Law No. 33 of 2008 on Documenting Ownership of Built Real Estate and Parts of Unbuilt Real Estate was issued to resolve ownership issues related to unlicensed construction and real estate subdivision in informal settlements. Law No. 33 aims to establish and record these properties within the Land Registry according to their reality on the ground, under certain conditions.
Implementing this law could have resolved many of the problems residents of these areas face, by terminating common property ownership, subdividing and recording them in the Land Registry in a manner that would ensure the property rights of their owners. However, for unknown reasons, this law was ignored and never implemented, despite remaining in force to this day.
Law No. 33 does not deal with informal settlements built on public property, but rather informal settlements built on agricultural lands that are not allowed to be built on. Therefore, we find in the law many references to the Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform.
Under Law No. 33, formally documenting a real estate property in an informal settlement requires the following steps: subdivision, termination of common property and correction of the property description.
Subdivision, or ifraz, is a technical procedure carried out by the Land Registry at the request of the owner, in order to divide the property into separate and independent pieces of real estate. This process takes place with the understanding that the property was commonly owned and that the owners agreed to divide and apportion it.
Termination of common property is the process of dividing commonly owned assets, such as land or real estate, between several individuals, via an agreement between those participating in the process by mutual consent. If there is no such agreement, termination occurs via a court ruling or sale. The proceeds are then distributed to the participants according to their shares in the property.
Finally, the process of correcting a property’s description is an administrative task carried out by the Land Registry at the request of the property owner. This process is meant to create consistency between conditions on the ground and the property’s description as recorded on its Land Record. For example, in some cases a property may be described in the Land Record as agricultural land, when in fact it is a two-storey building.
The areas to be covered by Law No. 33 are meant to be determined via decree from the prime minister, based on proposals from the minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform and the minister of Local Administration and Environment.
The area to which Law No. 33 may be applied may not be less than two hectares if located within an approved zoning plan, and five hectares if located outside such a plan. In addition, areas that have been expropriated by a public entity or established via decree as development zones may not qualify for Law No. 33.
The administrative unit in charge where such an area is located must prepare plans showing the external borders of the area as well as the numbers of the real estate properties requested for subdivision, termination of common ownership and correction of description.
For a piece of land to benefit from Law No. 33, it must have undergone delimitation and census and must have been documented in the Land Registry. At least 50 percent of the total area of the properties must have been built upon.
The Judicial Committee
Law No. 33 requires all courts in the area undergoing this process to stop hearing real estate cases for that area and refer them to a body called the Judicial Committee. The Land Registry’s real estate documentation office must mark the real estate records for a property undergoing this process with a note that it is subject to the provisions of the law on subdivision, common ownership termination and correction of description. In accordance with this note, the real estate documentation office then halts implementation of all decrees and transactions for that property until those three processes are complete.
The minister of agriculture is meant to form this judicial committee headed by a real estate judge. Members of the committee include the head of the relevant governorate’s Directorate of Cadastral Affairs, the head of the governorate’s Survey Directorate, a first-degree technical representative from the governorate and an expert from that governorate appointed by the governor. The head of this committee is tasked with subdividing the state’s share of real estate properties in which the state is a common owner, ensuring the state’s rights and interests, changing the legal category of such real estate from Amiri lands to Freehold Properties “mulk” and liquidating any inheritance transactions in that area.
As for the committee itself, it is tasked with deciding on requests sent in by stakeholders related to their rights, judging in cases referred to them by the courts and implementing decisions to establish and register ownership.
The committee’s decisions can be appealed before the District Court of Appeals within a one-month period. Committee decisions include a table showing the names of real estate rights holders in the area, as well as the estimated values of their shares and real estate numbers.
Under Law No. 33, those claiming a right to a piece of real estate may, after the one-month period expires, file a lawsuit before the courts within two years in order to claim compensation against the individual in whose interest the property registration was made. Law No. 33 stipulates six months to three years imprisonment and a fine for whoever files such a claim with forged documents.
The executive instructions for Law No. 33 state that, one month after the committee announces its list of decisions, it should refer the documents it has on hand to the Directorate of Cadastral Affairs. These documents include those related to subdivision, termination of common property, the judicial and detailed zoning plan files, as well as any records of implementing the committee’s decisions.