How to correct or change property records with the land registry in Croatia (pojedinačni ispravni postupak)
The land registry keeps ownership records of all property in Croatia. Technically, you do not own property unless your name is listed on the land registry as the owner. Croatia being Croatia, sometimes people are not listed as the owner due to some technicality or a series of unfortunate events.
When a property ownership record must be changed with the land registry, a process called pojedinačni ispravni postupak may be used depending on the situation.
This is a relatively new procedure. Prior to 2013, a lawsuit was required to change land registry records. The person wishing to change the ownership records would have to sue every listed owner.
If an owner was deceased, then you would sue their heirs. Genealogists sometimes had to get involved, given how many diaspora property owners are living elsewhere in the world – many completely unaware that they’ve inherited property in Croatia.
Due to strict delivery rules, diplomatic delivery would be required for notifying non-EU/EEA citizens abroad – which could take 6 months or more. Every person involved had to be notified and/or copied on every single document, notice, and hearing. As you can imagine, that would drag out the process, elevate costs exponentially and cause chaos.
The government fixed this with the pojedinačni ispravni postupak, a procedure that simplifies the correction of land registry records. Our lawyer, who helped us write this post, calls it a “beautiful procedure”.
In this post, we cover:
- Purpose of this procedure
- When to use this procedure
- Step-by-step procedure
- Procedure fees
- How to find an inherited property
- Get an introduction to a vetted lawyer
The facts are these…
How to correct property records with the land registry in Croatia
Below, we go step by step through the process of modifying the land registry. First, let’s define the parties involved in this process.
Before we dive into the details, let’s first identify all of the players in the property game.
Owner, aspiring – The person who believes they are the rightful owner of a property but is not listed on the land registry.
Owners, real – The person or people who are listed as the owners of a property on the land registry.
Katastar – The katastar is not part of the land registry, but it does deal with property. The katastar lists the details of a property.
You’ll need to request information from the katastar to support your case in this procedure.
Land registry – In Croatia, land registries are departments within the municipal courts. They are called općinski sud u [municipality], zemljišnoknjižni odjel” in Croatian. However, some municipalities have slightly different names.
The land registry is proof of ownership. The katastar is proof of the parcel. It is not uncommon for the owner to be correctly listed in the land registry but incorrectly in katastar. When it comes to ownership, the land registry records are superior to katastar. When it comes to the parcel, the katastar is superior.
Click here to see a list of all land registries.
Property lawyer – As of 2022, only Croatian lawyers and notary publics can make changes to the land registry. The system is digitized, and these are the only two parties with access. That means that you must use a lawyer to complete this procedure. We can recommend a vetted English-speaking property lawyer from our network. Click here to get an introduction.
Municipal court – This is the court where these procedures are filed. It is called općinski sud in Croatian. You must file in the municipal court in the same jurisdiction as the property in question. The case will be assigned to a land registry judge.
Most commonly, this procedure helps people fix their ownership records to avoid a lawsuit in the case of document errors or when you’re unable to find the owners or heirs but have a valid legal basis for the transfer, such as a sales agreement or inheritance decision.
[Read: How to buy a property in Croatia]
The legal intention of pojedinačni ispravni postupak is to fix formal inadequacies that prevent you from getting listed on the land registry as the owner due to technicalities. In practice, it’s often used to resolve a myriad of property issues outside of the initial legal intention.
This process has some flexibility, which is why property lawyers love it.
Here are some of the most common examples for which this procedure is used:
- Real estate purchase agreement was not notarized
- Inheritance decision doesn’t include the lot numbers
- Typos in OIB or name
Mistake or error that causes the land registry to reject a request to change ownership
Step #1 Gather your documents and proof
You’ll need to have at least one original document that proves your rights to a property.
- Contract (preferably notarized)
- Inheritance decision
Also, you must have:
- Factual and current possession of the property
- History of the lot from the katastar
- Proposal of at least two witnesses to your ownership
Step #2 File a motion
All of the above evidence is included in the motion. You don’t need to name the opposing party, i.e., the existing listed owner(s). You only need to make a case that makes it probable that the property is yours.
Opposing parties are only contacted as part of this process if they can be easily found. In practice, the court doesn’t contact anybody. The court circumvents this by publishing the request as a public call, which protects the legality of the process.
