Save Your Property in Greece From
the 20-Year Trespass
The owners of real estate property in Greece, especially those that reside permanently outside of Greece, must bear in mind that the more they abandon their property in Greece, the higher the risk to legally lose it someday. Property, anywhere in the world, must be taken care of, and real estate property has no meaning for the owner, unless he/she exercises his/her ownership rights over it, at least from time to time. Otherwise, a trespasser may start dominating the property himself and establish ownership rights with time.
This is called “hrisiktisia” in Greek, and it is a legal notion based on the principle that properties must be cultivated or developed by their owners. The development of a property is good for the people, the community and the economy. It is unproductive to leave pieces of real estate unattended and outside of the economic life of the community.
The Greek law allows the owner of a real estate property a period of twenty years to exercise the owner’s rights over this property. The owner must show up, at least from time to time, during those twenty years. The owner must have proof that he/she exercised, either in person or via a proxy, his/her property rights over the land/property, by building a fence, by defending the property against trespassers, by cultivating it, by developing it, by planting trees in it, by renting it out to others and by doing several other acts that prove the owner’s presence and his dominant role over his own land.
If the owner does not perform some of these acts during the twenty year period, the law awards full property rights to that person (even to the transgressor) who can prove that he/she actually did what the owner omitted to do all these years.
The twenty year period is the basic rule, but Greek law confers ownership even after ten years, in some cases. If a person holds a title over the land, but the title proves to be invalid for any kind of reason, that person becomes full legal owner if he can prove that he dominated over the land for ten years and that he acted in good faith.
According to court rulings and their precedence, the twenty years start to count from the time the trespasser starts his illegal domination over the land and the owner omits or fails to act against him. Action against the trespasser may be a court lawsuit or even physical defense of the property, if the trespass action is very recent.
It is noteworthy that the trespasser does not have to notify the owner that domination has started in order the twenty - year period to start running. It is the owner’s obligation to check from time to time and as often as possible whether third parties are trespassing on his land.
On the other hand, there is a notification obligation, if the “trespasser” is a co-owner of the real estate. This means in plain words that if two brothers own the same piece of land in Greece, each of them having 50% ab indivisio (undivided) of the same land, and the one brother lives in Greece, taking care of the property for himself and on behalf of his brother, who lives in New Zealand, the brother who lives in Greece cannot start the twenty - year domination over his brother’s half, unless he notifies him that he starts taking care of the property exclusively for himself and not on behalf of the brother who lives abroad.
The Greek courts have formed this rule in order to protect the co-owner who lives outside of Greece and cannot tell whether his brother develops the land for both of them, or only for himself.
The conclusion is that owners of real estate in Greece must visit their property at least every few years in order to personally make sure that the property has not been captured by someone else, and that there are no signs of trespassing by third parties. Owners must take pictures of their land, in order to be able to prove the land’s situation at certain times, and they must take such action as to defend their property in court against trespassers.
If the owners cannot visit Greece for some years, they must at least ask a relative or a trustworthy person to verify on their behalf whether the property is still free of any transgression. The owners must also keep the deeds that prove their ownership right on the land in order to be able to prove before a court of law their rights against the transgressors. Legal deeds are obviously very useful to a lawyer who can perform a title search and find out whose right prevails over a specific real estate.
Christos Iliopoulos is an attorney at law, LL.M., in Athens, Greece, specializing in International and European Business Law. For more information about him, see his brief biographical sketch under the HCS section for Contributing Authors at http://www.helleniccomserve.com/christosiliopoulosbio.html. He has submitted many articles to HCS; readers can browse these in the archives section bearing his name at the URL http://www.helleniccomserve.com/archiveiliopoulos.html. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (from the US) 011-30-210-6400282; mobile 011-30-693-2775920, fax 011-30-210-6400282, or by postal mail at the address: 105 Alexandras Ave., Athens, 11475, HELLAS
HCS readers may wish to view other articles about Greek property laws and taxes in the Greek Laws and Procedures section of our archives at http://www.helleniccomserve.com/archivegreeklawsnprocedures.html
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