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A General Cyprus legal guideline for immovable property

The Cyprus legal system is harmonized with EU Legislation after Cyprus became part of EU in May 2004. In addition to that the Cyprus Legal system in many respects is similar to the British Law due to its colonial legacy.

For buyers purchasing immovable property which is completed or under construction it is important to understand the Cypriot legal framework with regards to the ownership and registration of the property on the purchaser’s name.

In this article we will explain the main steps in the procedure for the issue of individual property title deeds and the transfer of the title deeds in the purchasers name. The various fees and taxes involved in the procedure will also be looked at.

It is also important to note that under normal circumstances it usually takes from 1-4 years after the property is completed for the individual property title deed to be issued and transferred into the purchaser’s name. The purchaser can however register his acquisition formally from day 1 by the deposit of the contract of sale at the Land registry.



1. PROCEDURE FOR THE ISSUE OF THE INDIVIDUAL TITLE DEEDS.

Under Cyprus Law the legal steps during the process of the construction of buildings and the transfer of the title deeds to the legal owners includes the following steps:

a)      Planning application by the registered owner of the land who will be developing the building(s) on the Land is filed at the planning authority.

b)      After the planning permission is granted the applicant applies for a Building application of the building(s) at the building authority.

c)      After the building permission is granted the applicant can begin construction of the building(s).

d)     Once the building is completed the applicant applies for the Final approval certificate of the building which is issued by the building authority. If there are Illegalities or Irregularities with the Building Permit, no Certificate of Approval can be issued. Therefore no title deeds can be obtained.  Therefore a Final approval certificate is the prove that the building has been constructed according to the planning and building permission.

e)      After the Final approval certificate is granted an Application for the division of the property into the individual units is applied. For example in a building where there are 10 apartments the application for division is filed in order to separate the building into 10 separate title deeds.

f)       After the division of property is completed the applicant can proceed with the Application for the issue of the title deeds for the individual units at the Land Registry Office

g)      Once the separate title deeds are issued the applicant can proceed with the transfer of the title deeds to the legal owners of the units (The purchasers under the contract of Sale that the vendor and the purchaser entered) at the Land Registry Office

h)      It is important to note that the above applies only where the building is developed within a registered plot.



2. ACQUISITION OF IMMOVABLE PROPERTY IN CYPRUS

The acquisition of immovable property in Cyprus is allowed to any legal entity or person with limitations is some cases as explained below


a) Acquisition of immovable property in Cyprus by Cypriots & E.U citizens

Under Cyprus Law, Cypriots or persons of Cypriot origin as well as E.U citizens are allowed to acquire any property without any restrictions.

The residential status is ascertained by the District offices and is obtained when a person resides in Cyprus for a total period of 185 days per year or more. The restrictions applied for E.U citizens not residing in Cyprus ceased after 2009 and all citizens of the E.U are now treated equally with Cypriot citizens regardless of their residential status


b) Acquisition of immovable property in Cyprus by non E.U citizens

A foreigner is generally any person or legal entity that is not a Cypriot or part of the European Union.

Non E.U residents, wishing to purchase immovable property in Cyprus are restricted to the type and size of the property which they can purchase. Non EU citizens are given permission to buy only one apartment or one house or a building plot or land.

After the permission has been obtained (see related article) and the property has been registered in the name of the purchaser, there are no other restrictions for foreigners who are the owners of immovable property in Cyprus. They may sell or dispose of the property as they wish.  The foreigner owner of immovable property can sell it and buy another and as any bona fide repeat purchaser will be granted a subsequent permit.



3. SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE – SAFEGUARD FOR THE PURCHASER

Once the purchaser enters into an agreement with the vendor (registered owner) for the purchase of immovable property, the agreement can be stamped and then lodged at the District Land Registry, although this is not necessary. Once there contract of sale is lodged at the Land Registry the specific performance can be called by the purchaser.

According to the provisions of Specific Performance Law, the purchaser of immovable property may secure the transfer of the acquired property onto his/her name by depositing a duly signed and stamped copy of the contract at the Land Registry, within six (6) months from the signing of the contract.

By depositing the contract in the Land Registry, the purchaser prevents the owner from transferring the property elsewhere or changing it, for as long as the contract is valid and legally effective.  No burdens, charges or encumbrances can affect the right of specific performance after the contract has been deposited with the Land Registry.

Depositing a copy of the contract to the Land Registry gives the purchaser the right to seek “specific performance” of the terms and conditions of the contract and thus to register the property onto the purchaser’s name, even though  the owner may not be willing to accommodate such procedures.