Once this motion is filed, the process is added to the land registry certificate under the aktivna plomba section.
Advice from our lawyers
It’s important to check your land registry certificate periodically to make sure nobody has initiated a process without your knowledge, ESPECIALLY if you live abroad, don’t have physical possession and/or your property is land.
Check both the aktivna plomba as well as zabilježba in Section C.
Step #3 Wait for the court’s decision
The court decides whether to allow the process. If they allow the procedure to go forward, then the process moves from aktivna plomba to zabilježba on the land registry certificate, which is where obligations and open processes live.
Step #4 View a notice in the national gazette and at the court
A notice of the requested ownership change is published in the national gazette, called Narodne novine, as well as on the notice board at the court. It is listed for 30 days to see if anyone challenges the ownership change.
[Read: What is Narodne Novine]
During this 30-day period, any person can submit an objection and become an active part of the process. If there is an objection, the procedure pauses. If the objection is considered valid, then the process is canceled, and the person can opt for a lawsuit. If the objection is considered bogus, then the judge should continue with the procedure.
If you miss the deadline and are deleted as the owner, you can always file a lawsuit once the procedure is finished.
Step #5 Go to the court hearing
The judge holds a hearing on-site at the property. You, your witnesses, and the surveyor must be present. There will be a tour of the property, and statements will be made. The witnesses should not be relatives or anyone who benefits from a change in ownership. Impartial witnesses are best.
The surveyor will take photos and measurements, then match them to the katastar.
Step #6 Become the property owner
If everything checks out, then the judge brings a decision, and you will be listed as the owner of the property.
In practice, this isn’t considered a property transfer for the purposes of the transfer tax. The land registry will not necessarily notify the tax office. This part of the process hasn’t been clearly defined and tends to change in practice annually.
The property transfer tax is 3% of the market price.
Here are the approximate costs of the procedure:
- Publishing in Narodne novine – 60 euros
- History of a lot from katastar – 33 to 55 euros
- Surveyor – 265 to 400 euros, but it can be more if a property is hard to reach
- Regular registration fee for the land registry – 30 euros
- Court fee – 33 euros
- Lawyer – Varies depending on the value of the property. For example, a dispute regarding a major hotel would have a larger cost than a small parcel of land. Value is set using defined categories. A lawyer will provide this at the start of the process.
If your Croatian ancestor left Croatia to find a better life abroad, it is possible that you have inherited property and don’t know it. This is most common when the ancestor never returned to Croatia.
There are lots of abandoned properties in Croatia, many of which are abandoned specifically because their owner left Croatia and never returned.
It is so common to inherit property from your family that there is a special word for it – djedovina, which loosely means grandfather’s property.
If the property was abandoned decades ago and you only find out about it now, you can make an ownership claim for the property.
It’s important to find out if you have property owed to you as soon as possible. Anyone can come to your land and take possession, then make a claim for ownership based on that possession.
To check the records, you’ll need the name of your ancestor who left Croatia and preferably the location where they lived and their birth date. If you don’t have all the information, a lawyer may be able to help you fill in the blanks as well as do the search for you.
BEWARE: If you wrongfully claim possession of a property and/or fabricate evidence to make that claim, it is a crime.
Want help searching for the property of your ancestors? One of our vetted property lawyers can help. Learn how we vet our lawyers here.
To get started, fill out this form. We’ll set you up with a local, English-speaking property lawyer who can help you find your family’s property.
Need help investigating, purchasing or selling a property? Or maybe you are have Croatian ancestors and want to know if you’ve inherited property? We can help with next steps. Expat in Croatia has carefully vetted a network of property lawyers who can help you find a property in Croatia with confidence.
- Answer all of your property questions
- Find property records
- Clean property titles
- Search for properties associated with your family
- Help you purchase a property and represent you during the process
- Ensure you are not taken advantage of by property sellers or real estate agencies
- Prepare and review contracts
- Help you sell a property
- Engage local contractors and interior designers
To get help from a vetted lawyer, please share your needs with us using the below form. Based on those needs, we’ll match you with the right person best suited to help.
Zakon o zemljišnim knjigama
Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.