How your independent lawyer can help

A lawyer giving adviceThe process of buying property in Cyprus is similar to that in the UK and most other developed countries.

Much of the advertising you see claims that the Cyprus Law is based on British Law. The Cyprus Property Law is actually based on Ottoman Land Law, and the differences between the laws of the UK and those of Cyprus are significant!

Unlike the UK, where property buyers’ solicitors carry out various plan and title searches automatically, no such ‘standard’ methods of working are in common use in Cyprus. Some lawyers will guide you through the process, others will not.

It is essential that you instruct your lawyer correctly to ensure that he/she carries out the required tasks to safeguard your interests.

Essential tasks your Cyprus lawyer must undertake

When buying property, your lawyer should, as a minimum:

(a) For all types of property

  • Confirm that the person selling the property is its legal, registered owner.
  • Confirm that the property is free from any claims/encumbrances (such as a mortgage) and prohibitions. If the lawyer finds any encumbrances or prohibitions, they should advise you of the risks they present and possible steps that may be taken to protect your interests.
  • Confirm that the vendor is in a position to deliver title of the property to you.
  • Ensure there is free and legal access to the property from a public highway.
  • Deal with your obligations to pay property taxes in a fair manner.
  • Draft and finalise the legal contracts.
  • Arrange for the payment of Stamp Duty and the stamping of the contact at the tax office.
  • Deposit the signed contract at the Land Registry for Specific Performance.
  • Ensure that the vendor pays any taxes due by him, thereby ensuring that a tax clearance certificate to be issued.
  • Check that the property is not affected by town planning proposal. Unlike the UK, getting a formal written statement from the planning authority is not possible. The best that can be expected is an informal, non-binding, off-the-record comment from one of the officers. A lawyer will be able to advise buyers about the zoning of the area, the building capacity and density, but not if a neighbour has applied for permission to start up a pig farm! And as the zoning may change, a lawyer would not be able to offer guarantees on this aspect of a purchase.
  • Facilitate the transfer of ownership of the property from vendor to you and the payment of Property Transfer Fees.

(b) For ‘off-plan’ property (property that is bought before it’s been built or during construction)

(c) For resale property

  • Ensure that the property is shown on the Title Deed.
  • Obtain a structural survey and professional opinion on the asking price from a RICS surveyor.

(d) For land

  • Establish the precise location of the land.
  • Establish that the land may be used for the buyers intended purpose. As planning applications can only be submitted by the legal registered owner of the land, all that can be expected is an informal, non-binding, off-the-record comment from one of the planning officers.
  • Obtain a survey of the land to assess its suitability for the buyers intended purpose.

(e) For properties sharing common facilities such as entrance halls, stairways, exterior walls, swimming pool, tennis courts, gardens, etc.

  • Determine whether the required administrative committee for the management of the common areas has been established.
  • Draft and finalise the legal contracts associated with the payment of management fees and insurance of the common facilities. (This only applies to resale property as there cannot be a management committee for properties that do not exist. For off-plan purchases, provision should be made for the establishment of such a committee with responsibility for common areas resting with the developer until such time as the committee is formed).