Legal issues

Statuses of Immovable Property Owner

Sequence of operations in the course of effecting a sales transaction is described on page “Buying property”. It shows that there are several statuses of immovable property owner in Cyprus. Here is more detailed description. There are only three statuses of the kind.

Immovable Property Owner

Once a contract of sale for immovable property is signed and at least 30% of its value is paid the contract is deposited at a public agency – Land District Office. As a result you become property Owner.

The essence of contract depositing is that the public register processes and secures the current status of your property. From now on only you can obtain in particular a mortgage loan from a bank mortgaging the above property while the vendor will be unable to do it any longer as henceforth you hold the first right of claim.

Simultaneously with depositing payment of minor Stamp Duty is made, that is described in Section “Taxes” in detail.

Beneficial Immovable Property Owner

Upon full payment of the property and on signing Acceptance Certificate you will receive a key for your property and will become a beneficial owner possessing this property.

Registered Immovable Property Owner

Once the Government executes Title Deed for the purchased property and transfers it in your name you become a registered immovable property owner. In this case you will have to pay the relevant tax that is called Transfer Fee (more detailed information related to this is available in Section “Taxes”)

Cyprus Title Deed ensures absolute right of ownership for immovable property. No one will ever be able to interfere with it under any circumstances. For example hypothetically assuming that you or your heirs will someday receive an official letter from the city hall or municipality notifying you that a road is intended to be constructed across your plot of land and you are offered to refuse the property and to obtain a compensation you will have an alternative: either to give your consent or to reject. In case you choose the latter there are no legal ways (and there happen to be no other in Cyprus!) to force you to give up the property.

Here is a typical example of how the Government of Cyprus has solved the issue of immovable property of Turkish Cypriots who used to reside in the Southern part of the island and abandoned their houses leaving for the Northern unrecognized part of the island after the conflict of 1974. This property is simply left as it is while the rights of its owners are preserved inviolable. We are proud of the way we have solved this complex issue.

In order for Title Deed to be transferred in your name you shall obtain a permit from the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cyprus for acquisition of property (for nationals of those countries where this procedure is required). After all, this permit is a mere formality. Your application can be rejected only if your name is found in Interpol lists or unless you observe restrictions when purchasing property (see Section “Restrictions When Buying Immovable Property in Cyprus” below). We have not even come across single case of such a rejection.

Normally an application for obtaining a permit from the Council of Ministers is submitted right upon signing and depositing a contract of sale.

Procedure of Obtaining Title Deed

In case you purchase a new immovable property then, as a rule, it still has no Title Deed. To date the process of issuing Title Deed for property is a prolonged bureaucratic procedure lasting 1-3 years. Nevertheless this very prolonged and thorough governmental inspection of validity of all the aspects related to construction makes Title Deed a document that irrevocably guarantees your ownership rights.

The swiftness of documents circulation depends on a developer as well. The point is that while an interim answer from one of state departments is being made ready the developer can and shall prepare documents for submittal to another department. Competent and responsible work of developers with governmental authorities in this matter is of great consequence.

Strictly speaking the establishment of our Alliance has in many ways become a response to the necessity of merging of responsible developer companies with excellent reputation and efficient business processes into a single structure. We are professional and responsible market participants knowing much about bureaucratic mechanisms who have had no instances of delay of Title Deed transfer in customers’ name in our practice.

Apprehensions that the rights of property owners for which Title Deed is still pending are not properly protected in case of force majeure were expressed. In response to critical comments Cyprus government has made amendments to the legislation owing to which the rights of diligent property purchasers without a Title have become securely protected. The essence of the above amendments has been summarized in the Table below.

Table. Specific features of possession of property for which Title Deed has not been issued yet

Situation Ways of solving the problem before the legislation was amended Ways of solving the problem after the legislation was amended

A developer is unable to pay the debts to a creditor (bank). The bank therefore takes the entire mortgaged property of the developer to its own advantage

There was a risk that the bank would appropriate the property for which a customer had previously honestly paid for to the developer. The bank had preferential claim for the property as opposed to the customer.

Currently there is no such risk. When signing a contract between a developer and a customer provisions can be made for direct debt repayment by the purchaser to the creditor with regard to the purchased property.

Here is an example. Suppose a developer has built an apartment house having obtained a credit from a bank to the amount of euro 500 thousand. A customer purchases one of the apartments amounting to euro 200 thousand from the developer. The bank calculates whatever share of the developer’s debt falls on this apartment as per the approved formula. Suppose this value comprises euro 40 thousand. The customer pays the apartment value in the following way – he/she transfers 160 thousand to the developer and 40 thousand to the bank. In response the bank prepares a document (that is called a waiver – assignment of claim) that implies that the bank does not have any claims related to this apartment. This document shall be issued prior or simultaneously with contract depositing.

