Real Estate

A New Possibility to Validate Illegal Structures in Bulgaria

The National Assembly has adopted controversial amendments in the Spatial Development Act.

The Bul­gar­i­an leg­is­la­tion has a long his­to­ry of allow­ing the val­i­da­tion of ille­gal struc­tures where the own­er of land con­structs a build­ing and then files for a con­struc­tion per­mit and a use per­mit. The option to val­i­date ille­gal struc­tures was final­ly removed in 2003. How­ev­er, by an amend­ment in the Spa­tial Devel­op­ment Act (SDA) in Octo­ber 2012, the gov­ern­ing polit­i­cal par­ty sud­den­ly decid­ed to give the own­ers of build­ings con­struct­ed until 2003 the option to val­i­date them – prob­a­bly to gain votes in the 2013 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions.

History of building validation in Bulgaria

The Bul­gar­i­an con­struc­tion admin­is­tra­tion is noto­ri­ous for its bureau­cra­cy. Many peo­ple use this bureau­cra­cy as an excuse to begin con­struc­tion with­out first obtain­ing all nec­es­sary per­mits. For exam­ple, an inspec­tion made 10 years ago by the state author­i­ties respon­si­ble for ille­gal con­struc­tion showed that all but one of the res­i­den­tial hous­es built in a pres­ti­gious neigh­bour­hood of Sofia (where, inci­den­tal­ly, the cur­rent prime min­is­ter resides) were ille­gal. The only house with prop­er con­struc­tion doc­u­ments was owned by a judge.

Anoth­er impor­tant issue relates to con­struc­tion by state-owned com­pa­nies dur­ing the com­mu­nist regime. The econ­o­my was planned by the com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment, so all com­pa­nies were owned by the state. Often build­ings were con­struct­ed with­out con­struc­tion doc­u­ments or, if any, the respon­si­ble munic­i­pal author­i­ties did not take prop­er care of the doc­u­ments and they were lost.

To address these issues, the SDA of 2001 pro­vides for a pos­si­bil­i­ty to val­i­date con­struct­ed build­ings as long as they were built in accor­dance with the exist­ing zon­ing plans and con­struc­tion require­ments. The so-called “tol­er­ance cer­tifi­cate”, which replaced all nec­es­sary con­struc­tion doc­u­ments, was suf­fi­cient for build­ings con­struct­ed until 7 April 1987 and with some excep­tions until 30 June 1998.

A 2003 amend­ment to the SDA pre­scribed a six months term for val­i­da­tion of build­ings con­struct­ed between 1998 and 2003 as long as they have been con­struct­ed in accor­dance with the exist­ing zon­ing plans and con­struc­tion require­ments. Hence, the pos­si­bil­i­ty to val­i­date struc­tures no longer exist­ed.

The 2012 amendment to the SDA

Nev­er­the­less, since many own­ers did not take advan­tage of the pre­vi­ous “amnesty” from the 2003 amend­ment, in 2012 the gov­ern­ing polit­i­cal par­ty made a sud­den turn and decid­ed to pro­vide the own­ers of build­ings con­struct­ed pri­or to 2003 with a new pos­si­bil­i­ty to val­i­date them. The 2012 amend­ment of the SDA pro­vides the fol­low­ing options for val­i­da­tion:

  • All build­ings con­struct­ed before April 2001 (under the pre­vi­ous text of the SDA this term was 7 April 1987 and with cer­tain excep­tions 30 June 1998) that are miss­ing con­struc­tion doc­u­ments (eg, tech­ni­cal project, con­struc­tion per­mit, use per­mit) and that were allowed under the leg­is­la­tion at the time of their con­struc­tion or under the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion are law­ful. The only require­ment is that the own­er obtain the “tol­er­ance cer­tifi­cate” if they are trans­ferred.
  • Build­ings con­struct­ed between 1 April 2001 and 22 June 2003 that do not have con­struc­tion doc­u­ments but were still allowed under the leg­is­la­tion in force at the time of their con­struc­tion or under the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion may be val­i­dat­ed with­in one year term as of the pro­mul­ga­tion of the 2012 SDA amend­ment.

Conclusion

In sum­ma­ry, own­ers of ille­gal build­ings con­struct­ed before April 2001 are not required to do any­thing to legalise their own­er­ship, unless they decide to trans­fer them. How­ev­er, own­ers of ille­gal build­ings con­struct­ed between 1 April 2001 and 22 June 2003 must file all doc­u­ments nec­es­sary to val­i­date them with­in one year. Oth­er­wise, they will be demol­ished. The law fur­ther allows the own­er of a build­ing to prove the date of the final­i­sa­tion of the con­struc­tion by all means admis­si­ble under the civ­il law, includ­ing by wit­ness state­ments.

Since many owners did not take advantage of the previous "amnesty" from the 2003 amendment, in 2012 the governing political party made a sudden turn and decided to provide the owners of buildings constructed prior to 2003 with a new possibility to validate them.