No Title Deeds for Inheritors in the Basilia City Project
The distribution process for share certificates in the Al-Qadam zoned real estate area of eastern Damascus’ Basilia City is witnessing significant modifications – namely, changing the legal description of already zoned land and other changes to those properties’ entries in the Land Registry.
On May 31, the Directorate for Implementation of Decree No. 66, affiliated with the Damascus governorate, invited rights holders in the Al-Qadam zoned real estate area to their share certificates (documents that entitle them to wholly or partly own shares within that area).
Decree No. 66 of 2012 stipulated the establishment of two zoned real estate areas in Damascus. The first, located southeast of Mazzeh, is known as Marota City, while the second, which includes all or some of Mazzeh, Kafr Sousseh, Qanawat Basatin, Darayya, and Qadam, is known as Basilia City. In late 2021, the Directorate for Implementation of Decree No. 66 announced that it had begun handing over share certificates within Basilia City.
The shares for each rights holder are calculated by more than one committee via a complex process under Decree No. 66. To obtain their share certificates, rights holders must submit an official application to the Decree No. 66 directorate, file copies of their original title deeds for their properties, provide identity cards and pay a fee of SYP4,000 for each certificate. Two weeks after the application submission, the certificates are issued and approved by the Damascus governorate.
Notably, Decree No. 66 directorate now requires that real estate owners or their legal representatives attend in person to receive the share certificates. So far, the directorate has not permitted the heirs of deceased real estate owners to obtain the deeds. According to one directorate employee who spoke with The Syria Report, the directorate is planning to hand over deeds to heirs in the coming weeks, but only after the heirs present legal inheritance documents.
According to a local correspondent for The Syria Report, this discrepancy is due to a recent issue, namely that the legal descriptions for the land in parts of Basilia City have been changed, even after they were already zoned. Prior to the zoning of the area, the properties in Qadam were listed as Amiri lands and located outside the zoning plan. This meant that if the landowners died, the lands were subject to the legal inheritance process as issued by the civil magistrate court in accordance with the Law on Transfer of Immovable Amiri Properties of 1928.
However, when Amiri lands are annexed into a city, as is currently happening with the Qadam Amiri lands in Basilia City, the legal description of those properties automatically changes from Amiri to “mulk,” or owned land. When that occurs, the provisions of legal inheritance, as laid out in Personal Status Law No. 76 of 2010, are applied instead. For inheritors, this change of rules means that when a re-zoning process, like that in Basilia City, occurs, they must submit a legal inheritance document compiled before the Sharia court. Distribution of legal inheritance must comply with several essential rules: (1) Distribution favours the nearest degree of kinship to the deceased; (2) Distribution must favour relatives with closer paternal kinship to the deceased; and (3) Male heirs receive double the share of inheritance as female heirs, though only when they have an equal degree of kinship to the deceased.
It is unclear whether these same procedures are being applied to other real estate areas in Basilia City.
Meanwhile, rights holders currently living outside of Syria as refugees and who are wanted by the security services cannot return home to receive their share certificates. They also cannot appoint legal representatives to obtain the bonds on their behalf because legal representation requires prior security approval. In such cases, the security services require refugees to undergo “security settlement” at Syrian embassies in their host countries, on top of paying monetary compensation for their compulsory military service if they have failed to serve. Afterwards, they may apply for security approval required for legal representation.
According to the correspondent, some concessions were also granted for issuing the share certificates, such as giving additional authority to the Decree No. 66 directorate to remove “upgrades” to some notations within the real estate pages for properties in the zoned area. It is still unclear where the limits of this authority lie and what types of notations the directorate is permitted to remove. However, real estate owners have the right to submit a request to the General Directorate of Cadastral Affairs to upgrade certain notes placed within the Land Registry for their properties. They may follow up on the request at the Decree No. 66 directorate headquarters, rather than before the court, which was previously the case. The directorate refers the property owner to the competent authority in cases where the Decree No. 66 directorate does not have the authority to upgrade certain notations.