Syria’s system for delimitation and census of real estate has permitted rights holders to object to the results of such work. However, there are restrictions on objection procedures in some cases.
Delimitation and census refer to the process of recording real estate properties in areas that have not yet been officially entered into the Land Registry. As part of the process, real estate records are made for properties in the targeted areas. The properties are allocated numbers and registered in their owners’ names by the Directorate of Cadastral Affairs.
Per Decree No. 186 of 1926, the delimitation and census system allows rights holders to submit objections to real estate judges’ decisions within 15 days after the end of the delimitation and census work. The judge considers those objections and then informs the parties involved of the date for their session to decide on them. During this period, the judge may visit the property to investigate alongside an engineer, the local mukhtar and the different parties to the case, whom the mokhtar informs of the proceedings. Parties to the case may also exchange their defences and responses and submit requests for witness testimonies. Afterwards, the real estate judge issues their verdict.
However, when someone submits their objection to the same real estate judge who issued the original delimitation and census decision, their objections may or may not be heeded. Indeed, the judge has already considered the case, formed a conviction, and is unlikely to change their opinion. If a party objects to the judge, another judge will be called to consider the objection. This measure goes contrary to the general rules, which require someone with higher judicial authority to consider the judge’s request for a response.
Under Decree No. 186 of 1926, if an objector does not attend their court session, their objection is nullified. However, if someone summoned to court does not attend, the case will continue to be pursued against them until the judge issues a verdict. The defendant has the right to appeal this verdict within 15 days. If it appears to the judge that the objector has submitted their claim out of bad faith to harm the other party to the case, then the judge may order the claimant to pay damages.
Real estate judges’ decisions on objections may be appealed within 15 days, before the local Court of Appeals. This court may then conduct a local investigation at the property and issue a final decision. However, if the decision is issued in absentia, then the claimant may object to it. An appeal does not stop the process of entering a property into the Land Registry under the name of the person for whom the court ruled in favour. However, some legal pushback may arise if the appeals court issues a decision counteracting the real estate judge’s initial ruling.
Meanwhile, after completing any delimitation and census work, whoever claims that there has been a mistake in the real estate registration process and has not previously submitted an objection to a real estate judge may now file a claim before the civil courts requesting the registration be cancelled. Such lawsuits must occur within two years after the real estate judge issues their original delimitation and census decision. Judgments from such cases may be appealed, but the appeals judgment is final and may not be revised.
These cases are the claimant’s chance to prove that an error occurred in the delimitation and census process or that they have the priority in disposing of the property in question. They provide evidence through all permitted methods, in accordance with jurisprudence from the Court of Cassation Decision No. 962 of 1955: “It is unjust for the delimitation and census committee to accept all the defendant’s evidence when registering a property in its name and for that same evidence not to be accepted during an objection to the process, particularly if the claimant was not an opponent during the delimitation and census process.”
When the two-year lawsuit period ends, the real estate registration takes on probative value and may not be the subject of any lawsuit except in fraud cases. At this point, the aggrieved party to the case may file a claim for compensation against the party that caused the damage and may not file a claim to cancel the registration. The right to make such lawsuits disappears after five years, according to Decree No. 48 of 2008, which amended Decision No. 188 of 1926 concerning the Land Registry system.