Title Deeds in Cyprus

How to obtain title deeds for property in Cyprus; find out about the different types of title deeds and how to file an application to get them…

Title deeds are legal documents confirming ownership of property and without them it is very difficult to sell a property or land in Cyprus. Although some improvements have been made in the issuing of title deeds, the backlog of applications means that owners can often wait many years before receiving them.

Cyprus is one of the few countries that maintains an effective land registry system. Any land, buildings, trees, plantations, rivers and wells are referred to as immovable property.

Title Deeds in Cyprus are known as Certificates of Registration of Immovable property. This formal document is evidence of property ownership and includes details about the property’s location, size, and a reference number. Title Deeds are issued by the Department of Lands and Surveys and are required to transfer the ownership of the property to another person.

Transferring Title Deeds

Conveyancing a property involves the transfer of the title deed of that property from one person to another, therefore transferring the ownership of the property. To carry out this transfer in Cyprus, the buyer and the seller must go to the District Lands Office (DLO), with an ID card or passport to confirm their identity.

The property's Title Deed needs to be produced together with receipts confirming payment of various taxes for the property being transferred; Immovable Property Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Sewerage Board Tax and local property taxes paid to the Community/Municipality.

At the time of the transfer the buyer is required to pay Property Transfer Fees, the Cypriot equivalent of the UK's Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT). These are calculated on the DLO's assessed market value of the property at its date of sale.

Transfer fees are reduced if the property has been purchased in joint or multiple names as the purchase value is divided among each share owner. The approximate Property Transfer Fee can be calculated via the Department of Lands and Surveys website.

Although the transfer process is straightforward, situations can arise that prevent a transfer taking place, for example if a property developer has used the land on which they were building as collateral for loans to fund construction. These loans and any other debts prevent the transfer of the Title until they have been repaid.

In other cases, Title Deeds cannot be issued due to planning infringements that violate the various permits and permissions issued for a property's construction and where the construction has encroached on land owned by a third party.

The Cyprus government recently introduced legislation to overcome many of these issues and to help those buying property to secure its Title Deed, (see Title Deeds for ‘enclaved or trapped’ buyers below).

Title Deeds for a New Property

Once construction work is completed on a new property, the owner or developer must apply for a Certificate of Completion at the District Office. After the final inspection has been carried out and the appropriate licenses and fees paid, the owner/developer can apply for a new Title Deed at the Land Registry.

Other inspections may be necessary, for example, the Fire Service may need to check that apartment buildings and other building complexes conform to fire regulations.

Once all the inspections have been satisfactorily completed the Land Registry can start the process of issuing Title Deeds for the individual properties/units. The Survey Department will visit the site of the property to check that boundaries have been correctly located and that minimum distances between buildings have been observed. Official plans and maps are then drawn up and entered into the computer system.

Title Deeds for ‘enclaved or trapped’ buyers

In September 2015, the Cypriot Government amended the Immovable Property (Transfer and Mortgage) Law, No.9.1965, in order to assist property owners who were unable to get their Title Deeds despite fulfilling their contractual obligations with the seller. This was either because the property was mortgaged by the developer, or the state could not go ahead with the transfer due to outstanding taxes. These buyers are referred to as ‘enclaved’ or ‘trapped’ buyers. Buyers in these circumstances have been given this title because the developers have offset their land and buildings against their debt with a banking organisation. This gives the lender a claim on the buyer’s property, which has been mortgaged by the developer.

The new law grants the head of the land registry department the authority to exempt, eliminate, transfer and cancel mortgages and other impediments, depending on the case and under certain conditions. This move has allowed many ‘trapped’ buyers without Title Deeds to submit an application and complete the official transfer of their property.

In order to qualify for Title Deeds under the new law, the contract of sale must have been deposited at the District Lands Office by 31.12.2014. If the contract was not submitted before this date or unknowingly removed, the applicant can apply to the Court for the issuance of an order to deposit the contract in accordance with the Sale of Property (Specific Performance) Law no. 81(I)/2011.

The acquisition of Title Deeds can be a complicated process and if in doubt seek professional advice.

The Ministry of Interior, Department of Lands and Survey’s has produced a comprehensive guide in English on the basic provisions of the new law and the procedure for applying for Title Deeds: The Immovable Property (Transfer and Mortgage) Law, No.9/1965, as amended by Law 139(I)/2015. (PDF in English)

Further Information

With thanks to Nigel Howarth Cyprus Property News, Erimi, Limassol, Cyprus 
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