O’Dwyer decision another nail in the property coffin

Cyprus Mail

ALTHOUGH we are not legal experts and cannot express an informed opinion on the legal intricacies of court cases, there is point raised in the judgement of the O’Dwyer vs Karayiannas Developers case that makes no sense at all. In her judgment, the judge noted that “the fact they (plaintiffs) submitted a sales contract to the Land Registry did not mean they automatically and in perpetuity have become the ‘owners’ (as they mean it) of the residence.”

This is a bewildering view that would suggest that the irrevocable right to property is not protected by the law in Cyprus. If a sales contract for a property that is submitted to the Land Registry does not mean the buyer has become the owner in perpetuity, then we have a serious problem with our laws.

How and when would a buyer become the legal owner of a piece of real estate in perpetuity? Are we to believe that our law does not always safeguard the right to ownership of property?

These are very important questions that nobody should be asking in a country in which there is rule of law. The protection of property rights is one of the fundamental principles on which democracies are built. Yet the judge in the above-mentioned case did not believe that submission of a sales contract to the Land Registry was enough to guarantee a person’s property rights. If this is the case, and the judge understands the law better than us, people should be told how their property rights are protected when they buy real estate.

Until this judgment was issued, most people were under the impression that once a sales contract was submitted to the land registry, the ownership of the buyer was indisputable. There is a Supreme Court decision supporting this position, but the judge in the O’Dwyer case either disagreed with it or was not aware of it. Whatever her reasons, her decision was another nail in the coffin of the Cyprus property market, as it served to reinforce the widely held view among foreigner buyers that Cyprus law offers little protection to property buyers.

There could not have been a worse advertisement for the Cyprus property market than this decision. When a judge rules that not even submission of a sales contract to the Land Registry safeguards property rights, what foreigner, in his right mind, would consider buying a holiday home in Cyprus?

Editorial: Published on January 29, 2011
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