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David Fabián | December 5, 2023

Poor record keeping as a reason for revocation of ownership? State looks into incorrect real estate registration

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This time, the fireworks set off on New Year’s Eve will not only announce the start of 2024, but also the end of the deadline that has been given to property owners not yet registered. They have one last month to apply for the property. If they do not, the property goes to the state.

Family houses, cottages, forests, fields or even garages. All of this falls under real estate. Their specificity is that each individual property must be registered in the public register. The Land Register serves as a tool for registering real estate, contributes to legal certainty and assists in transfers. However, the Czech Republic has been struggling for several decades with the problem that existing real estate does not have sufficiently clearly registered owners, which often leads, for example, to unregulated transfers.  

On 1 January 2014, two essential laws came into force, namely the Civil Code and the Land Register Act. These brought about a fundamental change in the registration of property owners. They obliged the Land Registry Offices to collect data on all real estate with insufficiently identified owners. The authorities then posted this information on official notice boards or on the Internet. This started the 10-year period for owners to apply for the property on 1 January 2014. If no one applies for the property, the state becomes the new owner on grounds of abandonment of the property.

If by chance no one applies for the property, it does not necessarily mean that it is irretrievably lost. On 1 January 2024, another ten-year period begins, at the end of which the state will definitively hold the property. This means that although the person is no longer the formal owner of the property between 1 January 2024 and 31 December 2033, he or she can still seek the return of his or her property at court. However, such proceedings are lengthy, costly and require proof that the property is actively occupied.

Real estate with an insufficiently identified owner is that, for which no owner is registered in the Land Register or the current owner cannot be sufficiently identified. This is most often the case when the current owner does not have some of the essential information in the register, such as name, surname, address or date of birth. The second most common case is when the former owner is no longer alive and the current holder of the property has not registered his/her person correctly in the inheritance proceedings.

The number of real estate items that could fall to the state at the end of the year is alarming. As of 1 October of that year, 142,074 real estate items had an incorrectly registered owner. The vast majority of them are land, i.e. arable land, meadows or forests. There are “only” about 2,500 buildings that are at risk of passing to the state.

If you are not sure whether your land is in the group of those that could go to the state at the beginning of the new year, there is still time to make things right. The Office for State Representation in Property Matters, together with the Czech Geodetic and Land Registry Offices, publishes a list of these insufficiently identified owners twice a year. The authorities also publish a booklet giving information on whether such a property belonged to your ancestors. If you do discover an irregularity, do not let something that is yours be taken from you and contact the Land Register immediately.