Around 30,000 British property investors in Cyprus could face an expensive and protracted legal battle to prove they own their homes.
Hopes had been raised that new legislation affecting the Mediterranean island, recently outlined by the Cypriot government, would help overcome the problems surrounding title deeds which have been rumbling on for several years. But it has now emerged that this legislation will only apply to new purchases.
The problem arose because developers who sold properties held onto title deeds as collateral for loans. This means even though some investors have now paid in full, they have no legal document to prove that they own it, which in turn means they are unable to put the property up for sale.
Property owners who have been campaigning for the confusion over property ownership to be clarified only became aware of the latest situation after British peer Lord Jones of Cheltenham demanded clarification in the House of Lords.
This led to British High Commissioner Peter Millet asking for a written response from Neoclis Sylikiotis Minister of the Interior.
He supplied a statement which read: “The Minister was fully aware of the problem of obtaining title deeds, an issue which also affects a large number of Cypriots.
The Cyprus Government will introduce legislation to speed up the issuing of title deeds, but this legislation will only apply to future cases.”
Previously, the British High Commissioner to Cyprus informed David Miliband, Secretary of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, that he had received assurances from the Cypriot Interior Ministry that they would introduce a bill to tackle the situation of ownership.
Property owners welcomed this news but are now angered that the new laws will only affect future transactions. It is estimated that it could affect around 100,000 owners in total.
Leslie Glassock, one of the British property owners still waiting for his title deeds, set up a petition on the Number 10 website in December calling on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to put pressure on the Cyprus Government.
It said: “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to exert pressure on the Government of Cyprus to protect property rights in Cyprus in compliance with Article 17 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.”
Thousands of property owners signed the petition before this week’s deadline.