A cautionary note to foreign buyers from BritsinCrete.eu when buying a property in Greece. Be aware that a property may have changed hands from the original owner under the Greek "Squatter Rights" law. If you plan to buy one of these properties here is what could happen. The scenario is this: A relative who has gone overseas has left their property in the 'capable' hands of a relative or neighbour. The absent owner likely emigrated overseas for a better life in places such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in the dark post war years of the late 1940s and early 1950s when the economy was in a very poor shape. Even later in the 1960's and 70s, a lot of men from Crete and Thessaloniki went to work in the German automotive industry in Bavaria, southern Germany and other parts of Northern Europe, including the United Kingdom. If you buy one of these properties governed by the Squatter's Rights Law, the original owner could come back and claim the property back. This he is entitled to do.
Many of the family members have never come back to Crete and other places in Greece having left their property in the "safe keeping " of relatives or neighbours in their home villages. Guess their surprise when they find out their property was assigned to a relative or neighbour who had then on-sold the property to a foreign purchaser without informing the original rights holder.
Greece has a very complicated squatter rights law. The Greek law is more complex than similar laws in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, the United States and other countries.
But with recent property prices in Greece on the increase, some of the local relatives have sold the village properties in their own right to foreigners.
The 'custodian' of the property, submits to a court, papers that show that they have lived for lengthy periods in the property of a relative and under the squatter law had gained the right to own the property. If the court grants them that right, it is legal and above board and the deeds will be changed to their name. Pity the absentee owner, as he may well not know about it, not being informed, not in court and a whole host of other possible reasons!
As a buyer of one of these properties, there should not be any impact on any foreign owner, as it was a "legally binding" court decision. But then there is always the nagging question: "What if the absent family member comes back and finds out what had happened and goes to court to try to reverse the decision?" Could a court subsequently overturn the ruling handed down under the "Squatters Law"?
The chances are not, but considering the increasing value of real estate in Greece these days, you never know the twists and turns that may ensue.
Like a good boy scout or girl guide, be prepared! It is just a case of asking your own lawyer if the owner of the property you plan to purchase gained the deeds under the Squatters Rights law?
Your Greek lawyer should be able to clear up the matter of whether the asset has been obtained through a squatters rights legal judgement in his/her land title searches.
It is a question of "better be safe than sorry" by knowing upfront about the squatter law, squatter rights and more related possibilities under Greece Law.
© July 2007. Updated July 2011.
onwettige ingezetenen, squatter
squatter, une personne qui occupé une terre sans titre juridique
καταληψίας (ακατοίκητων χώρων κ.λπ.), οικοπεδοφάγος