Buying a house in Istria – the paperwork

Thinking of buying a property in Istria – here’s some information about the key documentation needed here and throughout Croatia.

3 key property documents in CroatiaWhen you buy a house in Croatia, the key documents you need fall broadly into the three categories listed below. Usually, they should all be provided by your estate agent as proof the property is being sold legally – so chase things up if any seem to be missing! Click on the links below to see examples and for more information on each document (I’ve put the Croatian in italics and English equivalents in normal text).

 

 

  1. Entry in the land book registryIzvadak iz zemljišne knjige. Often also referred to as simply the Vlasnicki list
  2. Cadastral plan Kopija Katastarskog plana
  3. Certificate of legality (there are four possibilities here, depending on the age of the property)
  4. Surveys (not a strict legal necessity, but often a good idea!)

 

Entry in the land book registry (Izvadak iz zemljišne knjige)

Annotated example entry in the Croatian land book entryLand and property are registered at the regional court (sud) by their regional authority (opcina). This is indicated in the top left of the document, e.g. Opcinski Sud u Porecu-Parenzo (Council Court for Porec). Below that is listed the appropriate local cadastral authority (Katastarka opcina) for your house. For example, if it’s in Kaštelir, as Porec is the court for Kaštelir, you’ll see ‘Kaštelir written next to Katastarka opcina.

Each property (which can include a number of different types of land, buildings and other items) owned by the same set of people has a single entry in the land book registry. This entry is divided into three sections:

 

A – Popisni list PRVI ODJELJAK (Inventory list, first section)

  1. Rbr. (item)
  2. Broj zemljišta (land number) lists each item included on the property entry. Each item has a unique reference. This is usually a four digit number (such as 2485), but with older properties in Istria, it may be prefixed with ZGR (such as ZGR 85/3). ZGR is short for žgrada or building. In some areas of Croatia other abbreviations may also be used for older properties, but this is rare.
  3. Oznaka zemljišta (designation of land) is a description of what is there. Some of the most common for structures are: žgrada (building), Kuca (house), štala (barn), ruševina (ruin). If a building is divided into apartments (stan) they may be listed separately, e.g. stan A, stan B etc. More modern listings also include a mention of which floor the apartment is on and a reference to a plan of the apartment building (which is held in the land book registry). For land, a selection of the more common designations are: dvorište or vrt (garden), livada (field), oranica (vegetable garden), vinograd (vineyard), maslinik (olive grove), šuma (forest).

 If you buy a building with the intention of turning it into a house, but it has an incorrect designation (e.g. a ruin or barn), you need to have the property redesignated once the work is complete. Depending on the change, this is usually a fairly straightforward process involving an architect and your local council’s planning office (and, of course, some costs!)

Please note, land usage in Croatia is strictly zoned (building, commerical, forestry etc.) and you cannot tell which zone a property falls under from its land book entry. For domestic use, a property must be within the building zone, as defined in the ‘urbanistic plan’, held in your local Planning Office. Most houses are, but it is often worth checking, especially if it is an old, rural place. You should also definitely check if you are buying land for building, as confusions can occur (and some unscrupulous sellers have been known to try and sell cheap ‘agricultural’ land as far more expensive ‘building’ land). To further complicate matters, there are rules about the size and type of building land needed for some types of structure … so investigate this carefully with your estate agent before buying.

   4.      Površina (area): the size of each item, usually in m²

   5.     Primjedbe (comments), which is usually blank

 

B – Vlasnicki list (Ownership certificate)

This lists the owners and the percentage of the property they each own. At the top, Upisi means entries and Udio, percentage. If there is a single owner it will say UDIO 1/1; if there are two, each will have UDIO 1/2; and so on. It is important to check that all the people listed as owners agree with the selling of the property – as otherwise the sale is illegal. I have known property listings run to 26 or more entries, with owners scattered across the globe and obviously, the more owners there are the harder this will be.

 

C – Teretni list (debts against the property)

This section lists any ‘debts’ against the property. These may be actual debts, such as a mortgage or unpaid taxes, or ‘rights’, such as a right of access by another person. Some debts may have been imposed on a property, e.g. by a notary for unpaid bills or by the court following a court case.

What you want to see written here is ‘nema’ – nothing – because, when you buy a property, you take on its ‘debts’ (so if there is a loan outstanding, you will be liable for it). Obviously, you should thus try to ensure as many debts as possible are removed. However, it may not be possible to remove some, such as right of access across a property, and you need to be aware of this and willing to accept it.

At the bottom of the official version there is a stamp saying this document was issued by the Court and when the document was issued (usually this document has to be less than six months old).

Official copies of the land book entry are obtained from the regional court house and cost 20 kn each, payable by fiscal stamps (not cash). You just need to know the land number (broj zemljišta).

