12 Aug District Officers’ error in applications by aliens
District Officers’ error in applications by aliens
by George Coucounis
“The Law requires stamping of the contract of sale and not its deposition at the Land Registry for the examination of the application by an alien”
The acquisition of an immovable property by foreign nationals of countries other than the European Union, requires the issuance of a permit by the relevant District Officer in whose district the property to be acquired is situated. This power was delegated by the Council of Ministers to the District Officers and, as the case may be, they authorize the acquisition of immovable property on terms and conditions. According to the government’s post, the necessary data and information for submitting applications is form Comm.145 fully and clearly completed, cadastral survey plan, copy of the certificate of ownership/title deed, copy of the building permit for the erection of the house/block of flats, unless a separate title deed was issued, copy of the contract of sale duly stamped, level plan of the house or flat, a division plan must be submitted in the case of division of plots. In areas of residential development, the plan must be submitted showing the position of the house in relation to the entire holding, documents indicating the financial situation of the applicants, copies of the pages of the applicants’ passports and those of their spouses and other relevant information. The Law governing the acquisition of immovable property in Cyprus by aliens is Cap.109, the provisions of which are outdated and it should be modernized.
There is also the phenomenon that the District Officers do not apply the provisions of the Law uniformly. A District Officer requires the submission of a copy of the contract of sale duly stamped for the examination of the application of an alien purchaser and another District Officer requires, in the case of plots, the provision of a certificate of final approval, while the government’s posting requires a copy of the building permit. Although the relevant authorities requested a meeting with the Minister of Interior for consultation on this issue, it has not been implemented to date and the situation remains the same. This fact exposes the state to aliens who intend to acquire immovable property in Cyprus due to their differential treatment. The District Officer who demands the deposition of the contract of sale in the Land Registry for examination of an application is in error about the Law. While it was pointed out to him that the Law and the posting only require a copy of the duly stamped contract of sale as a necessary element for the submission of an application, he nevertheless insisted on his unjustified demand for deposition.
Due to the erroneous demand of the District Officer to protect the purchaser disregarding the rights of the vendor, a sale did not proceed because the intended alien purchaser was not able to understand what was valid in relation to his case. The District Officer, with his attitude, essentially interfered in the contractual relationship between vendor and purchaser to the detriment of the vendor’s rights. It is noted that there is a footnote at the end of the application form, which correctly draws the attention of applicants to the provisions of the Law and that all arrangements for the purchase, up to the transfer of the property before the appropriate District Lands Office are the sole concern of the applicant and the registered owner of the property. The issue of the permit does not in any way imply any responsibility on behalf of the government of the Republic of Cyprus of enforcing the contractual responsibilities of the aforesaid two parties. It is advisable that the applicants seek legal advice.
The Immovable Property Acquisition (Aliens) Law, Cap.109, article 3 (3), requires a valid contract or agreement, written or oral, made in accordance with the provisions of the Contract Law or any other Law in force for the time being providing for the acquisition of immovable property by an alien, shall not confer upon such alien or for his benefit any right or acquiring such immovable property, except only upon the grant of the permit of the Council of Ministers (District Officer) to acquire such immovable property. Also, Article 3(4) provides that nothing in the provisions contained in Cap.109 shall affect the right of an alien to do any act specified in section 2 of the Sale of Lands (Specific Performance) Law No. 81(I)/2011. The purpose of submitting the contract of sale at the Land Registry is to create an estate in land burdening the immovable property referred to in the contract of sale. Cap.109 does not impose an obligation to deposit the contract of sale in the Land Registry for the purposes of examination or issuance of permit by the relevant District Officer. Additionally, it provides that any registration of immovable property effected in contravention of this section shall be null and void.
The Minister of Interior ought to intervene in order for the District Officers to apply the aforesaid Law uniformly and correctly, as well as to proceed with the modernization of the particular legislation.