deposited at the Land Registry or not, including the cases where separate title deeds exist but the vendors refuse to transfer the properties.
There could also be a new legislation allowing building amnesty and relaxation so that through simple and quick procedures the relevant permits, certificates and title deeds to be issued without any further delay. Where it is necessary, the Director of the Land Registry to be given discretionary power to resolve any dispute raised.
The Committees, after examining and evaluating the situation, to be entitled to make recommendations, call the obliged vendors and every other person who unreasonably withholds or prevents the issue of title deeds to take up the relevant procedure within 3 months for the relevant permits, certificates and the title deeds to be issued. In the event they refuse or neglect to do so, legal steps should be taken against them, for the enforcement of the relevant law, which should provide punishment for every day that goes by without them taking action, even to provide for their imprisonment.
The following unacceptable situations must be eliminated, such as vendors to refuse to complete a building complex, not caring to construct the roads, the pavements and communal areas, not to repay their mortgages or to become bankrupt and thereafter to re-start business, to construct part of the building and leave its completion for later, or to try to keep for themselves the communal areas or to sell part of the roof as garden, or even the co-owner to refuse to sign the relevant documents with his co-owner or for his purchaser.
On the other hand, the appropriate authorities should be obliged to examine every application as quickly as possible and to issue any relevant permit or certificate within 3 months. Every application before the appropriate authorities and the Land Registry to be signed and submitted by any interested person without the need for the registered owner of the land to sign it. The certificate for the completion of the works should not be necessary to be signed by the supervising architect or civil engineer for small developments, such as houses. Moreover, the procedure before the Land Registry for the issue of the separate title deeds should not take longer than 3 months so that within a year, everybody acquires their own title deed.
Provided the above is done and the Specific Performance Law is amended to meet the new requirements, the Cyprus real estate market will benefit.
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.