Ownership on real estate property in Greece can be acquired not only through a conveyance Deed (purchase, gift, inheritance, etc), but also through adverse possession (“Hrisiktisia”). According to the Hrisiktisia provisions, any person that is exercising acts of possession on any property (even belonging to a third person), claiming it as his, for an uninterrupted period of 20 years without a Title - or 10 years with a Title, even a defective one - becomes the undisputed owner of such property.
It is obvious that the main danger that expats neglecting their property in Greece run, is to lose it, to the benefit of any potential trespasser.
The acts of possession leading to Hrisktisia, include the: use, cultivation, fencing, renting it further, parking the car, storing objects, building upon, walking or moaning the sheep through it, etc.
Legally speaking, the only way to stop Hrisiktisia, is the filing of an eviction lawsuit (“diekdikitiki agogi”) before the Greek Courts against the trespasser. Protests to the squatter, complaints to the local Police, etc, do not interrupt the Hrisiktisia. However, realistically speaking, the main concern is not to neglect your property. How can this be effected? Well, I would think of the following acts, as general guidelines to Greek Americans, so their Title is not in jeopardy:
- Take care of all the necessary ownership and inheritance legal procedures including probate of the Estate and Acceptance of the Inheritance (if you have inherited it), creating thus a Title under your name.
- Make sure that your Title is uncontested and properly recorded in the competent Land Registry (“Ypothikofilakeion”) and/or Land Registry Cadastral (“Ktimatologio”). Safe keep a certified copy of your Title together with its Certificate of Registration from the Land Registry.
- Comply to the annual tax requirements (E1, E2, E9, etc) and pay the annual Land Tax.
- Fence it, to keep squatters off; affix a sign on the fence with your name.
- Beware of Greek relatives “taking care” of your property If you have somebody using or cultivating it (even a relative co-owner), make sure that you have executed the proper legal documents to protect you.
- Visit it (yourself or your relatives or friends) whilst traveling to Greece and confirm its actual status. Take pictures of your family (or your friends) at you property.
- If you are not in a position to visit, then employ a trusted person, preferably a professional - lawyer or other, that you trust 100% and ask him to visit, take pictures and e-mail them to you. Ask for his report in writing. Any signs of trespassing (e.g. a vehicle parked on your land) should alarm you.
- Have a survey (topographic diagram) of your land drawn, according to the GPS system and including the current building regulations. This will also help you get a price idea of your property.
All the above will help you avoid infringements on your property, leading to potential loss of your Title. Always keep in mind that you should not be a “sitting duck” for potential squatters, but a “vigilant owner” instead!
John Tripidakis, LL.B.(Athens), LL.M. (London), Greek Law Practice
PMB Real Esatate
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Image featured - Villa in Anavissios Greece