A developer goes into bankruptcy

Property purchaser was deprived of the opportunity to obtain Title Deed for the previously purchased property according to the standard method.

He/She had to have it executed through a prolonged judicial procedure

The Customer is entitled to request the Title directly from the government without involving the developer at all, within the framework of a procedure called Specific Performance

The property has been constructed with some deviations from the approved design documentation

Property purchaser was deprived of the opportunity to obtain Title Deed for the previously purchased property  

A procedure of “amnesty” on minor violations committed by the developer has been implemented. The result of this procedure is execution of Title Deed.

Nevertheless anyway prior to making a transaction it is advisable that the customer’s lawyer should request a document verifying the compliance of the constructed property with permit documentation from a licensed architect to eliminate the risk of problems arising in future

A customer has a wish to sell the recently purchased property Title Deed for which has not been issued yet

The sale of property without Title Deed was possible only through intermediary of a developer. Two risks were characteristic of this procedure. Firstly an unscrupulous developer could demand too high commission charge (so-called Cancellation Fee) for its participation in the procedure. Secondly in case of the developer’s bankruptcy the sale ran the risk of failing to take place.

Developer’s participation in the procedure of property sale has ceased to be mandatory. The customer who wishes to sell property and a new customer can make a sales transaction independently. For this purpose the deposited initial contract is assigned to a new customer. The old and the new customer as well as their lawyers take part in the procedure without the developer’s participation.

And finally it should be said that the Government of Cyprus has undertaken to transfer the circulation of documents associated with execution of Title Deeds into electronic format. Business process automation will dramatically decrease the time frame of Title Deeds issue. 

Restrictions when Buying Immovable Property in Cyprus

Formerly the Legislation limited purchase of immovable property in Cyprus to a single property per person for nationals of countries that are not members of the European Union. At present the restriction has been liberalized and not so binding. On page "Recidence Permit" you can learn that with the purpose of obtaining permanent residence permit a customer can purchase two properties from one developer.

It should be noted that in matters of property purchase spouses are considered as one person. That is, in case a restriction “single property per person” is valid then it is impossible for one spouse to buy one property and for the other to buy the second one.

The second restriction stipulated by the legislation consists in the fact that the maximum size of a plot that a non-European can purchase, irrespective of whether it is bare earth or bears a building over it, comprises 4014 sq.m.

These rules apply solely to customers who are individual persons. Legal entities are not bound with such restrictions. National of a country that is not a member of the European Union can purchase a company the only field of activities of which will become acquisition of desired immovable property. This method allows one to purchase any number of immovable properties and plots of any size.

Selection of a Lawyer

Within the framework of this section we offer only general legal information to readers. Full-scale legal support of property acquisition in Cyprus should be carried out by a professional licensed lawyer. In this case your rights will be clearly guaranteed by code of relevant laws of Cyprus.

Following are some of the functions that can be fulfilled by a lawyer:

  • Drafting a contract of sale for immovable property taking into account all the aspects of legal regulation in the Republic of Cyprus
  • Checking availability of permit documentation for the purchased property
  • Arranging a waiver for the purchased property from a developer’s creditor
  • Obtaining a permit from the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cyprus for property acquisition
  • Depositing a contract of sale and paying stamp duty
  • Obtaining reduced VAT rate
  • Settling your immigration issues

Despite the fact that foreigners have virtually no sensation of staying abroad and feel almost at home in hospitable Cyprus, one always wants to get a recommendation in matters like looking for a good doctor or a lawyer. All the more so that advertising of legal services is against the Law in Cyprus. In case you apply to us with a similar request we are willing to reference a law office, the competent and professional work of which we are well familiar with.

We can also suggest that you observe recommendations by British High Commission (Consular Department of the British Embassy to Cyprus). Please, follow the link to contact them. Then you can download a list of lawyers* in various cities of Cyprus. You certainly have a perfect right to apply to any other lawyer or law office.

Leave all the other issues related to the choice and acquisition of property, adaptation on the island and so on to us. In particular speaking of legal services Alliance is ready to undertake:

  • Settling your immigration issues (at the lowest prices for our clients);
  • Obtaining a permit from the Council of Ministers for property acquisition (at the lowest prices for our clients);
  • Opening accounts in Cyprus banks within one working day (free of charge).

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* This list is not exhaustive, cannot be deemed as a recommendation by Cyprus Developers Alliance and is provided only as an example.

 

 

 

 

 

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