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Certifying contracts, licensing, and receiving complaints… What powers does Idlib’s “real estate documenting office” have?

Syrian internally displaced persons moving the furniture of their destroyed houses in southern Idlib countryside during the relative calmness in the area - 06 September 2019 (Enab Baladi)

Syrian internally displaced persons moving the furniture of their destroyed houses in southern Idlib countryside during the relative calmness in the area - 06 September 2019 (Enab Baladi)

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After attempts to control the rental prices in Idlib city, the “Syrian Salvation Government (SSG)” in Idlib province established a “real estate documenting office” in the building of the local administration and services ministry, after issuing a set of instructions to regulate the lease contracts in Idlib under a decision issued by the SSG’s prime minister’s office early this July.

The decision extends the duration of leases as long as the reasons for contracting continue to exist between the two sides and sets out the rental payments for all properties in the Turkish Lira.

The SSG’s decision identified the commission of owners of real estate offices that undertake the rental and contract-making process by not more than half a month of rent cost, under liability.

In the last two years, Idlib governorate witnessed a house rental crisis due to the increasing demand for rents following the arrival of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) to Idlib from inside and outside the province.

The powers of the “real estate documenting office”

In an interview with Enab Baladi, the General Manager of the “General Directorate of Real Estate” in the liberated areas,” Abdul Rahman Zain said that the department of organizing real estate offices at the “General Directorate” was established eight months ago; however, it was only activated in Idlib city.

Zain added that after the contracts’ regulation decision was issued at the beginning of July, the department of organizing real estate offices was activated in all branches of the “General Directorate of Real Estate” in the Syrian north.

This department has two offices, the office of contracts’ documenting and the office of licensing and receiving complaints.

The task of the real estate documenting office is to certify each contract between the lessor and the tenant, subject these contracts to the SSG’s decisions, inform the relevant parties of such decisions, and verify the contracts’ validity.

Meanwhile, the licensing and complaints receiving office monitors the licensing of real estate offices in the municipal councils, receives complaints from the lessor and tenant, forms local committees to examine the property, and estimates the rents in the Turkish Lira.

According to Zain, the committees also assess the damage that the tenant may cause to the property.

Part of the licensing and receiving complaints office’s tasks is to implement the regulations of the decisions on exceptions in which the lessor is entitled to evacuate the property, according to Zain.

The decision of the SSG’s prime minister’s office required the lessor to document all of the leases at the “General Directorate of Real Estate” or one of its offices, under liability.

Zain stated that if the contracts were not registered in the department of organizing real estate offices, the lessor and the tenant lose the right of protection to their property, for the contracts were concluded and not ratified by the office.

He added, in the event of a dispute between the lessor and the tenant, no authority would accept their claims except with a certified and written contract in the “General Directorate of Real Estate.”

Zain said contracts that are not registered in the department of organizing real estate offices are “a violation” that would put the property’s owner and real estate under liability.

He pointed out that the operations of documenting property and selling and buying real estate are held at the Directorate of Cadastral Affairs (Tabo).

“A de facto authority”

The Syrian lawyer and Head of the “Free Syrian Lawyers” organization, Ghazwan Koronfol, believes that there is no legal validity for all the contracts concluded and authenticated by the SSG because the latter is a “de facto authority.”

Koronfol considered that “legally speaking, documents granted by the SSG are not worth the ink they are writing with,” as per his expression.

According to Koronfol, the contract-documentation decision’s main objective was primarily “financial,” so that the SSG would collect financial fees for these contracts.

While the second reason is for “security” purposes so that the SSG would know who is occupying the properties to serve as a reference for security procedures.

Koronfol noted that the SSG could use the unregistered contracts as a pretext to seize or control the property.

He considered that the SSG is seizing property without legal justification, and it seems that it is seeking to “legalize” its behavior in confiscating people’s property and interfering with their affairs and their right to dispose of their property freely.

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