Cyprus' planning laws

property planning lawsPlanning applications must be submitted & planning permission obtained for all types of development from the local Town Planning Authority.

In Cyprus, there is no independent inspection of property as it is being built. Here, it is the responsibility of the architect in charge to monitor the construction & ensure it is carried out in accordance with the regulations and building permits. Independent inspection only occurs when the property's finished (which of course, may be too late).

Some property developers ignore the law and build properties before the required permissions and permits have been issued. People buying off-plan property are usually unaware of this (particularly if they've used the developers pet lawyer). Illegal building is a serious and widespread problem!

If the property developer has built illegally, the authorities have the power to issue a 'Demolition Order' requiring the illegal building to be pulled down! To avoid any chance of this happening to you, follow the advice in my article: How to reduce your risks when buying off-plan.

In July 2011 and after years of debate, the government revised a number of laws and introduced a 3-year planning amnesty. These were designed to overcome the problems that prevented properties that had been built illegally or that suffered from planning infringements from being issued with their Title Deeds. The government also published a  Planning Application Bulletin outlining the key changes in the legislation.

It also introduced changes designed to reduce bureaucratic and administrative procedures, which should result in Title Deeds being issued quicker in the future. However, the effectiveness of these changes is unknown at present as they have yet to be tested in practice.

Introduction to the Cyprus planning laws and process

Application for Town Planning Permit - This permit for the development defines what you can build, its usage, the access, the giving up of part of the property (usually land) for public use, the layout/appearance of a building, the density, height, coverage etc. Legal time required for a reply is 3 months, but the actual time, depending there are no problems, is 6-9 months.

Building Permit – Once a Planning Permit has been issued, an application is made for a building permit. This checks the structural stability of the building, the provision of public services, health & safety, the fire adequacy of the building, sewage and drainage etc. Although there is no legal time limit required for their issue, Building Permits should be received within 3 - 4 months. However, in some parts of Cyprus they can take 12 - 18 months.

In parallel with an application for a Building Permit a Division Permit is sought where necessary. This enables the authorities to sub-divide the properties so that a Title Deed may be issued for each of the properties comprising the development. Assuming there are no complications, this will take 6 months or thereabouts.

Once the building is finished, the Municipality/District Office/Town Planning Department is invited to check that it has been built in accordance with the Town Planning & Building Permits issued for its construction (see above). The inspection should take place within 2 months, but it can take up to 4 - 6 months depending on the workload.

Cover Permits – Buildings are not always constructed in accordance with their Town Planning & Building Permits. Car ports and swimming pools, etc may have been added. In these situations, new applications have to be made for a revised Town Planning permit (Cover Permit) & a revised Building Permit (Cover Building Permit). Depending on the changes made to the original applications, these can take anything up to 12 months to process.

Once the Cover Permits have been issued, the Municipality/District Office/Town Planning Department is invited once again to check that everything is OK.

Certificate of Final Approval - Once the the Municipality/District Office/Town Planning Department has given the OK, a Certificate of Final approval must be sought from the Building Committee. The supervising engineer prepares a report and then submits it to the local Civil Engineer. The Civil Engineer then passes it to the Building Committee for their consideration. The report is the reviewed by the Building Committee, the minutes of the meeting are typed, corrected and approved; all the members of the Building Committee must sign the minutes of their meeting. Assuming that everything is OK, it takes 6 - 18 months to issue a Certificate of Final Approval. However, if there are problems, it can take significantly longer. If there are severe problems, a order can be issued requiring the demolition of the building (Demolition Order).

A Certificate of Approval for the Division Permit - Once a Division Permit has been issued, a Certificate of Approval of the Division Permit is required. This follows a similar procedure to that of the Certificate of Final Approval - through the Civil Engineer, Building Committee; typed, corrected and signed minutes, etc. Assuming there are no complications, this process will take a further 6 months.

Once a Certificate of Approval of the Division Permit has been issued, an application is made to the District Lands' Office for the registration of the property & issue of Title Deeds. Depending on difficulties & complications, this can take anything from 12 - 30 months.

If you have bought a property on a large development, the development may require an environmental study. This will delay matter by a further 6 - 8 months (although the legal time limit is 30 days).

The total time from start to completion is around 7 - 9 years. Once you've taken delivery of a property, you're looking at something like 4 - 6 years before completion.

Land Registry figures released in October 2008 show that 29,949 non-Cypriot property buyers are currently waiting for their Title Deeds and that during the preceding three and a half years, just 4,400 property Title Deeds were transferred to non-Cypriot property buyers.

So if their past performance is anything to go by, it will take the Land Registry nearly 24 YEARS to transfer Title Deeds to the 29,949 who are still waiting!

Ignoring the planning law

As mentioned above, some property developers choose to ignore the law and start construction work illegally. This causes problems for those buying property; particularly for those who are buying off-plan. Such problems include:

Buyers ignore the planning laws

Property developers are not the only people who break the law - some property buyers also choose to ignore the regulations. They build swimming pools, add extensions and make other changes illegally.

This illegal construction further complicates matters. Even though the developer may have constructed the development in accordance with the regulations, the inspectors will not issue a 'Certificate of Final Approval' until matters are resolved by the removal or demolition of the illegal changes.