JT Law Sydney offices (in 2010)
One of the major problems that property owners, including those residing abroad, often encounter, is the trespassing of property in Greece by others claiming ownership rights. The lack of executing formal Notarial Deeds in the past and effecting conveyances of ownership rights through verbal agreements and through verbal partitions of jointly inherited properties, has resulted to many land owners, not having recorded Deeds to prove their rights. Additionally, it is often the case that people have taken advantage of the physical absence of the legal owners and raise claims on Greek properties, which have been unattended by legal owners for many years.
According to Greek real estate law, someone may acquire property in Greece not only through a Notarial Deed (purchase Deeds, Acceptance of Inheritance Deeds, Gift Deeds, etc … ), duly executed and registered before the competent Greek Land Registry archives, but also through adverse possession rights ("hrisiktisia"). The law provides of two types of adverse possession in Greece: the ordinary and the extraordinary.
In order to claim "ordinary" adverse possession rights, a person has to be in possession of a Greek property for a period of more than 10 years, exercising his ownership rights in good faith by virtue of a legal title of the property. However, although the Deed by virtue of which he acquired the property is legal, there could be a legal flaw (e.g. the person who conveyed the property was not the legal owner or he was incompetent to contract and convey ownership, etc … ).After the passing of 10 years of exercising adverse possession rights as owner of the Greek property, this person is legally granted ownership of the property through "ordinary" adverse possession rights.
In other cases, a person may claim extraordinary adverse possession rights. In order to acquire property through extraordinary adverse possession in Greece , a person has to claim that he is in possession of the property, exercising uninterrupted ownership rights on it, for a period of more than 20 years. Thus, without having a legal title on the Greek property proving his ownership right, a person who claims and proves that he has in his uninterrupted possession a property for a period of more than 20 years, is recognised by the Greek law as legal owner.
In most of the cases, the recognition of adverse possession in Greece is established through the filing of a lawsuit against another person who contests such ownership rights before the competent Court of First Instance of the property's location. The Court upon examining the relevant evidence and witnesses, issues its ruling, recognising or not the adverse possession rights that the petitioner claims. The relevant ruling is then registered to the competent Greek Land Registry archives of the property's location.
In general, all properties may be subject to adverse possession in Greece. However, the law provides of particular exemptions from adverse possession such as the properties which have been designated for public, municipal or religious needs. Moreover, adverse possession in Greece cannot be exercised in properties owned by the Greek State, by monasteries and churches, as well as to the components of the main property, before being separated from it. Additionally, a co-owner may not claim adverse possession rights, against the other co-owners, unless he has specifically informed them of his intention to possess the property as the sole owner.
Protection of owners against those who claim adverse possession in Greece, can be effected either extra judicially or through Court proceedings. The legal owner has to file a lawsuit in Greece against those who claim adverse possession rights, requesting the recognition of his ownership against the squatters. The Court, upon review of the required documentation, will rule as to the actual legal owner of the property and as to whether the squatter has fulfilled the necessary conditions for claiming adverse possession (squatter's rights in Greece leading to Legal Title).
While the Civil Code has tried in good faith to regulate ownership rights in Greece on properties that have been left unattended for many years, people have taken advantage of the physical absence of the legal owners, exercising squatters' rights on Greek property. It is often the case of people who believe that their properties have been taken care of by their relatives or local acquaintances, while claims have been raised on their properties, resulting to losing them.
All the above procedures for the protection of your Greek Property against the adverse possession, can be accomplished through a limited Power of Attorney to a specialised Lawyer in Greece, like our Law Firm.