‘I inherited an illegal property’

Vangelis V. inherited an illegal property in Kalyvia Thorikou in eastern Attica; he also inherited a host of problems. Now he wonders whether it would have been better not to have inherited it at all. «I inherited an illegal property; it wasn’t my choice. Now I don’t know what to do with it. I shall wait to see what happens with legalization. I should have sold it from the start.» Taxes Vangelis works for someone else and is the father of one. In 2005, he inherited from close relatives a 250-square-meter plot of land with a 100-square-meter house in Galazia Akti, which is under the jurisdiction of the Municipality of Kalyvia. «The property is illegal. My uncle and aunt bought it in the 1980s, when the plots of land were being sold in sections in that area. At the beginning of the 90s, all the owners started building and my relatives also started to build with a view to living there permanently one day. In two years’ time, the house had been completed and they obtained electricity from a neighbor who was also a friend.» A few years later, though, Vangelis’s relatives died and they left the property to him. «First we paid the inheritance tax. Then we declared the property to the tax authority and paid a property charge (TAP). Then we started paying the municipal charges, all this for a house that officially does not exist,» explained Vangelis. After he inherited the property, the neighbor who had been supplying the house with electricity cut off the supply. Vangelis started looking for a way to get electricity. «When the Public Works Ministry (YPEHODE) circular was issued for electricity supply to illegal properties in 2003, my aunt and uncle had health problems and did not follow up on the matter. When we started the procedure, we came up against various obstacles and got nowhere. Many people who did not even have a house had submitted ‘blank’ applications for an electricity connection by providing photographs of other houses. Many local authority officials obtained registry numbers for applications which they kept and used in the pre-election period, even though the deadline had passed a long time before. It was therefore out of the question to submit an application. «We then found out that some civil engineers in the area could help you obtain electricity for a sum of 4,000 to 5,000 euros. We did not approach them, fortunately, as we later learnt that many people were deceived and could not take any legal action as it had been illegal anyway. We were advised by a local government official to place a camper on the plot and declare it as our workplace in order to get electricity. Others told us to find a doctor and declare to the authorities that we suffered from kidney disease.» A few months ago, Vangelis and his wife started to examine the legalization procedure. «We went to the prefecture, to the town-planning service, everywhere. Everyone told us the same thing: ‘You’re right but there’s nothing we can do, the problem lies with the municipality.’ The municipality told us the problem was with YPEHODE.» «Throughout Attica small agencies for legalization have been set up everywhere,» said his wife Maria. «One for electricity, one for building permits, and so on, and there is a new regulation every so often. But no one can give you a direct answer as to what you must do or are allowed to do.» A short while ago Vangelis went to see a civil engineer in the area. «He told us to be patient as a new property legalization bill was being prepared and would be passed in the runup to the next elections. He also told us that a well-known mayor in the Piraeus district had built in the area, as had other big shots who were applying pressure for a solution to be found. He said that the area would soon be incorporated into the town plan, although I have heard the same story many times over the last 20 years. I can’t sell the property either or rent it legally, even though many illegal properties are being rented. Recently we heard construction companies in the area were buying up plots en masse, in particular the problematic ones, but I don’t know what game they are playing and whether this has been pre-planned.» Vangelis and his wife have not yet decided what they will do with the property, which has already cost them a fortune. Vangelis confessed he had even thought of pulling it down.

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