Cyprus Government with its new property Amnesty Bill has taken a huge step forward with the modernization and simplification of procedures and legal provisions that eventually lead to the security of updated title deeds by respective property owners. The legislation came into force on April 8th 2011, at the same time where the E.U pilot scheme promises to end the problems experienced by expatriates when buying property in other European countries by allowing for the procedure to be settled in the purchasers home country and protected by the laws of that country.
Back in Cyprus, the House of Representatives has approved amendments of the Town and Country Law, the Streets and Building Regulation and the Immovable Property (Tenure, Registration and Valuation) Law.
The Ministry of Interior has published a bulletin in order to assist in the understanding of the opportunities presented by the current legislation. According to it, the key features of the amended legislation, which clarify the aspirations of the system introduced, are the following:
(a) The legality of the building is no longer a prerequisite for the issuing of an updated title deed. It is made possible for a certificate of registration to be issued for a building with certain irregularities; however, these irregularities are to be recorded on the title deed.
(b) Updated title deeds can be issued, despite any building irregularities, provided that an application is submitted to the Building Authority, together with an accurate description of the building as well as any irregularities that may appear, in comparison to the building or the planning permit issued.
(c) The issuing of a title deed with notes does not render the relevant building legal. Where irregularities exist, substantial or otherwise, the Building Authority and/ or the Planning Authority, and-or the Director of the Land and Surveys Department, are empowered to take measures against the owner, so that he can be persuaded to fulfil all obligations arising from the legislation and the permit.
(d) The owner of the development, as well as the supervising engineer, are obliged to inform the Building Authority, within a specified period, as to the completion and beginning of use of the building, and to any alterations which may not conform with approved plans and conditions of the permits.
(e) The right to activate necessary procedures for the legalisation of the development or for the issuing of updated title deeds, is extended apart from the owner to the purchaser (under certain conditions), as well as to the Competent Authority (Planning Authority, Building Authority, or the Director of the Land and Surveys Department). Consequently, the owner is no longer the only party that can invoke these procedures, particularly in cases where the owner is reluctant or unwilling to fulfil his obligations, as these arise from the conditions of the permits he has previously secured.
(f) Updated title deeds are issued in the name of the original owner, and not in the name of purchasers. Authorities involved in the procedure do not have the power to transfer property rights to purchasers, without the owner´s consent. However, it is of crucial importance, that separate title deeds are issued for individual units of a larger development, as this facilitates significantly the purchaser to invoke the right of specific performance of the contract of sale, through action taken in the Courts, against the vendor. The transfer of property to purchasers is performed by the registered owner, either voluntarily, or by an Order of the Court, issued at the request of the purchaser.
(g) Concerned Authorities shall inform each other directly on any actions taken towards the legalisation of the buildings, and will not depend on the owner´s initiative.
(h) In all three amended laws, Competent Authorities (Planning Authority, Building Authority and the Director of the Land and Surveys Department) are empowered to impose administrative fines, in cases where the owner is reluctant or unwilling to submit the required declarations or applications for the legalisation of buildings, or irregularities in buildings, or for the issue of certificates of approval or certificates of unauthorised works or updated title deeds. Administrative fines are considered to be the means for obliging those parties with a legal responsibility to comply with their obligations by law.
It is expected that strict administrative fines will definitely have a major impact on wrongdoers. Consequently, as a result of the incentives provided, but also in view of the risk of heavy administrative fines being imposed, all owners have a real interest in using the potential provided by amended legislations.