New building law reassessed

A recently passed law that allows more than 1 million homeowners to pay a fee to exempt illegally constructed sections of their property from further penalties is to be scrutinized by the Supreme Court after it emerged that the legislation fails to make it legal for the homes concerned to be sold later. In a blaze of publicity last month, Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias announced that the law aimed to «tidy up» the status of areas of homes which were originally planned as balconies but have since been turned into closed rooms. Under the legislation, which could earn the government 2 billion euros, homeowners could pay 10 percent of the official value of the surface area as set by the tax office in order to obtain documents that stop short of legalizing these spaces, known as «imyipaithroi» (semi-open) in Greek. However, since the law was passed, notaries who have been preparing paperwork for the sale and purchase of properties have pointed out that the law fails to make it legal to transfer ownership of a home where these «semi-open» spaces have been «tidied up.» «It has caused a massive problem because citizens who have rushed to pay the fee to tidy up their semi-open spaces now find themselves at a dead end because they can not transfer ownership,» said the president of the Athens Notaries’ Association, Yiannis Vlachakis. A law passed in 1983 expressly forbids homes where these spaces have been illegally closed from being sold, so the Supreme Court is now going to step in to attempt to resolve the situation. Sources said that the court is likely to issue a ruling on the matter by the end of next month, which will mean an uncertain period for the property market in the meantime.