Legalisation of illegal works & unauthorised uses
Law number 4178/2013. In force from 8 August 2013.
The new law has two main purposes:
- to prevent future illegal construction practices;
- to regularise existing illegal building works.
There is also a separate programme to introduce an "electronic building identity" for every building over the next ten years.
The phrase "illegal building works" means structures constructed without planning permission, or extra spaces not shown in the approved building permit.
The phrase "unauthorised use" means the use of a space that contradicts the purpose declared in the approved building permit. For example, an underground garage used as a living space, or a home being used as a shop.
The law applies to all illegal building works or unauthorised use carried out between 1955 and 28 July 2011. These must be declared by February 2015.
Preventing future illegal construction practices
Property transactions for any illegal structure or unauthorised use are prohibited.
Every property transaction must have a topographic diagram compatible with Greek mapping system EΓΣΑ 87, together with a legally binding statement from the owner, and a certificate from the engineer declaring and certifying that no illegal structures exist.
Breaches of these conditions can be punished by imprisonment for up to 6 months and fines of €30,000 - €100,000 to all professions involved in any property transactions (notaries, lawyers, estate agents, engineers, etc.) for inaccurate certificates or failure to attach the owner’s legally binding statement and/or engineer’s certificate in the contracts. In addition, for engineers especially and regardless of their prosecution, temporary or permanent disqualification from practicing the engineering profession can be imposed, depending on the severity of the violation.
Regularising existing illegal building works
Illegal building works that have been constructed before 28 July 2011 may be "settled" by paying a fine to the Greek Tax Office as well as a single one-time fee to the Greek state that is determined mainly on the year of construction, the market value of the property and the severity of the illegal construction activity.
Categories of illegal structures and unauthorised use of spaces
Depending on the year of construction and the severity of the illegal activity, illegal building activities are classified in the following categories:
This category includes illegal building activities for buildings of private residential use if built prior to 9 June 1975. These are excluded from demolition if built prior to 9 June 1975. A one-time fee of €500 applies.
This category includes all illegal building works (residential and non-residential) that exist before 1 January 1983. These are excluded from demolition if built before 1983. A one-time fee of €500 applies.
This category includes small-scale illegal works such as BBQs, water fountains, pergolas, etc. They are excluded from demolition. A one-time fee of €500 applies.
This category includes all illegal building works that do not exceed the authorised building coverage by more than 40% and do not exceed the authorised height by more than 20%. A fine and a single one-time fee apply to settle the illegal structures for 30 consecutive years starting from the settlement date and are excluded from demolition.
This category settles all illegal building works and unauthorised use of spaces, not included in categories A-D. A fine and a single one-time fee apply to settle the illegal structures for 30 years starting from the settlement date and are excluded from demolition.
The whole process of settling unauthorised building works happens electronically by an authorised engineer. All data and documents relating to the illegal structure are processed using a web-based computer system. The fine and one-time fee are calculated automatically by the computer system. The application must include the new electronic building identity.
Instalments and discounts
The law imposes a one-time fee as well as a fine that may be paid in instalments of €300 euros or more every 6 months.
Those that declare their illegal building works within the first 6 months from the date the law came into force (8 August 2013) may pay the fine in 17 instalments.
If declared within 6-12 months from the date the law came into force, the fine may be paid in 14 monthly instalments.
If illegal building works are declared within 12-18 months from the date the law came into force, the fine may be paid in 10 monthly instalments.
If the whole of the fine is paid in one lump sum within the first 6 months of the law coming into effect, a 20% discount on the total fine applies.
There are fee waivers and discounts for vulnerable population groups, people with disabilities, long-term unemployed, individuals with low family income or families with many children as well as repatriated individuals who are entitled to a 50% discount on the fine applicable on their main residence.
There is also the possibility to offset the fine by up to 50% if used for costs to upgrade the building’s energy performance.
Law 4178/2013 gives property owners a final chance to settle existing illegal building works in order to avoid future hefty fines, property transactions, or even demolition. Along with other recent laws ("Building Inspectors" Law 4030/2011 and "Electronic Identification of Buildings" Law 3843/2010), this combination of laws aims to halt illegal building works once and for all.
Based on an article by Christopher Zinas, Engineer Surveyor at Tekmon Geomatics www.tekmon.gr