My parents own property in Greece, but I do not know if they have the right documents to prove their property rights. Also, I do not know if they have updated their titles and property listings with various authorities in Greece and if we owe taxes to the Greek tax authority. These are some of the main questions Greek expatriates put forward, with regard to property they have in Greece, especially when they are facing decisions related to selling it, or transferring it to their offspring, or starting managing it in a more efficient way.
The first important matter is to make sure we have the deed or title to the property. This is the legal document by which the owner (Greek expatriate) has obtained the ownership of the property in question. It is usually a deed of purchase, when the Greek expatriate bought the property years ago. Very often it is a deed of acceptance of inheritance, by which the Greek expatriate inherited the property from a parent or another relative. It may be a deed of donation / free gift from a relative or a third party. The title may be a deed of legal division of jointly owned property, in order each of the owners to obtain a separate piece of the property. All these deeds have been signed (executed), sometime in the past, before and by a notary in Greece and they are supposed to be registered at the local land registry, near the property. In some cases, the title of ownership is a state deed, by which the Greek state transferred title to private owners on land given to them for any reason (refugees from Asia Minor many years agο, redistribution of lands etc.).
If the owner (Greek expatriate) does not have even a copy of the deed by which she/he owns the property, the lawyer in Greece will make a search at the land registry in the area of the property, and using the name of the owner (first name, last name, maiden for women, father’s and mother’s first name), should be able to find the deed of the property, provided the deed had been registered when it was signed. This means that the Greek expatriate must be able to a) either have the old deed (even in copy form) or b) know the town or village where the property is located. If the owner does not have the old deed and does not even know where the property is located, the lawyer in Greece may not be able to locate its legal title.
Another valuable document is a survey map or topographic plan, showing the technical aspects of the property.
It is enough for the present owner to have a copy of such deed and survey map. Having the deed, even in photocopy form, will give the lawyer or the notary the chance to verify many legal aspects of the identity of the property and subsequently advise what needs to be done in order to bring the deed up to date, whether any taxes are owed, if the owner must register the deed with a modern land registry called Ktimatologio, the E9 property list of the tax authority and with the local Municipality. A new survey map may have to be drawn by a civil engineer, so that the boundaries and other technical characteristics of the property are depicted according to recent specifications.
In order to make the new survey map (topographic plan), the most crucial question is to be able to physically get to the property. In other words, to visit it. In some cases the Greek expatriate who claims is the owner, does have a deed, and does not know how to get to his property. If the property in question is a house or apartment, it may be easier to locate it, visit it and show it to a civil engineer for technical inspection. If, on the other hand, the property is a land or plot, the legal description of its boundaries and its exact location may not be a part of the old deed’s text. Older deeds do not offer an exact description of the property’s accurate location, making it difficult for someone today to locate it and then to measure it.
This is the reason why it is very important to either know where your property actually is, in physical terms and not just in legal description, or be acquainted with a trusted relative, neighbor or other local person, who knows how to get to your property. If you visit your property in Greece anytime, the best thing is to make a new survey map. Alternatively, you must at least take several photos of its boundaries, and its location and you must also keep track of how to get there, because this practical detail may be critical in locating the position of your property in the future and updating its status with the Greek tax office, the land registry, the Municipality and other authorities.
When the property is identified with a deed and its actual position is located, the identity of the owner must be established, by having the passport or / and Greek id card of the owner available for legal work. If the owner lives outside of Greece, there is no problem at all to update the property’s status. This is done with a power of attorney (POA) which is drafted by a lawyer in Greece and sent (e-mailed) to the owner abroad, with instructions to sign it at the closest Greek Consulate, or at least at a local notary public with the Apostille stamp or with the stamp of the Greek Consulate, depending on the situation.
The owner, in consultation with his family and his lawyer in Greece, must decide what he/she wants to do with the property, meaning whether he wishes to retain it in his ownership or sell it, gift it to his offspring, donate it to a sibling or make a Will. Depending on the owner’s instructions, the lawyer in Greece will draft the appropriate POA, which the owner will sign at the Consulate or local notary with Apostille and mail it back to Greece.