How to legalize an illegally constructed property?

Each owner or future buyer of real estate expects that his property has proper papers. Proper papers imply proper ownership and construction documentation. In the case of real estate construction, the main role has the construction or technical documentation proving that the real estate is constructed in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations. But what happens if this documentation is misleading, or what happens if it demonstrates that the relevant legal framework was not respected when the property was constructed? 

Evidence suggests that the construction or upgrading of the property was not legitimate or that the building was illegally built. As an owner, and potential and future sellers you are required to correct these allegations in the construction documentation. You can do so by initiating the legalization process of your illegally constructed real estate. 

What is an illegally constructed property? 

According to the Law on Treatment of Illegally Constructed Buildings, an illegally constructed building is considered to be a building, or a reconstructed part of an existing building constructed without a permit for authorizing construction. 

As a rule, all buildings constructed until February 15, 1968, are considered legitimate and to register as their owner you only need to obtain from the competent cadastre the certificate that the building was built before 15 February 1968. 

The situation is much more complicated if your building was built, upgraded or reconstructed after that date, since the real estate would be considered as legitimate it must possess one of the following documents that represent a building permit: building permit, building permit decision, location permit with the right of construction or confirmation of the main design. 

Construction must be carried out in accordance with the conditions specified in the construction permit, e.g. the building must be built within the dimensions specified in the documentation, the window and wall positions must also be equal to those in the documentation, etc. For each building that is not in accordance with the above conditions it can be said that it was illegally built. 

Legalization process: steps, competent institutions and mandatory documents 

New facilities or reconstruction of existing facilities can be legalized, which can be seen on the digital orthophoto map of the State Geodetic Administration made on the basis of the aero-photogrammetric survey of the territory of the Republic of Croatia carried out on 21 June 2011. 

At such a building, the least rough construction works (based on walls, or columns with beams and ceilings or roof constructions) with or without roofs, with at least one floor are made. 

The process of legalizing the building is carried out by issuing a decision on derived status. The decision on derived status is made by the administrative body of the regional or local self-government unit in whose territory the illegal constructed building or the Agency for legalization of illegally built buildings is located. 

In order for the owner to get a decision on derived status, you need to initiate the legalization process. The procedure shall be initiated by submitting a request for issuing a ruling on the performed status to the competent administrative body. The documentation must also be enclosed with the request, depending on the category in which the building belongs. There are four categories in which buildings are divided: 

  1. Demanding building – a building with a surface area of more than 400 m2, buildings intended exclusively for agriculture with a surface of more than 1000 m2 and all public buildings irrespective of the size of the site.
  2. Less demanding buildings – buildings of less than 400 m2 and buildings intended exclusively for agricultural activities of less than 1000 m2
  3. Simple building – an area of less than 100 m2 and buildings intended exclusively for agricultural activity of less than 400 m2
  4. Auxiliary building – building in function of a basic building, garage, garden house, etc. which has one floor and the surface is less than 50 m2.

Specifically, for each of the above-mentioned types of buildings, the following documents are produced by authorized architects, civil engineers or surveyors: 

  • For the demanding building, three copies of the geodetic footage of the derived status are attached (if the building is recorded in the cadastral plan in the scale in which it was built, instead of the geodetic footage, three copies of the cadastral plan are attached), three copies of the architectural plot of the derived status and a statement by the civil engineer to the building meets the demand for mechanical resistance and stability
  • For a less demanding building, the following documents are crucial: three copies of the geodetic footage of the derived status (or 3 copies of the cadastral plan if the illegally constructed building is recorded in the cadastral plan) and three copies of the derived status.
  • For a simple building, three copies of the geodetic footage of the derived status (or three copies of the cadastral plan if the illegally constructed building is recorded in the cadastral plan) are attached, a statement of surface and calculation size of the building, at least four photographs showing all the facades of the building, keeping the building in space.
  • For the auxiliary building, three copies of the cadastral plan and the act on which the basic building is constructed or other proof that the basic building is lawfully constructed are necessary.

