ECONOMY

Illegal buildings measure starting to pick up steam

A government initiative to regulate illegal construction appears to be headed for success despite earlier indications of the opposite being true, as recent data released by the Environment Ministry suggest that 339,489 illegal buildings have already been registered with authorities.

This means that 8.5 percent of Greek households have declared illegally built property, considering that the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) estimates that there are 3,993,000 homes in Greece.

The measure allows owners of property that has been built illegally or has undergone illegal transformations to pay a fine that will protect the property from demolition for a period of 30 years.

According to sources, the reasons for the sudden flurry of declarations were, on the one hand, the fact that the deadline for registering illegal constructions in 2011 is Friday, and, on the other, that homeowners realized that unless they took advantage of the measure they would in the future have to pay a lot more for the undeclared property or additions if they want to sign over the title to a family member or to sell the property. This is because a recent amendment to the legislation governing ownership of property stipulates that every sale or transfer of property must be subject to an inspection by a mechanical engineer, who will have to issue a certificate stating the building abides by all regulations. The fines for buildings that are in violation, meanwhile, will go up exponentially in the new year.

The Environment Ministry also said that revenues from the measure have surpassed 1 billion euros, in addition to 88 million euros collected in fines and administrative fees. Furthermore, it is also expecting to collect another 694,366,616 euros in fines from an additional 67,521 buildings.

The flat fee for homeowners wanting to protect their property from future demolition or sanctions is estimated, among others, according to its size, age, location within the zoning plan and type of use. Whether the owner had a license of built the property or addition to begin with and the kind of violation committed, are also factors that are taken into account.

For residential property, the fine needs to be deposited within 30 months of the application being accepted in equal installments. Delays in payment are fined 1 percent of their initial amount for every month. Owners of properties used for anything other than residential purposes have up to 36 months in which to pay their fine. The first installment in all cases must be deposited within three months of the date on which the regulation comes into effect.

If owners pay their fine in full in one installment, they will receive a 20 percent discount, whereas if the first installment of the fine is not paid within the first three months or if the owner misses out on three consecutive installments, he or she will no longer be eligible for the regulation.