May one acquire land in the most prestigious region of Russia – the Moscow region? It turns out to be quite possible, as everything is done according to law.
Land matters in Russia have always been complicated, and there are still a lot of issues and problems. We asked the Minister of Property Relations of the Moscow regional government, Andrei AVERKIEV, to speak on the way they are solved in the Moscow region.
High-rise construction on six acres won’t do any more
— Mr. Averkiev, which category of people may receive land lots without a tender for a private plot? Are there any restrictions in the designated lot usage?
— Land lot usage as a private plot (subsidiary individual holdings) is the paradigm of other permitted uses: individual housing construction (IHC) or suburban gardens. It means the right of a person to construct a house on his or her land, so the question of whether a person may get a lot for housing construction in the Moscow region is not quite the correct question.
According to the Land Code, all state-owned land lots for future housing construction may be received only at an auction or a tender, though for a citizen a slightly different scheme is provided: a person addresses the local government authority with powers to lend a land lot, and the information about it is published in the local newspaper and on the federal website, torgi.gov.ru. If nobody responds, the claimant receives the lot without a tender, but not for free - he rents it. If there is at least one other claim, the local authority has to hold an auction.
— Are there any restrictions on the area and storeys for a capital facility construction lot, if a person buys or rents it?
— The restriction is very simple: this must be a maximum three-storey, one-family house, and its area should correspond to the parameters of an individual residential building.
Everybody knows cases of high-rise buildings on six acres. One cannot construct without permission, and this is down to the regional authorities’ competence. The current authorities will prevent such practices.
Want to get land? Take part in an auction
— What legal entities may receive land lots without auctions and for what purposes?
— The general rule is only at auction, but there are exceptions. For example, a lot is lent to a legal entity on the resolution of the regional leader.
Such a right is provided only in the case of a socially important object’s construction or the implementation of a special large-scale investment project.
According to the Moscow region’s regulatory acts, the decision on lending land lots without an action on the Governor’s resolution is not legal, but an exception may be made in case of emergency. For example, if a house burns down, the Governor may take the decision to shelter people, and then a land lot may be allotted without an auction. But this does not apply to cases of resettlement from substandard housing, or as a solution to the problem of hoodwinked investors.
Squatting won’t do
— Due to the new edition of the Land Code coming into effect, is there an opportunity to secure land rights by squatting?
— There has never been such an opportunity and there never will be! It is unauthorized construction. There is no such procedure in the Land Code, only through legal action.
If you have built a house without permission, you have the opportunity to go to court and prove that it does not impinge upon anybody’s rights or interests, the object is not dangerous, it was built under construction norms and regulations and it will not be destroyed in a month. Then the court may judge the constructed object to be legal.
— And how is it with residential yards? Moving a fence a bit, for example - also through the court?
— There used to be complications with the issue of every other person in their village trying to move a fence a couple of meters. A new notion appeared in the Land Code: rural replotting. Thousands of people in the Moscow region have used this opportunity, and we welcome it. The cost is 50% of the cadaster price of the added land lot. But one should know that the procedure works only when it concerns some enclave of plots. When it is only to add a land lot which may be a separate object, the municipal authorities will decline it because a separate land lot may be put to tender.
— Land unused for three years should be recalled, if it is not used for construction. From what moment do the three years start for a developer?
— The rule is not new, and it concerns only agricultural lands. Many large landowners just keep the land and look for an opportunity to use it to their advantage. And this is growing…
There are economic leverage means: fines for improper use of land, or higher land tax rates. But a stricter tool is the recall of such land estates from negligent owners – not to the state, because instead we may make such a person sell his unused estate to another more motivated owner at an auction.
The procedure is complicated: the fact that the owner has not used the land for three years must be proven in court. Only after that may the right be sought to seek satisfaction.
The red light for negligent officials
— What should a developer do if municipal authorities delay their answer to a land lot distribution issue for more than three months?
— We do our best to control our colleagues’ work in local administrations. In 2015 we prepared administrative procedures for each of the state municipal services as provided in the Land Code. There are 12.
Exact regulatory terms for each action are determined. The “Module of service provision” software was created, and it logs every claim from a citizen or an entrepreneur. From this moment on, the regulatory term countdown starts.
We want to see all the stages of the documentation fulfillment in this program. If an official causes a delay – well, as the saying goes, a red light must be switched on. Moreover, the Administrative Code provides the right to fine officials if the state and municipal services break the terms, and we shall practice it.
There won’t be unowned land
— What is the area of Moscow’s suburban land which local authorities are ready to allocate for housing and industrial construction?
— It has not been measured exactly, but there is land for this purpose in the Moscow region. Some years ago we redirected all potential investors’ claims for land lot allocation to the municipal level and learned that all the land was in private ownership.
Since then, the situation has changed dramatically: the process of state owned land management is under our control. Using available information resources, such as public cadastral maps, we have created a search system for unallocated state land. We are now able to solve problems with land lot allocation.
However, it should be understood that it is difficult to find unallocated state land within the MRR area, but a bit farther out there is a lot. We are targeting the registration of property rights for at least 10,000 hectares of land a year. The land must be either in private or in state ownership.
— How much did the Moscow regional budget receive from land turnover last year?
— The figures are no secret: in 2015 it was about 17 bln roubles from rent and about 4 bln roubles from land lot privatization and sale (in the cases where we have such rights).
— I was once looking for the owner of an abandoned lot, and I wrote letters. I received the answer that the land did not belong to anybody. Then some local people prompted me and I found the owner. Is this a failure in municipal work, or is something wrong with the turnover of documents?
— I would consider the problem to be a deficiency of federal legislation. There are two main laws in the country on land registration as unmovable property and on the registration of property rights for land lots. These are 221-FL, “On the state’s real estate cadaster” and 122-FL, “On the state registration of real estate rights”
The laws are rather biased towards the owners and do not oblige them to register their rights. Neither do they oblige land owners to establish the borders of their land lots. Neighbours may claim their rights to a land lot which has not been registered properly in the municipal office by its owner.
Such conflict will be considered in court and it remains to be seen whose part the court will take.
How to share one lot
— We’ve got some questions from our readers. Alexander from Ruza has told us that his neighbor rents 11 acres, but due to his age he does not manage it. So he is going to impart half of it to another person as officially registered rent. What is the tenant to do?
— To do everything according to the law, the initial land lot should be marked off to determine the area of the lot remaining to the current tenant and the rest of the area for the other renter. And then there are options. For example, the first lot may be refused, and then the municipal office will lend it, or a tenancy agreement may be drawn up for the two lots – say, six and five acres, and then a subtenancy contract may be concluded.
— Another question from Pavel in Dubna. When information about land lots in his town was included in the state register, a different frame of reference was used, and they did not take corrections into account. So the lots “moved” 10 meters to the right. Now Pavel’s house is half on his neighbour’s lot and another neighbour’s house is partly on Pavel’s land. All the officials know about it, but there is no mechanism to correct it…
— One more sore point is the issue of cadastral registration. The state’s real estate cadaster determines the borders of land lots. And Pavel is not right here – changing the frame of reference is a figment of his imagination. I think it’s down to mistakes by the cadaster engineers. How to find a way out? The procedure itself is not defined by law, but they may call in other cadaster engineers to measure and make new plans of the lots and bring them to the cadaster chamber.
Of course, it will take time and money. On the other hand, there will be problems if they want to sell the lot.
— And to conclude, our traditional question. How do you spend your leisure time? Do you have any hobbies?
— Sorry to say this, but I have no time for a hobby. But I like winter fishing. And I dream of spending a vacation in the north to vent…