Properties without a proven owner will be forfeited to the state at the end of the year

Buildings and land with insufficiently identified owners will be forfeited to the state at the end of the year. To prevent this from happening, their beneficial owners should apply for them as soon as possible so that they can complete all the documentation and prove their ownership.

To the surprise of the owners, some of these properties can be called illegal constructions, but even in selected cases it is possible to legalise them together with the recognition of ownership. In this way, citizens can lose hundreds of millions of crowns in material wealth if they are passive. 

The state records over 330,000 items on the list of properties with an under-identified owner. Most of them are in the South Moravian Region and the Central Bohemian Region, which are well above the average in terms of the number. Those who find their name on the property list should apply for the property promptly and prepare to prove ownership. The Office for Government Representation in Property Affairs provides an overview of such properties on its website. According to the Office, many properties do not have a completely obvious owner because the Land Register was not properly maintained before 1989 or the information was not even recorded. The list is dominated by land plots, of which there are hundreds of thousands, followed by thousands of buildings.

The deadline for owners to register their properties will expire on 31 December 2023 in accordance with the Civil Code. The beginning of 2024 will thus symbolically mark the end of the 10-year long search for owners, which was imposed by the new cadastral law in 2014 on the cadastral authorities and the Office for State Representation in Property Matters.

For illegal constructions, the situation is more complicated, but not always unresolvable. In a more difficult situation are those who are not only insufficiently identifiable owners but are also owners of an illegal construction. If they want to apply for the property, they are also faced with the task of removing the deficiencies and legalising the building.

Depending on the deficiencies of these structures, we divide them into two categories: unauthorised and unlawful structures. The first term means mainly buildings without building permits or those that were built with significant deviations from the approved project, for example, with different floor plan dimensions. In contrast, unlawful buildings are those built on someone else's land without the necessary permission, which may encompass situations where any part of the building encroaches on neighbouring land, but may also include, for example, the running of utility lines across someone else's land without the owner's consent.

If the building authority concludes that the construction is unauthorised and/or unlawful, it is obliged to initiate proceedings for the removal of the construction. As part of this procedure, it is also obliged to inform the owner of the building that the building in question may be retroactively permitted on request, subject to the conditions laid down by law.

A similar situation applies to properties with an insufficiently identified owner, which are also illegal constructions. Here, however, the process is more complicated, as to be registered in the Land Register, a building must have documentation making it clear that the building can be used.

Such a document may also be a decision on a supplementary building permit with a stamped consent to use the building. This decision is issued by the building authority if it finds that the illegal construction can be legalised and used. However, the means for issuing a decision on the additional building permit is to initiate proceedings for the removal of the building. A prerequisite for the initiation of such proceedings is knowing who the owner or the builder is, although they are insufficiently identified and their ownership cannot be properly confirmed in the Land Register until the building is legalised. 

The building authority, as well as potential owners, can find themselves in a vicious circle, which can often only be broken by a court. In such a situation, it is advisable to consult experts.