Property in Mestia, Acknowledged Chosen Traditional Ownership
Our blogpost published last year, about problems related to property rights in Mestia, was referring specifically to the issues that arise during the legalization of property owned through “traditional ownership.” This blog is about the costs of land registration and banned registra
Our blog post published last year, about problems related to property rights in Mestia, was referring specifically to the issues that arise during the legalization of property owned through “traditional ownership.” This blog is about the costs of land registration and banned registra111Our blog post published last year, about problems related to property rights in Mestia, was referring specifically to the issues that arise during the legalization of property owned through “traditional ownership.” This blog is about the costs of land registration and banned registration zones by public registry.
Georgian law provides two main ways for legalizing property, depending on whether the land is held under “unauthorized (wilful) occupation” or under “rightful possession.” In the case of unauthorized occupation (or the ownership of land without documentation showing proof of this ownership) the power to grant legal ownership is held by the "Property Rights Declaration Commission" established at the local self-governing administrative unit. In the case of rightful possession, the individual needs to provide documentation showing proof of possession of the land (tax form, gardener’s check book, extract from the households record and etc.) and must apply to the Public Registry with a request to register the land in question. These two means of registering land have different costs.
If a person registers land owned through rightful possession, they will need to do the following:
- Provide a notification about the land from the archives (42 GEL)
- Have an electronic draft survey of the measurements of the land performed (60 GEL- minimum payment for land up to 500 square meters)
- Pay the cost of service from the public registry and bank (51 GEL non-refundable).
In total, the cost comes to a minimum of 153 GEL for registering one piece of land up to 500 square meters.
In the case of legalizing land held under unauthorized occupation, the individual must pay the amount established in Georgian law, which will be ten times the land tax when the land is agricultural, or twenty times the land tax otherwise. Alternatively, the President has the power to define the cost of land in certain areas, in which case the individual would have to pay this amount upon recognition by the Property Rights Declaration Commission of the individual’s ownership right.
The price for registering land through rightful possession is very high, taking into account the low income of the local inhabitants. In addition, inhabitants of Mestia traditionally own a minimum of 3-4 pieces of pasture and other types of agricultural lands that do not border each other, which requires them to pay the registration costs for each piece of land that they own. Registering land held under unauthorized occupation may lead to higher costs, depending on the location of the land.
The process of registering land is further complicated by the “no-registration zones” established by the Public Registry Registration Office of Mestia. These zones are located near the new Hatsvali ski complex and overlook the main settlement and cultural monuments in Mestia. According to the Head of the Mestia Public Registry Registration Office during a meeting with TI Georgia staff in March, 2011, there are complications in registering property located in these zones due to the absence of digitized cadastral or plat information, and requests to register property located in these zones have been denied, even though there is no legal basis for denying registration for this reason. Additionally, the digital information does in fact exist, because TI Georgia asked for and obtained a copy of the digital information in these zones.
These complications, however, do not seem to affect government institutions and some individuals. On May 3rd, 2011, at the request of the Ministry of Economics and Sustainable Development, the Public Registry of Mestia registered the ownership of 11,310 square meters of land located in a no-registration zone (attachment!), where, according to local journalists, the building of the presidential residence is now underway. According to official information, on May 16th, 2011, ownership of the land went to the firm Government Security Ltd., which oversees the construction of government buildings. It is also important to note that problems related to registering land in no-registration zones have been resolved for the inhabitants of Mestia only in cases where there are specific plans for building structures or implementing infrastructural projects and the investors agreed to compensate the landowner. Other than these specific cases, registering ownership of land in these zones has not been possible to date.
Due to these multiple costs, and added artificial barriers created in registering ownership of land, the local population often is unable to register the property they hold. Often, because of these prolonged, difficult and costly processes, local inhabitants might suddenly find out that the land they have traditionally owned for centuries has become the property of the government or some other private individual.