There is still considerable work to be done on what the EC refers to as “the currently dysfunctional Title Deeds issuance and transfer system” in its post-programme surveillance report on Cyprus.
THE EUROPEAN Commission’s post-programme surveillance report on Cyprus acknowledges that although some progress on the thorny issue of Title Deeds has been made there is still “considerable work to be done”.
The reform of the system of Title Deeds transfers has been constrained by lack of support from private stakeholders. A substantial number of property buyers, despite having paid the full purchase price, still have not yet received their Title Deed.
The adoption of the legacy cases law (for property sales up to end of 2014) created some momentum but more steps are needed to have a new system of swift, safe and automatic transfers of titles. Out of the 11,000 applications received as of end August 2016, nearly 4,000 Title Deeds were issued which led to approximately 800 transfers of titles.
This progress may be considered as positive, and actions taken by the Department of Land and Surveys have been very supportive, including website information, training, and an instruction manual sent to all relevant staff. However, despite the promising start and efforts, results are not as positive as hoped, due to several legal actions taken by banks claiming that the legacy law is unconstitutional.
Substantial effort is necessary to engage stakeholders to agree on a new system for the transfer of future Title Deeds. There is general agreement that a future system should ensure that buyers who pay the full purchase price will get their titles quickly and have no possibility to refuse them. The Ministry of Finance is continuing to examine proposals, but with little apparent progress in recent months, in part due to the political sensitivity of this issue.
There is still considerable work to be done to address the backlog of issuance of new Title Deeds. The Ministry of Interior has made some progress, with the completion of a comprehensive report on the streamlining of issuance procedures in 2015. The Council of Ministers also approved measures to assist the issuance and, thus, the transfer of Title Deeds where relatively minor breeches of planning conditions have occurred.
The currently dysfunctional Title Deeds issuance and transfer system is deterring potential investors and thus, weighing on the liquidity of the property market. Although some measures were taken to streamline the issuance of Title Deeds for new properties, no new measure was announced to provide for a sustainable system of transfer of Title Deeds.
By: Nigel Howarth
Source: Cyprus Property News
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