Upon receipt of the request, the competent authority shall check the submitted documentation and compile it with the documentation prepared on the basis of aero-photometric recording of the Republic of Croatia initiated on 21 June 2011 or with another act that can determine the time of construction. It also checks Spatial Documentation and carries out on-the-spot inspections. 

The applicant and other relevant stakeholders (the owner, the holders of rights on the part of the land on which the illegally constructed building is located, units of the competent local self-government) have the right to inspect the administrative department's documentation before making the decision on derived status. Once it is established that all legal requirements have been met, the competent authority shall issue a decision on derived status. 

The legal terms apply to: the completeness of the submitted documentation with the submitted request, that the architectural footage is in accordance with the layout of the building and that the fee for retaining the illegally built building in the space is paid. In the event that a lawsuit has been initiated before a lawsuit has been filed for a unlawfully constructed building (for example, when a claim is filed for protection of property), the competent authority shall terminate the legalization process. 

Once you have received a decision on derived status as a claimant, you have to pay communal and water contribution (except for ancillary buildings). In case there are legal and illegal parts in the building, the owner of the legal part does not have to pay any water or communal contribution. The water contribution paid by the investor to the building of the building is calculated and charged by the Croatian Waters. 

The water contribution height is determined depending on the zone where your property is located. In Zone A belongs the City of Zagreb and the protected coastal area, Zone C represents areas of special state concern, and Zone B is the rest of the Republic of Croatia. 

Municipal contributions are calculated by the municipalities and cities in whose area the building is located and therefore the amount of the municipal contribution is made by the municipal council or the city assembly by the Decision on Utility Contribution. 

Content of the decision on derived status 

The decision on derived status is filled in on a form containing the following information: 

  • Determination that the building is being legalized as well as all other works on the building
  • List and description of other buildings which are legalized together with the building (if any)
  • The name of the cadastral municipality and the number of one or more cadastral parcels on which the building is constructed
  • Level of completion of the building and works (completed or unfinished building)
  • Whether the building is freestanding, semi-built or built-in, the degree of building demanding (demanding, less demanding, simple or auxiliary building), building purpose, building exterior size, number and type of functional units and roof shape
  • Geodetic footage, copies of the cadastral plan, architectural footage and other relevant documentation depending on the degree of demanding of the building

Fees and prices of legalization 

Fees you have to pay to legalize your facility you are required to pay before and after obtaining a decision on derived status and at the time of submission of the application and the accompanying legalization documents. Before obtaining the desicion on derived status to collect the necessary supporting documentation, it is necessary to pay the costs of the designer and the geodesist. Then, when applying for legalization, you must also pay the administrative fee to the competent authority from whom you expect to issue a decision on derived status. 

Municipalities and cities themselves determine the amount of fees, and usually amount to several hundred kuna. After obtaining the decision on derived status, you pay the already mentioned municipal and water contribution. According to the Law on Legalization of Properties (from July 10 2017), the deadline for submitting legalization applications was June 30, 2018. However, today the Law on dealing with illegally built buildings permits submission of requests after this deadline. 

Advantages of legalization 

There are great benefits you can achieve if you legalize your facility. The first advantage is that you can even easier and faster sell your property. No buyer wants to do this task but wants to be sure that all documentation that accompanies the property is proper and in compliance with the law. 

Also, only legal buildings can be connected to municipal infrastructure for drinking water supply, wastewater drainage, power grid, and similar. Whether you want to subdivide your building to sell or rent it easier, you can not do it without a legalized building. If you want to use your real estate for business purposes, you also have to respect the law and ensure the legality of your building. 

In addition, legalized buildings achieve greater market value and you can easier get a loan. You can also ask for energy renewal incentives or apply for other subsidies from national or European funds. 

Right to Appeal 

If you are not satisfied with the legalization process you have started, you can always file an appeal. You can file an appeal against any decision taken on the derived status or against a rejected legalization request. Submit the complaint to the competent authority or administrative department which you have submitted the legalization request, and the appeal is solved by the Ministry of Construction and Physical Planning.