Warnings to Syrians Outside of the Country: Your real estate is at risk..

Warnings to Syrians Outside of the Country: Your real estate is at risk..
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 Legal loopholes and forgery networks able to change the official legal possession of real estate without their owners’ knowledge.

Message from the Syrian Government: You need security approval to sell and buy real estate.


Nidal Yusuf



(Randa Alazem) was surprised that the house she possesses in Tilyani area in downtown Damascus, which contained many antiques, was not hers anymore as another person took ownership of it. He has all the rights provided by law to do whatever he wants with it. Ms. Alazem, who estimated the price of her house to be 100 million Syrian Lira, 200 square meters, found out that the forgery process which led to transferring the property of the house and conducting the sale processes without her knowledge had been done by a car dealer in collusion with a lawyer in the same area, and the house was sold for 12 million Liras. The case of that lady, whom the Syrian populace sympathized with, is one out of hundreds or maybe much more of the cases in which Syrians find their right which is guaranteed by the constitution to possess a real estate is not protected and guaranteed by the government. The current situation of the lack of security, chaos, and severe entrenchment established a fertile environment and suitable climate for falsifying networks that are big and connected with influential powers to be active and work on forging real estate property documents.





For a while, the Syrian courts have been registering claims about transferring the property of real estates through forgery methods fabricated cleverly and very accurately based on what one of the judges in the ministry of justice in Damascus told Suwar magazine. He stressed that courts are crowded with such claims which take long time to decide on as well as the procedures that are long and overlapped. This means that whether falsification happened or not, issuing a clear sentence which is conducive to returning rights to their owners after others had tried to loot them is also difficult.

The judge who preferred not to mention his name didn’t want to give statistics about the number of claims looked at before the judiciary in relation to real estate property falsification. He stresses the seriousness of this crime (falsification) and warns property owners not to give general powers or be lenient in notifying others about their properties and relevant documents, or give the possibility to others to use their IDs, or leave their houses empty without any residents. He also drew the attention to the fact that in most claims he deals with, the falsifier exploits these weaknesses to transfer the possession of a property then they sell it to others.



Within the international rates


The general real estate directorate is considered to be among the oldest Syrian institutions as it is more than nine decades old and has rich experience in the field of preserving people’s properties. Its general manger, Abdulkareem Idrees, acknowledges that “there are falsification cases regarding real estate property.” He considers this phenomenon not to be new to the work of the directorate and that the detected cases so far are not alarming or threatening that falsification is increasing and widely spreading. Idrees underestimates the gravity of this phenomenon which does not exceed, according to him, the international rates (without specifying them). He thinks that the directorate is very keen on practicing its role strictly and seriously to preserve people’s real estate rights. He mentions the big burden on its shoulders, but that they are up to the responsibility. This big burden is represented in following up 4.7 million real estates in the city and more than 100 thousand real estate records, at the time when work is still conducted on papers in most directorates around the provinces because the projects of automating paper real estate records hasn’t yet finished.


Exploiting Circumstances


“How does falsification happen?” Suwar magazine asked the lawyer, Yunus Ibrahim. He is specialized in such cases and explained in details the stages followed by real estate property falsifiers and how they exploit many weaknesses. Ibrahim says that the falsifier may get the property owner’s ID card in one way or another. He goes to the notary and obtains a power of attorney under the name of a certain person.


This power authorizes him the freedom of legal actions related to the property or the sale of the real estate immediately to another person. Falsifiers often take advantage of the bad security situation in the country, as well as the fact that many people are abroad and their properties are not inhabited. So those people (falsifiers) know about that and claim before the property buyer that they are the owners and offer very low prices under many excuses, like having to travel abroad, having to have an operation, or pay a ransom for their kidnapped or detained relative. Such low prices tempt some people to buy the property without investigating about the real price or the real possession of the real estate, so the falsifier prepares a false authorization and sends it to the real estate directorate which in its turn moves the possession of the property based on the papers submitted to it supposing good intentions and considering the owner’s freedom of choice. Responding to the question of the possibility of real estate directorate’s official’s collusion, corruption, or lenience in registering properties, the directorate’s general manager, Idrees, emphasized that this is not true and has no proof on the ground, and no official has been caught colluding in this regard. Idrees said that the workers in the directorate may be lenient in extracting real estate registry statement or any document, but regarding registering or moving a property possession, they are very careful, and they implement the procedures that preserve rights. Besides, this process is not individual, not done by one official, but it’s done by a series of operations, which require the signatures of many officials, and they have to review the file and real estate possession document. He added that the directorate’s work is based on checking papers and assuring their validity. If they are correct and meet all conditions, and the signatures they have are recognized, especially the seller’s, the workers in the directorate do not have the right of hindering the property possession’s movement. Real estate directorate’s data show the huge amount of paperwork that is achieved; in the first half of the current year, the number of registries and records reached 604 thousand, and the number of contracts exceeded 111 thousand, and the numbers of statements and charts exceeded 85 thousand.


Good intention in the judiciary


A real estate judge in the ministry of justice in Damascus, with whom Suwar magazine met, said that when the judge looks into such claims, he handles different and contradictory factors as all sides of the case claim they are aright, the thing which requires ample time to study the case and check all the documents and their validity and legality. He also says that in case someone buys a property in a falsified way, and then they sell it to another person, but it turns out later that the first owner hadn’t sold the property in the first place, and he (the first owner) claims that there was a process of falsification, the procedure followed currently is to confirm the property ownership for the last buyer supposing good intentions in this process of selling and buying. Then the process of prosecution starts as well as the process of investigating the process of the first sale between the first owner and the first buyer. This way all the details of the case are uncovered, and how the process of falsification took place; who facilitated it and who took part in it? Responding to a question: in case the judge comes to the conclusion that falsification took place, what will the sentence be? The judge emphasized that the last buyer, who proved his good intention and that he had no relation with the falsification process, will be aright and the property will be registered under his name.


As for the first buyer from the first owner, the judge will sentence him and require him to pay the amount of money which is the price of the house in addition to prosecuting him for the crime of falsification. Suwar asked the judge, “If he abstains from paying, and this is what usually happens, because he is a falsifier in the first place, what does the judiciary do?” He responded “Unfortunately, this is what happens. Then the adversaries go into a new maze related to the other legal ways to pay off the debt the sentenced person has to pay off,” the judge responded.



Partial Remedy


The government followed two ways to combat such processes; the first is through issuing a circulation by the ministry of justice which involves not accepting any power of attorney by the notary unless by corresponding the body that issued it to assure the validity and accuracy of the power and that the notary has really issued this document in a way that ensures its legality. The second way, which is more important, is a circulation by the prime minister issued on August 4th, 2015, which includes not organizing any buying or selling process unless by obtaining a security approval. The circulation also included that “a new case is added to the cases that require a prior security approval, which is the case of selling properties or evacuating (a house or shop in exchange of money) in the regulated and non-regulated areas in order to prevent the infiltration of the armed groups and their exploitation of this gap to reside in the safe neighborhoods.


An environment for falsification


That’s what happens then; networks for falsification that exploit the circumstances of war in Syria to sell and buy people’s properties illegally, while regulations and laws, which are supposed to protect property owners, are easily broken. The governmental bodies that have the responsibility of documenting the owner’s rights do not have the adequate tools to ensure this right and not to allow others to approach or change this right illegally. The thing which nurtures the activities of falsification and corruption networks and encourages them to do more illegal practices in addition to founding more networks like this is the big returns they achieve as well as the presence of the suitable environment and climate for the work.



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