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Questions and Answers - Part Two

Q: How is abandoned property and land treated in Bulgaria? In the UK you can claim property via the Land Registry, then if the property or land is not claimed after a six month period, it is then yours.

A: In order to obtain abandoned property and / or land in Bulgaria you have to prove undisturbed and constant possession for a period of at least ten years. The procedure takes place before a notary and involves preparation of a title deed. It is based on your own claim, which has to be supported by the testimony of two witnesses.

In addition you have to obtain a certificate from the municipality and the county providing that the property is neither state nor municipal owned, which would not allow you to gain ownership through this procedure.

This procedure is often used nowadays for agricultural land which has been abandoned long ago and has been used by someone else - or for properties which really belong to their owner but the owner cannot prove this due to lost or lack of title deeds.



Q: If I were thinking of selling a Bulgarian property, with the present global situation, some people are very cautious about the euro exchange rate. Would it be possible to legally sell the said property in, say the UK, in sterling and then deal with the necessary paperwork in Bulgaria when the time comes?

A: The property transaction cannot be finalised anywhere but Bulgaria. However, payment can be made in the Uk and the formalities done in Bulgaria - the money can be paid wherever you want and in whatever currency you want. You should agree the price with the buyer in sterling and then use a fixed exchange rate to leva, in order to put a price into the contract.

I advise you to prepare a preliminary contract by the time the money is transferred to you. Thus you will secure the payment, binding it to the property in question. Otherwise, at some point, before you complete on the final deeds, the buyer may retract from the purchase and you will hold them on no legal ground.



Q: I have a different price on my notary deeds from that which I actually paid for my apartment. I gave my estate agent Power of Attorney to sign on my behalf. Is there anything I can do now?

A: This has been a widespread problem. It appears that your estate agent signed on your behalf, telling you that putting a lower price on the notary deed is absolutely fine, being common practice in Bulgaria and is for your benefit - or they have not bothered to give you any explanation and have done what is profitable for themselves.

The result of this is that you don't really know what was the real price of the apartment. They have put a lower price and most probably have kept a substantial part of the price themselves, thus increasing their actual fee for their representation. Secondly, by the time you decide to resell the apartment and have the full price on the notary deeds, you will have to pay tax on a profit which you have never made - the difference between the new full price (even if this is no more than you really paid) and the original purchase price shown on the deeds.

Without knowing the arrangements you have with that agency and what PoA you have given them, I can advise you on two options:
1. File an appeal at the Prosecutor's Office for a cheat (see the article "The Prosecutor in Bulgarian Law" in this section of Quest Bulgaria);
2. Ask for return of the difference between the amount you have paid and the price on the notary deed, claiming that they have no legal ground to keep that difference if they have only paid the amount on the notary deed. This option may lead to court but it will be with the civil courts.

Both options entail a long process of preliminary negotiations with the defaulting agency and court proceedings if the negotiations are not satisfactory. Both are opportunities, however, to influence them to compensate you somehow. These options also require solid evidence in support of your claim, such as bank transfer receipts, written correspondence and other documentation.

 

Asja Mandjukova and Roumen Petrov, GPNG Law Firm, Sofia, Bulgaria www.gpng-law.org