In Cyprus, title deeds can be issued quickly and without real cost, as George Coucounis explains.
Buyers who are still waiting for the issue of the title deeds for their property in Cyprus are right to complain and form committees to exercise pressure upon the developers and the government to find a solution to their problem.
Although this approach is helpful, it will not bring any result to them unless they take the obliged vendor to court to place him under observance to issue the separate title deeds or appoint them as the suitable persons to issue the deeds. The relevant procedure is simple, quick and the outcome will be successful without any real cost to the buyers. They can base their claim on Law 96(I)/97 which gives the court the authority to issue such an order against the obliged vendor, who neglects, unreasonably denies or omits to take the necessary steps for obtaining the necessary permits and approvals for the issue of the separate title deeds.
Through this procedure, the court is enabled to order the issue of separate title deeds for any immovable property sold without a title deed, before the claim for the specific performance of the sale contract is made. Therefore, this remedy can be used by any buyer who has deposited his sale contract at the Cyprus Land Registry and he has been waiting for years for the vendor to issue separate title deeds.
Bearing the above in mind, any buyer or committee formed is not justified in stating that the redress is slow and the process expensive.
Also, they are not right in claiming that a foreign purchaser must seek advice in his country before signing any contract of sale in Cyprus since there are lawyers in Cyprus who specialize in immovable property law, are independent and experienced in the field. They charge a reasonable fee and work entirely for buyers, either at the time of the preparation of the sale contract or if there is a need to bring a legal action against the obliged vendor for the issue of the separate title deeds. When seeking advice from abroad, the procedure will be slow and expensive; the foreign lawyer will have to seek advice from a Cypriot lawyer who may act for the developers, too. On the other hand, a foreign lawyer has no experience at all in the field and even his co-operation with any Cypriot lawyer may not be useful. Moreover, there are lawyers who advertise themselves online as specialists in the field without being so.
The best way to find an independent, specialist and experienced lawyer is to obtain information here in Cyprus from various reliable sources.
A prudent buyer who employs a competent lawyer should not have to worry about his lawyer doing his job properly and his utmost to protect and safeguard his client's rights and interest; a proper sale contract will be prepared and signed containing every necessary clause and annexes and it will be stamped and lodged with the land registry. In the event the land of the developer is mortgaged, no payment will be made to him without providing the lawyer first with the appropriate bank waiver and when the developer is a company, the owner will be placed as the guarantor of his company. Obviously, the lawyer will advise the buyer legally and not on technical issues such as the value of the property or the kind of the property he will buy. An experienced lawyer through his practice knows whether the developer is reliable and trustworthy and in this respect he can be of assistance to his client.
A question reasonably raised is why the buyers who have been waiting for so long for the issue of their title deeds remain inactive without exercising their right through the Courts of Cyprus for justice. How many of them have taken legal action?
Complaints are not sufficient; they need to take action and it is up to them to employ the services of an independent lawyer to act for them.
Time is valuable and the earlier the buyer takes action the sooner he will succeed and get his title deed. There are no excuses since there is a law in Cyprus which provides a remedy and the Courts see justice is done. In particular, the conditions set by the relevant law for the court to place the vendor under observance or to appoint another person as appropriate to issue the separate title deeds are the following: (a) there must be no separate title deed for the property sold, (b) the obliged vendor must make the issue of the title deed impossible on purpose, (c) the vendor must neglect to take the necessary steps in order to issue the separate title deeds or to obtain the relevant certificates, permits or approvals for the issue of the separate title deeds, and (d) the vendor must refuse without any excuse to take steps for the issue of the separate title deeds. If the first and one of the other three conditions apply, the court has the discretion to issue an order to secure the separate title deeds and do justice.
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.