4. APPROVAL BY THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS

According to Cyprus Law, foreigners who enter into an agreement for the purchase of immovable property must obtain the permission of the Council of Ministers prior to the transfer of the title deed into their names and the acquisition of real estate in general. The permission is granted by the appropriate District Authority of every district, in order for the procedure to become speedier.

A foreigner- the law uses the term “alien”- is any person who is not a citizen of the Republic, including an alien controlled company.  The term does not include foreigners of Cypriot origin or non Cypriot spouses of citizens of the republic.


ACQUISITION OF REAL ESTATE PROPERTY IN CYPRUS INCLUDES:

  • Transfer of title deed
  • Long lease for periods of more then 33 years
  • The acquisition of shares in a company that owns immovable property, if such acquisition results in the company becoming controlled by foreigners
  • The establishment of a trust or any type of set-up, which is connected with the ownership of real estate, for the benefit of a foreigner, including tax benefits

Although the proceedings for the obtaining of the permission might need a considerable amount of time to be fulfilled, purchasers are entitled to occupy and get possession of their properties until then.

The application to the Pertinent Authority requires information about the personal details and financial standing of the applicant and particulars of the property and its present owner.  Also it must be accompanied by a number of legal documents. Please see our related article ‘Acquisition of immovable property in Cyprus by foreigners ‘ for more details


AS A GENERAL RULE, PERMISSION IS GRANTED TO BONA FIDE APPLICANTS PROVIDED THEY HAVE:

  • No criminal record in their country or in Cyprus
  • The financial means to support themselves in Cyprus. (An income of €20,503 per annum between the couple is considered satisfactory)



5. FEES AND CHARGES FOR IMMOVABLE PROPERTY ACQUISITION

a) Stamp duty and Deposit of Contract Fee

It is recommended that if a purchaser buys an immovable property and especially when it is under construction that the contract of sale is duly stamped and also lodged at the Land Registry for the reasons explained in part 3 above. However in the case that the immovable property has a separate title deed often the parties choose not to deposit any contract of sale at the Land Registry but to complete the acquisition straight at the Land Registry with the payment of the purchase price and the transfer fees by the purchaser (explained in section 6 below) and the transfer of the title deed at the same time.

In case that the parties agree that the contract of sale will be lodged and at the Land Registry and unless otherwise stipulated in the contract, the purchaser is liable for the payment of stamp duty at the rate of 0.15% of the value of the property up to €170,860.14 and 0.20% for over €170,860.14. The deposit of the contract of sale at the Land Registry fee is €1,70.

The contract should be stamped within a period of thirty (30) days from signing. Although the absence of the revenue stamp on a contract does not render it void, the revenue stamp must be paid before depositing the contract to the Land Registry for specific Performance purposes (see point 4 above) The stamp duty plus a fine will be payable when the document is produced to the Land Office for the transfer of ownership of property, to any Government department or to the court.  In order to avoid the payment of a fine, which could be substantial, the documents should be stamped within 30 days of their signing.

For example if the purchase price is € 200,00.00 the table below illustrates the tax calculation


6. IMMOVABLE PROPERTY TRANSFER FEES

The transfer of immovable property into a purchaser’s name can be effected once the individual title deed is issued by the land registry as explained in the beginning of this section.

At the day of transferring and registering the property under his/her name at the District Land Office, the purchaser is liable to pay the transfer fees, calculated according to the property’s market value at the time of signing of the contracts:

The rates are on a graduated scale as shown at the table below.


If the property is in joint names e.g. of a couple (husband and wife) or two individuals, then the purchase value is divided into two parts which results in reduced transfer fees.

Please see the example below:

For a property with a purchase price of € 200.000 in one name, the fees payable are € 9.165,59.


For property purchased for € 200.000 in two persons, the fees payable are € 6.582,80.



7. COMMUNAL EXPENSES

Communal expenses are usually payable yearly in advance and sometimes in two 6-month installments, and vary from development to development depending on the services offered under the management agreement, the area and type of the property. According to the legislation regulating the communal areas, the owners of properties have the right to:

a)       Appoint a management/maintenance company for an agreed fee in order to manage, operate and maintain the communal areas.

b)       Another way is when the administrative committee of a building complex collects the funds from all the owners and manages the communal areas themselves.

It can be said that in large developments or in developments where most of the owners are not permanents residents, it is easier to choose the first method and appoint a management/maintenance company for a fee.

The communal areas fee cover an immovable property’s owner share of the cost of cleaning and maintaining common areas and gardens, communal swimming pool expenses, electricity in common areas, communal water bills, communal areas insurance, management fees and minor repairs, the management company’s profit and administration and in general any expense as outlined in the agreement between the owners and the management company.


Published in 2011. Please note that there might have been changes at the above since 2011.

 
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