Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Mysteries Of Greek Land Registration

Wim Louwman, Former President of the European Land Registry Association, made the following most interesting comment on my earlier article on Greek land registry: 

"The existing land registration in Greece is described at It illustrates that Greece has to fulfill two projects. Improve the existing Land registry and implement a registration of taxes of landowners. Most EU Member States have different registrations for these purposes with different legal meaning. A Land register (civil law) provides decisive evidence about titles to plots of land. A Cadastre (public law) provides names of the presumed landowners who have to pay property taxes. In Land Registries the boundaries of plots of land are described generally. In Cadastres the boundaries are surveyed exactly because this information is needed to calculate the number of acres and determine the value of the plot of land. However in a boundary dispute the court can decide that the location of the civil law boundary differs from the Cadastre boundary. Also in most EU Member States, pursuant to existing civil law on property rights, a boundary of a plot of land can change after adverse possession. Of course landowner has the right to claim that an adverse possessor leaves his land, but when he does not do so he loses that right after a certain period because of prescription. In that case the possessor acquires the property rights. The interference of the existing property rights was considered human-rights compliant by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in the case J.A. Pye (Oxford) Ltd and Another v United Kingdom (2007) 46 EHRR 1083. The limited legal meaning of a Cadastre opens the possibility to use a simple process. The registration of taxes payers can be based on presumptions of ownership and for establishing the value of the land aerial imageries can be used. It allows a taxes inspector to sent provisional tax assessments. A receiver will raise objections when he uses the land because of rent or lease. But when the prescription period of adverse possession is still underway he will prefer to "let the sleeping dogs lie" and pay the taxes.

Unfortunately Greek law demands that both the perfecting of the land register and the introduction of a taxes registration takes place at the same time. This causes enormous delay because for the perfecting of the registration of property rights (fundamental human rights) asks for a more careful process then is needed for implementing a Cadastre. For the perfecting of the Land register all landowners have to present evidence of their property rights and of the location of boundaries. The Cadastre annex Land register verifies whether the claims are in accordance with previous registration and whether neighbors have objections against the boundaries. This causes many boundary disputes that have to be solved by the courts and cause delay. However this does not have to delay to involve the collecting of taxes, In this case delay can be prevented by changing the law in so far that the two projects are completed at different times. A first step could be introducing a Cadastre of presumed owners. This approach is in accordance with the “Fit-For-Purpose” method that recently advocated by Danish professor Stig Enemark at a recent congress organized by the World bank ( It means that perfecting of the Land registry can no longer be used as an alibi to postpone the collecting of property taxes." 

"The present landscape of land registration in Greece"


  1. The deficit hawks are flapping their wings and making a terrible squawk about the government’s gusher of red ink.
    Good grief!
    People should hunker down and accept their pain.
    Suffering is good for the soul.
    This nonsense, grounded in ignorance and discredited nineteenth-century bromides, is a recipe for continuing the economy’s downward spiral and could prove poisonous for the country.
    The hawks claim self-righteous rectitude in their warnings, but their real intent is to stymie the very spending programs that can deliver economic recovery and relief to battered citizens.
    Whining about deficits is a way to halt promising talk about another substantial stimulus package, one that should be focused more concretely on job creation.
    That will require more deficit financing, for sure; but at a time when unemployment hovers near 27 percent and foreclosures are in hemorrhage, more is needed.

  2. Phew! I actually more or less understood Mr. Louwman's post. Is that sad or what? My summary:

    The "best is the enemy of the good", as we say in English. ie: make it good enough to tax, not both good enough to tax and good enough to be defended in Court. Because if you try to do the second, you'll still be waiting for completion 150 years later, after many failed attempts.