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Is it Possible for Ukrainian Citizens to be Land Owners in the Crimea?


Yan Akhramovich, Attorney at Law, Simferopol office of Ilyashev & Partners Law Firm
Source:  Forbes Ukraine

A new kind of tourism – for the protection of rights to land – is developing in the peninsula. Rules of the game in the annexed Crimea can change once again – the citizens of Ukraine who own agricultural lands in the peninsula risk losing the right to freely dispose of the land beginning with August 2015. The Russian legislation prohibits the non-residents to own agricultural lands, and the Ukrainians, who are formally treated as foreigners in the Crimea, fall under this limitation. The status of a land plot as agricultural land does not always imply belonging to the agricultural sector, thus, a significant number of summer houses are also built on agricultural lands.  Forbes asked whether it means that only a person with a Russian passport can remain the owner of the Crimean land.

The 13342015 summer season brought to the Crimea not only tourists. Currently, the institution most famous under the name of Rosreestr, or rather the State Committee on State Registration and Cadastre of the Republic of Crimea is in much greater demand in Simferopol, Sevastopol, Yalta and other administrative centers of the Crimea than recreation and holiday centers. What makes visitors flock there?

In December 2014, the Ukrainian owners of real estate in the Crimea gave a sigh of relief when the Ministry of Property and Land Relations of the Republic of Crimea confirmed that the documents of title to land plots and real property on the peninsula issued in Ukraine were declared lawful in the territory of the Russian Federation. However, currently reasons for serious concerns have arisen again.

The first wave of uncertainty about the safety of rights caused the law of the Republic of Crimea “On the regulation of issues related to the unauthorized occupation of land in the Republic of Crimea”, according to which the land plots, if they leasehold rather than freehold, may be transferred to the persons occupying them illegally.

Surely, the owners of such land plots, which for one reason or another are not always in the vicinity of the land allotments, were forced to urgently respond to the legislative changes and take measures to prevent squatting their property. Unfortunately, experience has shown that some of them failed, and now they have to share their land with the intruder.

Another potential risk is brought by Art. 284 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation, which states that if a land plot has not been used for its intended purpose for more than three years, it can be taken away. Now all land owners, who e.g. have long been saving money for their development, have to hurry up not to see how their land is being developed by someone else.

The citizen cottager

In 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that the residents of the Crimea have the opportunity to register in a summer house. However, along with the possibility to be registered at the place of residence in a summer house the owners of summer cottages got another problem.

In recent weeks the question: “What about the “cottagers” who do not have the Russian citizenship?” is being discussed actively. The legislation of the Russian Federation, which one way or another regulates the rules of conduct in the Crimea now, stipulates that foreign nationals may posses agricultural lands only on a leasehold basis.

It gave rise to the suggestion that agricultural land plots, which in the Russian Federation often include summer cottages (with anything but not farm houses), will be withdrawn from the property of cottagers if the latter have no passport of a citizen of the Russian Federation.

Fortunately, such an opinion proved a delusion.

The owners of agricultural land plots, who do not have citizenship of the Russian Federation, and other categories of people should remember that the Crimea is a specific territory having not only a regime of occupation from the viewpoint of Ukraine and a regime of the Russian legislation from the viewpoint of the Russian Federation, but also a special, Crimean legal order. The Law of the Republic of Crimea “On particular regulation of property and land relations in the Republic of Crimea” of July 31, 2014, No. 38-ЗРК, sets forth that title to land plots and other immovable property, which arose before the entry into force of the Federal Constitutional Law, is protected in the Republic of Crimea for individuals and legal entities, including foreign citizens, stateless persons and foreign legal entities.

Thus, there is no need to change citizenship to preserve the title to a land plot regardless of the category of land.

Finally, not only citizens, but also the employees of public agencies are misled regarding the status of land. The effects of such misunderstanding, if not mitigated, can be removed only by long litigations aimed at restoring, albeit erroneously, violated rights.


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