Greek Real Estate: Squatting Property in Greece
This hybrid of the well known "squatter's law" was passed through the Greek senate in 742 B.C. and is still in effect today. In short you can get an apt, house or land in Greece for free. How does it work? Well basically just find something you like and when no one is around take care of it for 20 years. In detail, and this is very important, see what happens:
Beware all of you who have acquired property in Greece either through inheritance, paid for, gift, won in poker game, shotgun marriages, and feel comfortable that it is yours.
You may be wrong!
The Greek law clearly stipulates that owning property is not the same as owning property. Yes confusing? Not really. It's as simple as use it or lose it.
Here's a typical case: Your grandfather gave you a house on some area in northern Greece as a wedding present. You and your spouse were very grateful as who gives that much for a present. You've never been to Greece but you are sure that it's yours and some day you'll go and live there or at least give it to your children as a present as well. One day you decide to come to Greece and while vacationing, take a detour to check your place out. What do you see? Chief squatting bull and some of his Albanian friends watching an old John Wayne western on t.v. in your living room. He's been in that house for twentyyears. You tell him to get out or you'll call the police. The police come but it's you who gets arrested, not him. You are charged with harrasing a "lil ol' Indjun."
You see... it's his house now, not yours. This, is Greek law. Unlike the "squatter's law" where you find something that no one cares about and you have the right to live there, this Greek law gives you the title to the place which means you can rent it out, sell it or give it to the little ones as a wedding present.
Here are the basic facts:
1) You must prove that you care about the property; visit it from time to time, let's say every three years, or
2) have someone you trust look after it and call you every so often about the status, ie. if anything has changed like someone has planted something or put up a wall or hung a picture of his/her mother in law in the kitchen.
3) Put up an electrical barking guard dog and come every two years to change the battery.
4) If it's land make sure that no new olive trees have been planted. Count the trees when you come, or better yet, count the olives.
5) Remember, if someone has been taking care of the land and gathering the olives from the trees for twenty years, your barking up the wrong tree thinking they are yours; your batteries have run out.
6) Important: The squatter does not have to inform the owner that he's moved in and taken over; it's the owner's responsibility to care of the property.
7) If there is joint ownership, let's say grandfather gave the property to you and 17 other cousins, then the cousin actually taking care of it, or living in it, must notify the rest of the heirs that he/she has started the twenty year stretch.
*note: this can be tricky as he/she needs only to prove that he/she tried to contact the others. If he proves that there was an attempt made the squatter is legally fine. Phoney tel. numbers, non-existing addresses, developing sudden amnesia and can't remember any relatives, or "he's not a brother, he never liked me" are all credible excuses.
8) This law applies only for private property, not property owned by the state. This is obvious. Greece would never give anything away for free.
In short, taking care of holds more weight than owning.
Dorian Kokas gives advice and helps foreigners cut through bureaucratic red-tape in Athens. See his website at www.athensguide.com/dorian