Prosecutor boost for building law

The legal dispute over a recent law which lets homeowners pay a fee to exempt illegally altered parts of their property from further penalties took another twist yesterday when Supreme Court prosecutor Yiannis Tentes said that these homes could be bought and sold without obstruction. Tentes had been asked by the notaries’ union to give his expert legal opinion on the legislation after concern that the new law created a complex legal situation as these illegally altered areas would be officially recognized once the penalty is paid but they would not be made legal, meaning that they could not be recognized as being part of a home when the property is bought or sold. Now, Tentes has suggested that if a homeowner pays the fee set by the government, then there is no reason for the area in question not to be recognized in the contracts that are drawn up. Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias announced in July that the new law aimed to «put in order» 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. Despite the fact that a 1985 building law makes it illegal to change the use of areas within a home, as when balconies become rooms, Tentes points out that the same piece of legislation provides only for the payment of a penalty, not the demolition of the area of property in question. In his opinion, this means that notaries have no reason not to recognize the semi-open spaces since, even though they are not entirely legal, nor are they threatened with demolition.