When you have purchased a property, your lawyer will notify the court and your name will replace the seller’s name in the second section (Vlasnicki List) of the document. When this has happened, you have legal title to the property (and be aware, this can be a slow process).

 

On-line version

If you have the land number you can also look up the land book registry entry on-line at e-izvadak.pravosudje.hr.

The headings are slightly differently worded but cover the same information, e.g. on the official version it will say Vlasnicki list (Ownership certificate) but on the on-line version, it says Vlastovnica (Ownership). This is because the on-line version is just a copy of the information and not the certificate (list).

Cadastral plan (Kopija Katastarskog plana)

 

Cadastral plan for Kovaci, Istria

Cadastral maps showing property ownership cover the whole of Croatia. Each property has a cadastral number, which is the same as the land number mentioned in the land registry. With this you can check that the property referred to in the land book registry is the one you are looking at ‘on the ground’. With the small scale used, your property will probably only be a tiny part of the map and it’s quite an art to read them – unless it has been highlighted by the estate agent, any specific property can be quite hard to find!

Its main use is to check your building(s) is (are) registered (an important issue, to be covered in another article). It’s also regularly used to check boundaries. As the scale is normally so small, it is not possible to do this accurately, but it will give you an indication. For more accuracy you will need a land surveyor’s (geodet) report.

Not all properties have a whole cadastral number. If a plot of land has been divided at some time in the past, the main property number remains the same and it is indicated by a slash and another number, e.g. say plot 2605 was divided to build 4 houses, then each house would get its own parcel with its own number: 2605/1, 2605/2, 2605/3 & 2605/4.

Certificate of legality

Different documents are required to sell a property legally, depending on its age as registered at the Cadastral office: 

Before 15th February 1968

A certificate (UVJERENJE) from the Croatian Geodetic Office (Država Geodetska Uprava) will be issued by your local Cadastral Office (Katastar). It has three parts: the first is the certificate (Uvjerenje) itself; the second is a copy of the cadastral plan (kopija katastarskog plana); and the third is the certificate of title (izvod iz posjedovnog lista), which shows who owns the property. All three pages must have official stamps.

15th February 1968 – 19th June 1991

Two documents are required:

  • a building permit (GRADEVINSKA DOZVOLA)
  • a certificate of construction inspection (GRADEVINSKA INSPEKCIJA) which confirms there are no registered complaints about the building on the property

Both are issued by your local council’s planning office and have official stamps at the end.

 

19th June 1991 – 21st June 2011

Two documents are required:

  • a building permit (GRADEVINSKA DOZVOLA)
  • a certificate of building use (UVJERENJE ZA UPORABU GRADEVINE). Often referred to as a Usage Permit, this confirms the property conforms with its building permit.

Both are issued by your local council’s planning office and have official stamps at the end.

 

21st June 2011 – today

The documentation required for new buildings depends on the size of the property.

Buildings with a footprint larger than 400 m² (including outside walls) need:

  • a location permit (LOKACIJSKA DOZVOLA),
  • planning approval from the local council (POTVRDA GLAVNOG PROJEKTA)
  • a usage permit (UPRABNA DOZVOLA)
  • an energy efficiency certificate (ENERGETSKA ISKAZNICA)

Buildings with a footprint smaller than 400 m² (including outside walls) need:

  • a building permit (RESENJE O UVJETIMA GRADENA), which is based on the architect’s drawings.
  • a usage permit (ZAVRJNO IZVJESCE NADZORNOG INGENJERA). Issued by a structural engineer, it confirms the building conforms to its building permit
  • an energy efficiency certificate (ENERGETSKA ISKAZNICA)

All these documents are certified by an official stamp from your local council’s planning office.

 

Surveys

Unlike some parts of the world, a survey is not a normal part of a house purchase and, when it is done, it is usually only a land survey to determine boundaries. With the small scale of the Cadastral plans, it isn’t always possible to be sure from this alone exactly where boundaries lie or who has ownership of which wall. If there are any doubts, having a survey done by a land surveyor (geodet) is a good idea. It is usually done by the purchaser and isn’t one of the documents supplied as standard by the seller. Based on our experience, although in very rural areas boundaries are often based simply on existing field boundaries, this is not necessarily true everywhere! Don’t just assume that if a plot has old stone walls around it that these mark the official plot boundaries …

Surveyor's map of plot in Istria, Croatia

Structural surveys are extremely uncommon in Croatia. If required, they are usually arranged via your estate agent.

 

Things keep changing!

Please note that Croatia is in the process of aligning its building rules and regulations with the EU. This process is ongoing and I expect there will be further paperwork changes before this process is complete, particularly with the certificate of legality.

I will update this article as and when I hear of any changes, but please only use this article as a guideline and double-check the situation yourself when buying.

 

Thanks to Azra at Tetida (Estate Agent)  for assistance with this article.

First posted April 2012

 

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