Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias announced yesterday the extension of the deadline for hundreds of thousands of property owners to submit their land register applications until October 31, admitting that the process had not run as smoothly as authorities had hoped. Souflias conceded that a backlog had accumulated around mid-August when at least half of staff processing land register claims went on vacation. The process was hindered further as thousands of citizens decided to submit their applications in August, when the capital usually empties out, hoping to avoid queues. Souflias apologized to citizens for the aggravation but stressed that October 31 is the final deadline, noting that property owners who fail to meet it will face fines of up to 1,500 euros. The minister also heralded a series of measures to ensure that the process runs smoothly from now on. These measures include extending the opening hours of more than 70 land registry offices so that they operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and also receive the public on Saturdays, from 8.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. Additionally, citizens will be able to pay land registry charges – 35 euros for each property and 20 euros for each garage or storeroom – at post offices as well as most major banks. The latter measure is expected to encourage more property owners to submit their applications by post and take some pressure off the land registry offices. «These measures should help the process run smoothly as long as citizens do not wait until the last minute,» Souflias said. According to ministry data released yesterday, just a fifth of property owners’ applications have been made so far.