Syria’s Law Regulating Real Estate Ownership in Border Areas, issued within Decree No. 41 of 2004, aimed to impose a “security belt” within Syrian territory along the country’s borders. The decree and its subsequent amendments require people to obtain security approval before making any real estate transactions in the areas. The Minister of Interior grants the security approval via a decree based on a proposal by the Ministry of Agricultural and Agrarian Reform, with agreement from the Ministry of Defence.
Decree No. 41 was amended twice, first by Decree No. 49 of 2008 and then by Decree No. 43 of 2011.
Decree No. 41 and its amendments apply to the entirety of the Syrian border. The measure includes principles for establishing, transferring, amending, and obtaining real estate rights in lands within the country’s border areas. Under Article 2, the border areas are defined by a decree issued based on a proposal from the Ministry of Defence.
According to The Syria Report’s sources, a decree was issued in 2008 that defined the geographical width of the border areas. However, the decree was never published. Sources say that these areas generally consist of a security belt parallel to the border. The width of the belt varies but is never less than 25 kilometres. Notably, the border areas include the entirety of the northeastern Hassakeh governorate and the southwestern Quneitra governorate, according to the decree.
Decree No. 41 also stipulated that people who own properties within the border areas may not transfer ownership, lease, or invest in those properties for more than three years since obtaining a security permit. Real estate that falls within zoning plans was exempted from this requirement.
Decree No. 41 did not require people to obtain security permits to register legal claims of real estate sales. A plaintiff who purchases a property may register the sale in a court, request that such a claim be marked on the property’s official real estate documents, and obtain a legal acknowledgement from the seller, pending the issuance of a permit and permit’s submission to the court.
If the permit is delayed, the case is cancelled until the permit is issued. Afterwards, the plaintiff may renew the case and obtain a ruling confirming the sale. If a permit application is rejected, but the buyer received a judicial confirmation of the sale, applicants still become the property’s legal owner because the court has more legal sway in establishing ownership.
Syrian authorities have recently become more aware of this avenue to property ownership. Thus, they have tried to limit sales of this type within border areas, especially because they may occur without obtaining security permits.
The government issued Decree No. 49 of 2008, an amendment to Decree No. 41 of 2004, to impede such dealings. The newer decree made obtaining a security permit a requirement for those wishing to register sales in court. Effectively, Decree No. 49 barred courts from accepting the registration of any property that does not have a security permit.
The decree also widened the scope of real estate that require border area security permits to include properties within zoning plans. However, preventing the courts from registering ownership transfer cases before plaintiffs obtain security permits is considered a violation of the executive authority on the judiciary.
Security permits must be obtained within three months of leasing or investing in a property, or occupancy of the property will be voided. Administrative authorities in the region must also be informed of any leasing or investing of properties within three months. Failure to do so will result in imprisonment for up to one year and a fine.
If the Ministry of Interior chooses not to grant a security permit, the decision is final and may not be appealed. However, applicants may re-apply after one year under Article 3 of Decree No. 41. The measure caused real estate sales to stagnate within border areas.
These procedures remained in place until yet another amendment to Decree No. 41 was issued in Decree No. 43 of 2011. This amendment again exempted border area properties within zoning plans from the security permit requirement. However, people seeking to confirm real estate sales outside of zoning plans must still obtain security permits to file claims.