by Anna Rizova and Julia Haralampieva
The Registration Rules ('RR') initially adopted in 1951 have been subject to contradictory amendments during the last few months. In August 2014, the Bulgarian Government adopted changes mainly aiming at modernization of the land registration book keeping procedures, while in November 2014 these amendments were assessed as premature and therefore revoked.
This note outlines some of the most important amendments which remain effective after the legislative amendments of the RR made in November 2014.
Modernization of the land registration book keeping procedure
In August 2014, the Bulgarian Government adopted amendments to the RR which were supposed to optimize the working process of the land registry judges and create a better allocation between the responsibilities of the parties engaged in the process of registration of deeds into the land registry books. These amendments were supposed to optimize the keeping of the land registry books and to facilitate the improvement of the Land Registry.
Two months later the Bulgarian Government considered that these amendments were premature and revoked them. This sequence of events raises once again concerns on the progress of the implementation and operation of the new land registry. The newly elected Bulgarian Minister of Regional Development has recently made certain comments on the timeline of the implementation process and has shared her expectations that it will be finalized within 5-10 years' time period.
Documents subject to registration with the Land Registry
The long-awaited amendments allowing the registration with the Land Registry of preliminary agreements for sale and purchase of real estate or for establishment of construction right were introduced in August 2014. This was supposed to protect the interest of purchasers who have signed preliminary agreements for acquisition of a real estate in a way that will prevent a transfer of the acquired property to a third party. An initial purchaser who has a registered preliminary agreement with the Land Registry would have been entitled to require the court to rescind the notary deed by which the seller has transferred the property to a third person and declare the purchaser party to the registered preliminary agreement as the owner of the real estate.
However, in November 2014 this provision was repealed and the intended protection is no longer in place.
One of the amendments to the RR from November 2014, provides for an option not available before, the parties to register with the Land Registry only an excerpt of a contract and not, as it was requested before, the complete copy of the document provided, however, that the certified excerpt contains all material terms and conditions of the transaction. As a result the parties to a sale and purchase agreement can keep the confidentiality of some of the arrangements that were otherwise previously publicly available due to the registration of the entire contract with the Land Registry.
Parties entitled to request 'uncertified' or 'certified' copies of registered documents
As a general rule, any third party can request information from the land registry books. The amendments as of November 2014, however, explicitly set out the type of documents and excerpts which could be obtained by third parties. Thus, currently anyone can request uncertified copies of any entries and registered documents as well as certificates for the existence or absence of such registration.
Before the amendments, only persons who are parties to registered documents were entitled to obtain certified copies from the Land Registry books. The categories of persons who would be also entitled to require and receive certified copies of the registered acts are now expanded. Pursuant to the new Art. 51 RR, the persons who may request and obtain certified copies, apart from the parties to a registered agreement, their successors, and/or legal representatives, are:
- notaries and their employees;
- attorneys-at-law and their legal assistants registered at the respective bar association;
- bailiffs and their employees;
- judicial, prosecution and investigation authorities officials; and
- other persons provided by special provisions in other laws.
The amendments to the RR aim also at ensuring the accurate track record of persons who have requested and obtained certified or uncertified copies from the Land Registry. Any issuance of copies (both certified and non-certified copies) shall be recorded in a specific register at the Land Registry, where the name and the personal ID number of the person are reflected.