Amnesty for illegal properties (update #1)
24 January 2013

There seems to be a fair amount of confusion among sellers and buyers of Greek property, about what makes a property legal or illegal. These notes try to explain the situation with the current government amnesty which registers and "legalises" illegal buildings for 30 years.

What is the background to all this?
• A study by the Athens Polytechnic estimated that there are around one million illegal buildings in Greece.
• The Greek government is short of cash.
• Law 4014/2011 was passed in September 2011 to try to register and "legalise" illegal buildings, and raise money for the government.

When does this amnesty expire?
It has already been extended several times, and at present it is due to expire on 31 May 2013. It may or may not be extended again. It is therefore very important that all property owners who suspect they may have an illegal property, quickly contact an engineer/architect to assess their particular situation.

What is an "illegal building"?
Basically, any construction built between 1955 and September 2011 that does not have a building permit, or does not comply with its building permit.

What can be legalised according to this law?
• Buildings, or extensions to existing buildings, constructed without a building permit.
• Buildings that exceed the dimensions of their building permit, either in area, height or number of floors.
• Buildings that have been located on the plot in ways not permitted, or in different positions than shown in the building permit, or too close to boundaries or roads.
• Buildings where the locations of the main plumbing e.g. (toilet, bathroom, kitchen) have been substantially changed from where shown in the building permit.
• Buildings where the positions of doors and windows have been substantially changed from where shown in the building permit.
• Swimming pools without a building permit.
• Mezzanines and attics that were not originally in the building permit.
• Basements that protrude more than 0.8m-1.5m from the ground.
• Any kind of space that was not shown as living space in the building permit and has now been converted into a living space, such as verandahs, balconies, roof spaces, roofed terraces, basements, garages, storage areas, pergolas.
• Pergolas (covered or open), BBQs or other open structures, or built elements such as boundary walls on rooftops or in courtyards that are not shown on the building permit.
• Solid (concrete, brick or stone) walls exceeding 1 metre in height, or hybrid solid/fenced walls exceeding 2 metres in height.
• Connecting structures that were shown on building permits to legalise rural properties on shared plots, but were never actually constructed.
• Land (including agricultural land) containing structures without building permits.
• In some circumstances it may be possible to legalise buildings built on land that should not have been built on, for example the land does not comply with the minimum size requirements or distance from roads etc., or was falsely shown larger than it really is in order to get a building permit.

What doesn't usually need a building permit?
Small detached constructions made of temporary materials, such as timber or plastic. For example, small detached stores or sheds, garbage storage areas.

What cannot be legalised according to this law?
• Buildings on public municipal or state property.
• Buildings that have been built on or too close to roads or streets and pose a safety hazard to transport.
• Buildings that protrude onto roads shown in city or town plans.
• Buildings with doors or windows too close to the plot boundary.
• Buildings on forestry land, beaches, or too close to sea lines, or riverbeds.
• Buildings within protected areas, such as archaeological sites, historical sites, traditional UNESCO villages, NATURA areas, national parks, etc.
• Listed buildings.
• Buildings constructed after September 2011.
• Buildings covered by rare conditions that would be beyond the scope of these notes to explain in detail.

Why should I legalise my property?
• This amnesty temporarily suspends previous government plans to impose heavy penalties or carry out demolitions.
• Land Registry and Ministry of Agriculture aerial photographs are being used to identify illegally built properties.
• Due to EU pressure, the government will accelerate the implementation of the computerised Land Registry across the whole of Greece, which will further highlight illegal buildings.
• From 1 January 2012 it is not possible to sell a property that is in any way illegal and has not been submitted to this process. It is compulsory to include in any property-related transaction a certificate of legality issued by certified architects or engineers. In the case of false declarations, architects are liable to large fines (up to €100,000) and loss of licence.
• Properties which are not legalised can now only be transferred to, or inherited by, one family generation. After that, if still not legalised, they can be claimed by the Greek state.
• The value of a legalised building will increase since it can be treated as any other legal structure and can be included in contracts and other documentation.
• Buyers can be assured that their intended new property is legal for at least 30 years.
• The cost of legalisation is significantly lower than it was previously and the procedure does not incur an annual fee for retaining an illegal structure as it would with previous legislation.
• Connection to mains electricity and water is made possible where this was not possible due to the illegal nature of the building.
• Some violations can be legalised by applying and paying for a normal building permit, however this can be much more expensive than the fines payable under this amnesty, usually require much more paperwork, and take much longer to acquire.
• The new procedure is handled by appointed architects or engineers and is submitted electronically through the Technical Chamber, so is simple and relatively swift.

How much will the application cost and how big is the fine?
• The application fee starts at €500 and increases with the size of the building.
• The architect/engineer’s fees as recommended by the Technical Chamber are €1,540 plus VAT. Depending on the complexity of each case this is negotiable.
• The fine depends on the age and type of the property, the type and number and size of the planning violations, and the tax value of the property location.
• There are discounts available if the fine is paid immediately or within a few months. There is also the option of spreading the fine payments over 24 months.
• Disabled and ill owners are eligible for a large discount on the fine.
• Properties that were illegally built prior to 1983 are eligible for a large discount on the fine.
• Properties built between 1983 and 2003 are eligible for a small discount on the fine.

Why does this amnesty only legalise properties for 30 years and not permanently?
The Greek Supreme Court ruled that permanent legalisation would be unconstitutional and unfair to owners of legal properties who had obtained and complied with building permits. A period of 30 years was chosen as a long-term compromise.

Are there any other payments I may need to make to legalise my property?
If under this amnesty, you register that your property is actually larger than when you purchased it - and you don't have a building permit to explain this difference in size - you will usually have to pay additional purchase tax on the difference in size. This is to compensate for the tax you didn't originally pay when you under-declared the property size at time of purchase.

Are there any other newly-required documents I may need when selling my property?

Anyone selling or renting their property now needs to produce an energy rating certificate, which shows how much energy the property uses per annum. This is produced by qualified architects or engineers, and lasts for 10 years. Their fees as recommended by the Technical Chamber are €2 per square metre plus VAT.

With grateful thanks to the following sources, all copyrights acknowledged:
AFP news agency
Aiolou Architects
Apostolis Andreadis, Civil Engineer, Milogianni 72, Chania
Athens News
Crete Perfect Home