NEWS

Bargain prices and payment by installments

The Economy and Finance Ministry’s draft bill on regulating public land that has been encroached on makes provision for bargain prices and paying by installments for 70,000 land-grabbers. Ministry officials say the aim is to solve a chronic problem and to relieve administrative courts of thousands of cases related to urban and rural land. But the draft law specifically states that «the purchase of public land on which illegal buildings have been constructed in no way legalizes these buildings.» If the bill becomes law, the purchase price of illegally occupied public land will be determined by the official objective value of the property when the purchase application was submitted. In areas where the objective price system does not apply, the purchase price will be the market value minus 20 percent. However, the draft bill does not mention how and by whom the objective value of such property is to be determined. The basic prerequisite that an illegal occupier of state land must possess in order to purchase that property is to have occupied the property for at least 20 years by December 30, 2003 and to continue to occupy it until the new law goes into force. Owners who meet this requirement can apply to buy the property within six months of when the law takes effect. In cases where the purchase price does not exceed 50,000 euros, the longer the applicant has occupied the property the more they will benefit, as the purchase price decreases by 0.25 percent for every year of occupation prior to December 30, 2003. Properties for purchase include both urban and rural real estate. In the former category are properties within a town plan that predates 1923, in a village of fewer than 2,000 inhabitants whose boundaries were determined after that date. Properties intended for raising stock or crops are classified as rural. The size of an urban property that may be bought is equivalent to that of the smallest full-size housing plot in the local town plan. If the plot is larger, the remainder will be subject to purchase charges. For rural properties, the land purchased may be up to 4 hectares, on condition it is used solely for farming or stock-raising. If neither condition is met, the claimant may buy up to 1 hectare. Purchasers will get an interest rate of only 5 percent for the first three years. The entire sum will be payable to the purchaser’s local tax office in no more than 6 equal twice-yearly installments. Lump sum payments will be rewarded with a 5 percent discount. If purchasers fall into arrears with more than two installments, the state may reclaim the property and any money paid in installments will not be refunded.