By Constantinos Psillides
A CHANGE in legislation that would allow commercial banks and government services to have free access to the Department of Lands and Survey (DLS) registry was discussed yesterday in the parliamentary finance committee.
Under the proposed change in legislation, banks would no longer have to go through the head of DLS to gain access to information regarding home and land ownership.
The amendment was requested by the troika of international lenders – European Central Bank, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund – in an effort to create a database that can be easily accessible so to assess loan risks and also to easily verify the validity of claims made by future loan seekers.
“The goal is to give better access to the registry so as to make the verification process easier”, said House Finance committee chairman Nicolas Papadopoulos.
He added that measures would be taken to prevent abuse of the new system. Papadopoulos explained that the head of the department of lands and survey would conduct regular checks of the banks’ claims.
The proposed legislation includes a penalty of €250,000 and the revoking of access privileges to any bank that is caught abusing the system by asking for personal data that doesn’t fall within the given parameters.
Opposition AKEL and the Green Party expressed their disagreement with the legislation, arguing that it would make it easier for banks to foreclose the properties of those unable to pay arrears.
AKEL MP Yiannos Lamaris said that was “morally reprehensible and socially unjust for the people to be asked to pay for the banks’ rescue, while they still suffer from their previous sins”.
Greens MP Giorgos Perdikis called the proposed legislation “scandalous”, saying it aimed “at making it easier for banks to get hold of properties”.
The new legislation is expected to take effect in the fourth quarter of 2014.
The House Finance Committee also discussed the second leg of the proposed legislation, which entails the unification of the commercial banks database with the one used by the co-ops and the Housing Finance Corporation. The unification of the databases was also a troika demand and falls in the scope of simplifying the credit evaluation and risk assessment by the banks.
According to deputies, the Central Bank should implement the new unified database by September 2014.
Papadopoulos expressed his disapproval of the fact that the House was always called upon to vote on legislation favouring the banks. He appealed to the government and the Central Bank to bring forth legislation aimed instead at helping borrowers.
“People need to be able to stand on their own feet. The increase in non-performing loans is in nobody’s best interest”, he added.