THE specific performance law provides a six-month time limit for the deposition of a sale contract at the Land Registry, the term commencing from the date of signing. After the lapse of this deadline, the law, as interpreted in a recent judgment of the District Court of Larnaca, does not allow for an extension by a court order.
The said case regarded an application by a buyer of a house under a sale contract dated 28.6.2010, seeking a court order allowing the belated deposition of his sale contract at the Land Registry for specific performance purposes or as an estate in land. The vendor filed an objection to the issuance of the order. The Larnaca court provided important guidance as to the interpretation of the law, which must be seriously taken into consideration by the legislature upon the re-opening of the House of Representatives.
The aforesaid sale contract was signed six years ago, prior to the enactment and publication of the specific performance law. According to the law, the deadline for the deposition of the sale contract to the Land Registry was extended until 29.1.2012 but the buyer did not make the necessary arrangements for its deposition. Through a relevant amendment of the specific performance law in 2012, an additional six-month window was provided for the deposition of the sale contract but the buyer did not take advantage of it so the buyer subsequently applied to court to allow its belated deposition.
His application was based on an article allowing the court discretion to allow the late deposition of the sale contract. According to the judgment, this article makes no reference to the relevant transitional provision and the amendment of the specific performance law, which allowed for the belated deposition of sale contracts for six months each. Hence, the discretion of the court to allow the belated deposition of the sale contract is restricted. Interpreting the specific performance law, the court held that the said transitional provisions which allowed the belated deposition of sale contracts for the total period of one year after the enactment and publication of the aforesaid law, chronologically follow the arrangement introduced for the exercise of the court’s discretion allowing the belated deposition of the sale contract.
Taking into consideration the date of the aforesaid sale contract, which was signed prior to the enactment of the specific performance law, it was held that the application of the said buyer did not fall within the ambit of the law. It is evident that there is an ambiguity in the specific performance law which on the one hand restricts the exercise of the rights of buyers who fail to deposit their sale contract at the Land Registry in time and on the other hand it may be argued that it changes the initial intention of the legislature. According to the aforesaid judgment, it would be right, where appropriate, for the courts to have the ability to extend the time for the deposition of a sale contract even if it was signed before the commencement of the validity of the specific performance law or its amendment.
Under the circumstances, it is necessary for the new composition of the House of Representatives to proceed with the necessary amendments or deletions of articles in the specific performance law for this ambiguity to be clarified, the discretion of the court to be widened and the right of each buyer to secure a court order allowing the deposition of his sale contract, if the requirements of the law are fulfilled, to be safeguarded.