The role of an in-house counsel is always evolving. Legal counsels nowadays need to collaborate with the businesses and understand its issues so they can produce viable and tangible solutions.
The role of in-house counsel is to understand the strategy, risks points and targets of the business and effectively communicate the risks and legal issues involved in any decisions to the management, this includes corporate governance and general corporate matters. In addition, to providing legal support to various other business departments, including accounting/finance, human resources, sales, leasing team, investor relations and corporate communications and facilities.
The ability to give valid legal advice as well as acting as a responsible legal department ‘cost center’ is a fundamental skill for corporate counsels. The legal department of City Stars Properties currently consists of approximately 12 full-time lawyers, administrative assistants, and other support staff.
The biggest difference between in-house counsel and as an independent lawyer is that an in-house counsel is typically involved in matters much earlier in the process, often at the planning stages. Consequently, the biggest contribution that in-house counsel can bring is to help shape decisions early on in the process that can appropriately minimize legal risks while still achieving the business goals.
The legal department of any real estate development company must have a strong base in drafting contracts for the company, we at City Stars Properties favour FIDIC contracts and the protection they deliver.
FIDIC membership today covers 97 countries of the world. One of its main essential objectives is to promote and encourage the development of young professionals in the consulting engineering industry. FIDIC is actively promoting high standards of ethics and integrity among all stakeholders involved in the development of infrastructure worldwide and most importantly it promotes and assist the worldwide development of viable consulting engineering industries practice.
Due to the political instabilities, FIDIC will participate to enable the development of a better sustainable environment for the consulting engineering industry in Egypt. FIDIC contribute and work closely with the stakeholders to improve the business climate. The main legal issues in real estate development projects in Egypt are related to Law Number 89 of the year 1998 for Tenders and Auctions, because of the famous cases related to that law. The law stipulates that government contracts for construction projects must be undertaken through public auctions.
It’s worth mentioning that the Egyptian government has recently announced that it will not withdraw any pieces of land from the investors even if they violated the law while establishing their projects on land allocated for agriculture especially in the areas of the Sixth of October, Tenth of Ramadan, New Cairo, Cairo, Ismailia and Cairo- Alexandria Desert roads. However, the government has asserted that violators will pay fines that represent the difference between the price of lands allocated for agriculture and others allocated for establishing projects/resorts.
In recent years, the Egyptian government has shown a commitment to attract foreign investment into the real estate sector and therefore the process of property purchase, ownership for foreign nationals as investors is improving all the time, and new registration rules are being drawn up.
The Egyptian legal system provides protection for real and personal property, but laws on real estate ownership are complex and titles to real property may be difficult to establish and trace. Reforms in 2007 simplified the registration process for residential construction in new urban areas built on the outskirts of Cairo and Alexandria.
The mortgage market is still undeveloped in Egypt. Real Estate Finance Law Number 148 of the year 2001 authorized both banks and non-bank mortgage companies to issue mortgages.
The law provides procedures for foreclosure on property on defaulting debtors and amendments passed in 2004 that allow for the issuance of mortgages backed securities. According to the regulations, banks can offer financing in foreign currency of up to 80% of the value of the property.
In addition, Presidential decree number 17/2015 permitted the government to provide land, free of charge and in certain regions only, to investors/developers meeting certain technical and financial requirements. This provision expires on April 1st, 2020, and the investor/developer must provide cash collateral for 5 years for either production (for industrial projects) or operations (for all other projects).
In the case of a dispute, what is the preference of an in house legal; litigation or arbitration?
Litigation is an adversarial process whereby the parties submit evidence to a judge or jury and then rely on the judge or jury to make and impose a binding decision regarding the dispute. Litigation is governed by formal rules and procedures of court and generally is time consuming and expensive. Since it is adversarial, litigation is in effect a contest in which a winner and loser are selected.
Arbitration is similar to litigation in that it is an adversarial process whereby the parties submit evidence to a neutral third person (the arbitrator) who then renders a decision regarding the dispute. However, arbitration is usually private and not conducted in the surroundings, or under the formal rules and procedures, of courts. In order to compel another party to arbitrate a dispute, in most cases, the parties must have previously entered into an agreement to arbitrate their disputes.
In the end, we feel that the most important reason for the weakness of investment in Egypt and the futility of what is being amended or introduced legislation is the lack of a mechanism to implement those laws.