The board of directors of Syria’s Real Estate Finance Oversight Commission (REFOC) was reorganised in recent weeks following a decree by the prime minister in March. The move is an attempt to activate the body, which has remained largely dormant since its inception.
Analysis & Features
Last week the Syrian president issued Investment Law No. 18 of 2021, which replaces Investment Law No. 8 of 2007. The most important aspect of the new law relating to HLP rights is a new method of employing private investment for establishing a diverse range of economic projects in some areas that were damaged by the war.
Law No. 33 of 2017 regulates the restoration of partially or completely damaged land records. The law defines the reasons justifying restoration, as well as the mechanisms and procedures to be followed. It also outlines the mechanism for announcing the results of restoration, how to object to them and the penalties for those who destroyed the original records.
Digitising Syria’s Land Registry would require transferring records from their paper format into a digital format, as well as linking them electronically between different governorates. In theory, this would protect information and simplify record-keeping as well as speed up real estate transactions and ease citizens’ access to certain services.
After approval from the Parliament, the presidency in recent days issued Law No. 17, which lists the real estate service fees collected by Cadastral Affairs. The new law utilises the current value of real estate to set and collect certain real estate service fees.
The Syrian Civil Code has not explicitly defined so-called “dissolved” (Mahlolah) real estate properties, but its definition can be deduced from the context of Private State Property Law No. 252 of 1959: they are any real estate properties resulting from inheritances that have no heir, or that have an heir to whom ownership laws do not apply. Also, a property may also be considered “dissolved” if it is an Amiri land that has gone unused for five years.
Cadastral Affairs is the official body tasked with documenting property and any changes to its status. No real estate document is considered completely valid unless it has been entered into the Cadastral Affairs’ records.
On March 24, the Government issued Decree No. 28, which specifies the minimum amount that must be deposited in the bank account of the seller of a real estate property for the documentation of the sales contracts and powers of attorneyto be considered acceptable. The powers of attorney are of particular importance for refugees and people living outside Syria.
Cooperative housing, which is implemented by cooperatives, is often considered a supplement to the social housing programmes run by Syria’s public sector. Until 2011, cooperative and social housing represented 23 percent of Syria’s construction sector, according to past statements by the Ministry of Public Works and Housing.
A new HLP law, intended for 2020 but released in January 2021, prolongs by two years an existing lease extension system for public sector property tenants. The law raises questions over potential conflicts of interest between Syrian businessmen looking for cheap urban property, and governmental and public sector tenants hoping to hold onto property they have long rented at low prices.
In February 2021, the Parliament approved amendments to some articles of Law No. 11 of 2011 concerning real estate ownership rights for non-Syrians. The new law containing the amendment is awaiting the President's signature and publication in the Official Gazette in order to become effective.
A new draft law on real estate sales taxes raises various HLP-related problems, including lowering the cost of expropriation compensation and creating obstacles to the registration of real estate transactions.
Damascus and its outskirts have recently witnessed a rise in trading of subscription ledgers for social and cooperative housing projects. Rising real estate prices are likely driving this real estate-adjacent market, most of which is centered around properties that have yet to be built, and are part of larger construction projects some of which may not be carried out in the foreseeable future.
Informally built neighbourhoods surround the city of Damascus, forming a belt that extends from Barzeh to Qaboun and Jobar in the north, and from the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp to the Tadhamon neighbourhood in the south, reaching the foot of Mount Qasioun in the west. There are nearly 18 of these informal neighbourhoods, taking up around 2,000 hectares of land. They were home to some 1.2 million people before 2011.
On March 1, 2021, the People’s Assembly approved a new draft law on civil status in Syria, to replace Civil Status Law No. 26 of 2007 and its amendments.
The issue of the so-called “Amiri lands” has returned to the fore in Syria amid talk that the state could take back such properties from people who were forcibly displaced to opposition-held territory.
There are numerous social housing projects in Syria built by state-owned entities and established with the aim of supplying low- or mid-priced housing. These projects have assumed various descriptions and designations and are subject to various legislative terms and conditions. Usually, the General Housing Establishment (GHE), affiliated with the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, takes on the largest share in implementing Syria’s social housing projects.
A high-ranking Syrian military official recently said that the government could seize the properties of men who have failed to perform their mandatory military service, while also threatening to seize their family members’ assets. These statements have raised controversy over how to interpret a key amendment to Syria’s military service law.
At the end of January 2021, the Syrian president issued Law No. 1 of 2021, granting the General Housing Establishment (GHE) an annual loan not exceeding SYP 5 billion to help fund the construction of so-called “labour housing.”
Decree No. 66 of 2012, which provides for the establishment of two new development zones in Damascus, specified who would be able to obtain alternative housing and rental allowance as part of ensuing construction plans.