Real Estate Sales Law No. 15 of 2021, as well as its accompanying ministerial decrees and executive instructions, remains the subject of protest in the Suweida Governorate, where the real estate and vehicle market is witnessing stagnation.
On October 25, employees of the private Al-Bashaer Company held a protest in front of the governorate’s Transportation Directorate building, preventing employees from entering their offices. The directorate closed its doors for the day. The Al-Bashaer Company specialises in selling cars and documenting sales in official directorates, as well as recording real estate sales in the General Directorate of Cadastral Affairs. The recent protest comes amid the Real Estate Sales Law and certain banking conditions it placed on officially registering real estate and vehicle sales.
The Council of Ministers issued Decree No. 28 on March 24, 2021, which specified the minimum value that must be deposited in the seller’s bank account – at least SYP 5 million for sales of residential and commercial real estate and vehicles and SYP 1 million for land. The decree also stipulated freezing SYP 500,000 in the accounts used for these sales for a period of at least three months. Decree No. 28 was issued after the Real Estate Sales Law No. 15 of 2021, which prohibited the registration of any sale until the parties to the sale presented a clearance from the financial directorates.
The director of the Al-Bashaer Company submitted a proposal to the Minister of Transport in recent months to deposit SYP 200 million into the Commercial Bank interest-free, in exchange for halting the implementation of Decree No. 28 in the Suweida Governorate. To hold its end of the proposed deal, the company would charge sellers SYP 250,000 for every vehicle sale to register the transaction with the Transportation Directorate. It remains unclear whether the proposal also extends to real estate sales. In all cases, however, the parties to the sale would not have to deposit SYP 5 million in the Commercial Bank as evidence of the sale, nor would they be required to freeze SYP 500,000 for a period of three months.
Al-Bashaer’s stance is that their proposed deal would help unfreeze the vehicle and real estate market and at least contribute to regenerating the registration of vehicle sales, which have stagnated in Suweida due to Decree No. 28. That said, moving forward with Al-Bashaer Company’s proposal would mean granting the company a monopoly over registrations of local sales.
The proposal also appears unviable, as it stipulates an exception to the law for just one governorate. This is in addition to the proposal’s attempt to circumvent Decree No. 28, which itself is illegal as it imposes conditions not stipulated within Real Estate Sales Law No. 15. Decree No. 28 also poses a restriction on transfer of ownership, in contradiction to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom to dispose of property.
The offer made by the director of Al-Bashaer Company was also built on the director’s good relationship with security officials and Russian military officers, according to a correspondent for The Syria Report in the area. However, the company director was the victim of, what sources close to him described as, a “scam.” As a result, he lost SYP 50 million that he had used as a down payment “for implementing” his Decree No. 28 circumvention plan. Three months after making that payment, the plan failed to be executed, and the Ministry of Transportation employees evaded responding to the proposal.
After last week’s protest by employees of Al-Bashaer Company, negotiations were held between the company director and representatives of the Suweida Governorate. Afterwards, the Suweida Governorate Council addressed the Ministry of Transportation and the Damascus Transportation Directorate to gather information on the circumstances of the incident.
This is not the first instance of protests in Suweida against real estate sales laws. On May 10, 2021, groups affiliated with a local armed faction shut down the Transportation Directorate, calling the new law “public theft.”