Outlook for property auctions unclear as notaries call boycott

Outlook for property auctions unclear as notaries call boycott

The outlook for property foreclosures in Greece is unclear after notaries announced a boycott on auctions until the end of the year, citing abuse by protesters, though foreign creditors expect the first online auctions to take place this month. 

According to sources, Greece’s lenders have suggested that the responsibility for foreclosures be shifted from notaries to Greek courts or possibly to Justice Ministry officials.

The latter model, which has been tried and tested in Germany and Spain, was first mooted last month during a visit to Athens by bailout monitors.

The auditors made it clear that the resumption of foreclosures on the homes of overindebted Greeks, which have dragged during the crisis years due to strikes by lawyers and notaries and more recently due to anti-austerity protesters, is a prerequisite for the successful conclusion of Greece’s current bailout review. 

In comments at Monday’s summit of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi indicated that the resumption of property auctions would help banks by reducing the large proportion of bad loans that they hold.

Commenting, Greek Finance Ministry sources said Athens was committed to “not taking our foot off the gas in the implementation of reforms for the review.” 

One of the many conditions of the latest review is that Greece launch electronic foreclosures. The first is supposed to take place on November 29. However, it is unclear how that procedure will be carried out in view of the protracted walkout by Greek notaries.

In a joint statement on Monday, the associations representing notaries in Athens, Piraeus and the islands of the Aegean and the Dodecanese said they will not be conducting any property auctions through December 31. The decision was reached during a meeting on Saturday with a vote of 134 in favor and 132 against.

The associations said the decision was aimed at initiating talks with the Justice Ministry in order to provide protection to notaries who have come under attack – often violent – by anti-establishment groups and protesters opposed to foreclosures.

Notaries also want the Justice Ministry to be made responsible for electronic auctions, as well as to address any disputes that may arise from them.

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