Not that long ago, it was not rare that the applications for the registration of the ownership filed with certain land registry courts lasted for a number of years, sometimes even decades. It comes without saying that for a country striving for foreign investments such a situation was unsustainable. In the past few years, the Croatian land registry law has undergone significant changes resulting in visible improvements in the court’s efficiency. This was highly necessary as the ownership right without effective implementation in practice remains “dead letter”. Following this positive trend, in April 2013, Croatian Parliament adopted Act on Amendments to the Land Registry Act (Off. Gazette 60/2013) which entered into force on 16 May 2013 (in further text: “Amendments”). The Amendments introduce numerous novelties, mainly concerning procedural rules in the land registry matters, with the goal of establishing conditions for even more transparent, effective and faster registration procedure.
One of the main goals of the Amendments is digitalisation of the land registry and harmonisation of the cadastre and the land registry to be achieved by connecting the digital base of cadastral plans and base of the land registry (introduction of “Joint Information System” and the “Base of the Land Registry Information”).
Digitalization of land registry
Digitalisation of land registry abandons traditional method of keeping land registry by effecting manual entries of the information regarding real estates and real rights. The Amendments provide for electronic form of the land registries. This shall result in availability of all the information relevant to legal status of a real estate in an electronic form. Furthermore, another practical novelty is that each land registry court shall be authorised to issue land registry excerpts regardless of the territorial jurisdiction.
One of the novelties is introduction of the Mutual Information System, a unique register of all the information relevant to certain real estate, which shall link base of digital cadastral plans and land registry, and enable simultaneous access to both land registry and cadastral plans. This shall ease identification of plots in cases where the same plot has different designation in cadastre and the land registry.
The Amendments provide for the application to the land registry to be effected in an electronic form by the admitted attorney at law or the notary public by way of advanced electronic signature. This possibility would exclude possibility of multiple disposals with the same real estate as the application for the entry of the ownership right may be filed immediately upon conclusion of the purchase agreement.
The Amendments introduce an interesting novelty imposing an obligation on the buyers to expeditious acting; if a party requests the entry of the ownership right after expiry of 60 days as of acquiring legal basis for such an entry, the applicant shall be obliged to pay legal fee in 5x amount of the regular court fee. The intention of this provision is to establish discipline and promptness in submitting requests for the entry of the ownership and thus to achieve the accuracy and completeness of the land registries.
In the first instance the applications shall be decided by the municipal courts, while the appellate court shall be the High Land Registry Court. Introduction of the High Land Registry Court should contribute to the quality of the decisions rendered in the land registry matters and provide for uniform application of the land registry law, particularly in the first instance procedures.
In order to accelerate land registry procedures, the applications shall be decided by the land registry clerks and judicial advisors whereas judges shall decide applications only exceptionally. In order to secure high standard of service, the land registry clerks shall be required to pass a special professional exam for authorised land registry clerks.
In order to overcome complicated and inflexible rules on delivery, the Amendments introduce a number of rules that should make delivery of decisions rendered by the land registry court fast and practical. One of the novelties relates to an applicant residing out of Croatia. If such a person does not have a proxy in Croatia, he shall be required to nominate a person for acceptance of the correspondence already at the occasion of filing the application otherwise the application shall be rejected.
The most significant novelty is introduction of the new legal remedy - complaint, a remonstrative legal remedy which may be filed against the first instance decision of the clerk or a judicial advisor. The complaint which shall be decided by the judge may be filed within 15 days. Against the decision on rejection of complaint, a dissatisfied party may file an appeal to the High Land Registry Court.