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Land registry in the EU PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 March 2005

The legal and institutional system of land and property registration in Europe is extremely diversified. Their operability depends not on the quality of the systems, but first of all on that, whether the institutional system has got the financial and human resources that meet the users’ demands. 

Expectations of the uniform land and property registration system
- the EU practice

András Osskó
Budapest Land Office

To establish an operable legal and institutional system of land management that meets the demands of the users: this is a vital interest of all countries, as the safe title/ownership rights in land and property is one of the most important preconditions of a well-functioning market economy. These requirements are valid in the European Union too, so the basis for comparison is given. Let us see how the Hungarian legal and institutional system of land management meets the requirements of the EU, which are the following: legal security, transparency, simplicity and a client service that corresponds to the expectations of society and economy. 

The legal and institutional system of land and property registration in the EU is extremely diversified. Their operability depends not on the quality of the systems, but first of all on that, whether the institutional system has got the financial and human resources that meet the users’ demand. 

  • The principle of legal security: nowadays this is provided in all EU member country, independently from their land and property registration system.  The land registration transactions and the transparency of land registration case management is the best in those countries, where the social environment is free of corruption and bureaucracy, the lawyers’ intervention is less frequent and very simple, e. g. in the Scandinavian states or The Netherlands. Opposite examples: South-European countries, France.
  • The transparency can be reached by standardization of legal documents, making use of the opportunities provided by information technology and simplifying the case management procedures, and last but not least, simplifying the rules of law. To create transparency and simplification: it must be the first interest of the institutional system dealing with land and property registration, and also it must be the same with the cooperating honest and fair lawyers. Transparency and standardization allow quicker case management, decrease the number of occasions for crime connected to properties, and the case management procedure becomes more understandable for the wide public too. 
  • Client service meeting the demands of the society and the economy is nowadays the most important requirement of the land management and the system of land and property registration.

The role of land and property has changed a lot in the past hundred years: now a piece of land or other real estate means not only property, but also an income-generating resource that can be used for development, investment and any kind of utilization. 35-40 % of the national income comes from this activity. It is evident that the land and property data and their high-level service are of growing significance for the economy, the political life and for all other users.  

To satisfy all these demands, the most suitable is the unified institutional system responsible for land and property registration accepted by more and more developed countries. They make every effort to establish systems like that, and the same professional concept is supported by many relevant international organisations (World Bank, Federation of Land Surveyors (FIG) and the organisations of UNO: FAO, Habitat, WPLA, the Office for Sustainable Development etc. 

A change in this direction took place e. g. two years ago in Norway, when in line with the decision passed by the Parliament they integrated the land book and the cadastre in one unified legal and institutional system. The decision was based on the following reasons: the duty of the court is dispensing of justice; the judicial environment is not suitable for providing services. The maintenance and updating of land and property registration does not need any intervention from the court; it can be solved as a duty of public administration.

The Central-European countries in transition can prove the advantages of the unified land registration.

Hungary is the only former socialist country in Central Europe, where the land and property registration system has continuously been functioning since its foundation (mid 19th century), thanks to the unified system created in the 1970s by merging the previous old cadastre and land book. When the time of transition came, all landed and other properties of Hungary were registered and documented, and Hungary had a large scale cadastral map covering the whole area of the country. These achievements significantly eased the privatization of land and other real estates; compared to the neighbouring countries in transition, this procedure in Hungary took place quickly and successfully.

By the end 2004, the land and property registration was updated with the changes caused by privatization in Hungary. After comparing these indices with the corresponding ones of the neighbouring countries, one can see the difference in favour of Hungary.

The neighbouring countries in transition have started the reconstruction of their land and property registration systems at the beginning of the 1990s. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia they have elaborated unified land registration system, and established it in 3-4 years. In Slovenia, they decided to restitute the former dual system, and they were not able to complete it by now, though they were in the best financial situation. Croatia also decided to restitute the former land book system functioning under the supervision of the courts: the result is an overall chaos. Currently, the number of backlog in the Croatian land book is more than 600 000, and they are just looking for the way out. 

After having reviewed the international solutions, it can be stated that the legal and institutional system of the Hungarian unified land registration satisfies the most modern principles accepted by the professionals. Of course, corresponding financial and human resources are necessary to provide its operability and services for gaining the satisfaction of users.

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