Owners of derelict or abandoned buildings in Georgia may have their property taken from them under a new bill which is being rushed through parliament.
The law change will encroach on property rights guaranteed by the Georgian constitution. Owners of buildings will be required to complete the construction within a certain period, as envisaged in the new law. Otherwise they will be fined, and if they fail to pay the bill, their property will be taken from them.
“Sanctions will only be enforced in areas where it is not permissible to let half-ruined buildings be left standing,” parliamentarian Kakhaber Anjaparidze said in an interview with Radio Liberty. Anjaparidze co-authored the new law together with Andro Alavidze and Vakhtang Balavadze. “Mostly it will be in central districts. Owners of the buildings will be given some time to obtain construction permission and restore or complete the construction,” he told the radio station.
“Sanctions will only be enforced in areas where it is not permissible to let half-ruined buildings be left standing,” — Kakhaber Anjaparidze, co-author of law amendment
Owners will have six months to obtain such permission. If they fail to do this, there will be imposed a daily fine, set to between 0.10 GEL and 1 GEL for each square meter of property. The fine will be determined according to specific zones. If the owner doesn’t pay the fine, the property will be subjected to a forced sale.
After the six-month period expires the owner will be given reasonable time to remedy the violation. But the law does not specify the length of the grace period.
“If the owner fails to pay the fine, the property is expropriated, but also if the fine is paid, but the owner has not yet obtained permission to complete the construction,” explains Tatuli Todua, parliamentary secretary for Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association, a Tbilisi-based legal advocacy group.
But the Georgian constitution gives some guarantees to the owners. Article 21 says that deprivation of property shall be permissible only under circumstances expressly determined by law, after a court’s decision or in the case of urgent necessity determined by the Organic Law and only with appropriate compensation.
The Georgian Civil Code also protects the owner’s property rights. It says that a “person’s right to use also includes the possibility of not using the property.”
According to the new law, that was adopted by parliament after two hearings, if the owner applies for building permission but isn’t able to obtain it within the six-month term due to some administrative reasons he still will lose his property.
“If the owner does not have enough funds to get permission and let’ say, by the third month of the term he decides to sell his property, the term will not be reset to zero, but will continue running,” Tatuli todua says to DFwatch. “In this case the buyer will only have three months to purchase the property and sign documents. This is a short time, and the deal might not be drawn up.”
She added that the new law is about deprivation of property, while the Civil Code talks about temporarily transferring the property to another person:
“If the failure to put into use or to maintain the object is prejudicial to the public interest, then the law may prescribe an obligation for use or maintenance and storage of the object. In this case the owner shall be bound either to perform the obligation by himself or to transfer the object, in exchange for appropriate compensation, to the use by another person.”
According to the amendments, which apply to the law on Technical Hazard Control, these buildings and constructions shall neither be used for commercial nor public purposes. After the commencement of construction, the six month deadline to obtain building permission will not be waived even if the property changes owners.
The definition of the bill states that its purpose is to “develop the abandoned buildings and grant them with new life.”
The law should strike a balance between property rights and the public interests. The public interest includes the preservation of the city’s good appearance.
“Besides the city’s good appearance we can also talk about some dangers that are connected to buildings which have been abandoned for years. But every building requires an individual approach,” Nugzar Duduchava, member of Georgian Union of Architects explains. “Each building requires technical research and after that, there should be prepared special reports, detailing what the specific threats are to the construction process being completed.”