George Coucounis describes how in Cyprus the Director of the Land Registry determines the grant of access over another's land to a public road.
In Cyprus a large number of pieces of land remain enclosed without access to a public road. The owners of such property are entitled to apply to the Cyprus land registry for the grant of access so they will be able to use and develop their immovable property
With such an application, the owner of the enclosed land requests the grant of access through the adjoining pieces of land by giving details of the neighbouring properties and their owners who are informed of the application, the width of the access and the purpose it will serve. The grant of access through an adjoining property is considered to serve the public interest, since it gives the right to the enclosed immovable property to be developed, a right that could not be exercised otherwise without the consent of the owner of the adjoining land.
Prior to the grant of the access, a local enquiry is carried out by an officer of the Land Registry in the presence of the affected owners who have the right to express their views with regard to the route of the access. The land through which the access will be granted is called the “servient” land and the enclosed land in favour of which the access is to be granted is called the “dominant” land. The duty of the Director is to choose the most suitable route, as straight a line as possible, level and functional and to cause the minimum damage, nuisance and inconvenience to the servient land.
Therefore, the decision of the Director of the Land Registry must be the result of a thorough and a proper search and examination.
His decision is considered to be similar to a judicial one and is based on the relevant law and regulations and the existing circumstances prevailing there on the land. Acting under the powers vested in him, the Director is also obliged to determine the compensation payable to the owner of the servient land for such access granted to the owner of the dominant land. In effect, the right of access is a right of way or easement in the nature of a right of way, compulsorily created over the neighbouring servient land for the benefit of the owner of the dominant land.
According to the law, there is an obligation to provide access, when an immovable property is for any reason, in such a way enclaved as to be lacking the necessary access to a public road, or if the existing access is inadequate for its proper use, development or utilization. The owner of such property is entitled to claim an access over the adjacent immovable properties on payment of a reasonable compensation. The route of the access and the extent of the right to the use, as well as the compensation payable are determined by the Director after previous notice to all interested parties.
An access when granted is deemed to be a right, easement or advantage acquired and it is registered in the books of the Land Registry and the respective title deeds of the servient and dominant land.
There is no obligation on behalf of the neighbours to provide an access if the communication of the immovable property to the public road has ceased through a voluntary act or omission of its owner. On the other hand, an access can only be abolished when a public road is created, thus making the access unnecessary and its abolishment reasonable.
An access can also be granted through an agreement between the parties which can be registered at the Land Registry. However, when the parties do not agree, the Director must issue a decision and notify them. In such a case, either of the parties, if not satisfied, is entitled to appeal before the District Court questioning the decision of the Director either totally or partially. The owner of the servient land may not be satisfied with the grant of the access through his land or its route or even with the amount of compensation awarded. Likewise, the owner of the dominant land may not be satisfied with the compensation awarded, although this happens rarely. The procedure before the Court is between the parties and the Director cannot become a litigant without the leave of the Court; he is only served with the application.
There is a statutory time limit of 30 days within which any person aggrieved by the decision of the Director to appeal before the Court. The Court has the power to determine the rights of the parties in a just manner.
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.