Like many Romanian law firms we receive periodically requests in relation to property in Romania. This maybe in relation to claiming land and property which was originally owned by a relative who has died or from people who are the heirs and successors of people who have left Romania and seek to reclaim their property which was nationalized under a previous regime, or indeed people who want to buy Romanian investment land or farming land in Romania.

The recovery process mentioned above can be long winded and take a considerable amount of time and expense.  Usually the persons who wish to reclaim the land are not first generation Romanians and therefore there can be confusion as to what is recoverable and what they actually recover, asthere understanding in coloured by the country in which they  live.  As a firm with a practicing English solicitor we understand some of the confusions which they will encounter and try to throw some light on the problems that may come up.

The problems are as usual down to language and the Romanian legal terms used and a failure to understand initially the Romanian legal system. As we have said before Romanian law is a Code Law system and this is very different from the Common Law System which has a different jurisprudence base.

Under Romanian law regarding Romanian property it is important to distinguish between the land and the buildings erected on the land. It is possible to have two different owners and titles, one for the land and one for the buildings. The owner of any building erected upon land to which he does not have title has a right by law of access to and egress from the building to the nearest public access. In addition, he has the right to cross the land he does not own with the normal services, such as power, light, heat etc. If the building which he owns ceases to exist, then these rights are automatically extinguished except in the cases mentioned below.

If a building to which a person has ownership but does not own the land underneath is destroyed then unless the original ownership documents specified that the building can be rebuilt then the ownership of the building destroyed is lost. So if you buy a house or any building this is an aspect which must be carefully considered. The Romanian Notaries may not warn you of these facts and you need to be aware of what can happen.

If you are purchasing or come into the ownership of land as distinct from the buildings you need to be aware that the property documents concerning the land should record all buildings on the land and state their ownership. In this way you as a purchaser of the Romanian land or the person who recovers the land have actual and constructive notice of the buildings on the land and that they may be in the ownership of third parties. You will then need to research the position and see what rights these people may have for it could be very important if you want to develop or resell the land.

Up to 1947 property and buildings were allowed to be in private ownership. Between 1947 and 1989 land, property and buildings were often confiscated by the State with or without compensation. The buildings were subsequently transferred or sold or other persons who were allowed by the State to use or reside in them.

After 1990 the Romanian Government passed Law no. 18/1991, Law no. 1/2000, Law no. 10/2001 and Law no. 247/2005 which allowed the previous owners and their heirs, who had unlawfully been disposed of land and buildings between 1947 and 1989 to apply for and recover the Romanian property and buildings to be returned to them.

The importance of this is that when you purchase property from a person who has recovered land from the State you need to be careful as to the ownership and title that they will grant to you. Like most things in Romania land law issues can be resolved but it may take time. Do not necessarily rely on the Notaries who are doing the transfer. Often they may overlook or forget to mention some of the points outlined above. The use of a Romanian lawyer will incur you in additional cost but may save you money and worry in the future.

So if you are thinking of buying land in Romania or have come into the ownership of Romanian land which has been recovered just ensure you understand your rights and obligations.