By Christos Meliopoulos – Nicosia
The contentious issue of long pending title deeds for immovable property sales in Cyprus bears the sense of a sin of the past that insists on tormenting Cyprus, even if in the wider context of the financial crisis it seems hardly significant to some Cypriots.
This is not the case outside Cyprus, namely in the United Kingdom, where people are frequently reminded of how the island country has not fulfilled its commitment to alleviate the problem facing thousands of property buyers.
The latest reminder has come in the form of a written question submitted to the European Parliament by the British MEP Daniel Hannan. He asked the Commission what action it was taking or proposing to take to address the matter of Cyprus not achieving the progress agreed with the troika under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
“For instance, title deeds transferred to purchasers, among other requirements, are simply not reported. Furthermore, given the reported 3,521 quarterly title deeds ‘issued’ for the second quarter, which are in any case issued in the developers’ names and cannot be transferred to the buyers until all encumbrances are removed, it is clear that the deadline of Q4-2014 for eliminating the backlog of over 100,000 cannot be met,” read Mr Hannan’s written question. As he commented, “it would therefore appear that Cyprus currently has little intention of complying with the requirements of the MoU.”
This was not the first time the British MEP had raised the matter with the Commission, from which it had sought assurances that all buyers who have paid in full for properties will have access to their deeds, “without exception and with no encumbrances placed upon them.” The Commission response in that first instance through Oli Rehn was that the EU “was attaching priority to resolving the title deeds issue in the interest of the Cypriot economy, the European taxpayer and the many EU citizens affected by the problem.”
It would seem then that Europeans discuss Cypriot property title deeds more than Cypriots themselves; although the government insists there is no let up in the efforts to fully execute the MoU provision.
As George Coucounis, a lawyer practising in Larnaca explains in a note, those buying homes from developers often have to wait years for the issuance of title deeds because of the complicated system in place. A developer will mortgage an entire property and then sell it off in pieces, however the developer himself will not get the title deeds until the entire amount has been paid off, delaying their issuance to buyers.
“However, law 96 (I)/97 gives the court the authority to issue an order against the obliged vendor and to put him under the court’s observance, so within a reasonable time limit, such as six months, separate title deeds are issued. This remedy can be used by any immovable property purchaser who has deposited his sale contract with the District Land Office and has been waiting for years for the vendor to issue separate title deeds” he says.
For the abovementioned law to be implemented in a particular case, the purchaser has to take legal action against the vendor.