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Title deeds mess persists after constitutional obstacles

The state Legal Services department is aiming to amend the law on so-called “trapped” property owners who are unable to receive their title deeds due to insolvent land developers who offered the paid-for property as loan collateral to banks. The banks could then lay claim to property that buyers had already paid-for.

Passed in 2015 to help the trapped property owners receive their title deeds, the law was ruled unconstitutional by the Limassol and Paphos District Courts.

The law stipulates that the head of the Land Registry has the authority to exempt, eliminate, transfer and cancel mortgages depending on the case and under certain conditions.

Banks contested the law, and were justified in an appeal filed by Alpha Bank against a Paphos developer and a British couple. The court ruled that the power afforded to the Land Registry head was unconstitutional.

State Attorney Theano Mavromoustaki told MPs of the House Legal Affairs Committee that the Legal Service is likely to amend the law in an attempt to overcome constitutional obstacles.

The matter will be discussed in a June 16 meeting.

According to Mavromoustaki, the two court rulings found that the law clashed with articles 23 and 26 of the Constitution on the right to property and to freely enter contracts.

The director of the Land Registry, Andreas Sokratous, told the committee that 14,000 applications for title deeds to be “freed” through the law had been received. He added that 6,000 title deeds have been issued, while 34,000 title deeds remain “trapped” due to mortgages.

Opposition parties protest

AKEL accuses the government of acting too slow to rectify the court decisions on the matter.

“We are bothered by the fact that – while it was obvious for weeks now that this would be the outcome of the legislation, that it would face problems in the District Courts –  there is no reaction by the government,” said AKEL in an announcement.

On the same matter, EDEK called on the government “to move ahead immediately to resolve this problem so that the indisputable right to receiving a title deed is restored, and these individuals can make use of their property whenever they decide to.”

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