All questions

Real estate ownership

i Planning

The rules governing zoning and the general development of land are mainly determined at local municipal level; however, certain more general issues are resolved and determined at province and central government level. These matters are regulated by the Act on Spatial Planning and Development. Municipal zoning plans (adopted by way of a resolution of a given municipal council) are regulations specifying designation of land, and the manner of and restrictions on the development and use of land. Zoning plans outline the spatial policy of a given municipality and at the same time constitute binding local laws. If a local zoning plan is not adopted for a given area, then a party interested in developing the land needs to obtain either an individual decision on land development or (in the case of public interest investments) a decision on the localisation of the public interest investment. The process of preparation and adoption of local zoning plans includes consultations with the respective authorities, as well as the general public. Each entity may submit its observations regarding the plan under preparation, which may (but do not have to) be introduced into the draft of the plan. In accordance with the Property Management Act, municipalities enjoy a statutory pre-emptive right in cases of sale of real estate or perpetual usufruct rights thereto if the pertinent real estate is located within an area allocated in the zoning plan for public purposes or if a decision on the localisation of the public purpose investment has been issued. Such real estate may also be subject to expropriation.

The construction process and obligations of the owners of buildings and structures are regulated in the Construction Law. Generally, it is necessary to obtain a construction permit for most (if not all) larger commercial, industrial or housing investments. If a planned investment is in accordance with the provisions of the zoning plan (or, if a zoning plan does not exist, if the basic parameters and designation of the investment are confirmed in the individual zoning decision), a complete construction design is prepared and neighbours that are within 'impact zones' of the planned investment do not raise serious and justified objections, the planned investment can be approved.

In 2018 the Polish parliament adopted the Act on facilitating the preparation and implementation of housing investments. It provides a special facilitated path for obtaining the administrative approvals necessary for the investment, namely construction permits and environmental permits, while the zoning approval takes the form of an individual resolution of the municipality council (instead of an individual decision on land development or the zoning plan, as the case may be). This special resolution of the municipality council may allow for implementation of a housing investment regardless of the existence or provisions of the local zoning plan, provided that it is not inconsistent with the study of the conditions and directions of spatial development of the municipality in question.

ii Environment

There are two regimes of liability for soil contamination, depending upon the period in which the contamination originates. Soil contamination that occurred prior to 30 April 2007 or that may be attributed to activity completed prior to that date is regulated by the Environmental Law. Pursuant thereto, the current holder of land (the person disclosed in the land register – usually the owner of the land or its perpetual usufructuary) should comply with the soil contamination standards defined in the implementing legislation. If the soil contamination exceeds statutory limits, the holder of the land right is obligated to reduce the contamination to acceptable standards, unless such an entity proves that the soil contamination was caused by a third party after the acquisition of the right to the land by the current holder of the land. Consequently, liability for 'historical' contamination will usually rest exclusively with the current holder of the land. Contamination that occurred after 30 April 2007 (or that could be attributed to an activity completed after that date) is subject to the Act on Prevention and Remediation of Environmental Damage of 2007, which imposes a strict duty to undertake preventive or remedial actions with respect to contamination of soil, in particular contamination that may constitute danger to human health. The duty pertains in particular to preventive or remedial actions with respect to an imminent threat of environmental damage or to environmental damage caused by activities that 'pose a risk to environment'. If the preventive actions do not eliminate the imminent threat to the environment or the environmental damage has already occurred, the operator should immediately notify such a fact to the competent authority. Subsequently, the terms and conditions of remedial actions should be negotiated and agreed upon between the operator and the authority. Failure to implement remedial action gives the competent authority the power to order the operator unilaterally to take appropriate remedial actions or to cover the cost of remediation effected by the authority. The provisions of the pertinent Act refer solely to the operator without further specifying its legal title to the land.

iii Tax

As a rule, transactions involving the sale of real estate between entrepreneurs are subject to VAT. There are two main exceptions under which the sale of the real estate is exempt from VAT, although the purchaser will be obliged to pay a tax on civil law transactions (PCC) amounting to 2 per cent of the market value of the real estate constituting the subject of the transaction. This may be applicable in either of the following situations: if the seller is not a VAT taxpayer, or if the subject of the sale is a specific type of land that is undeveloped and is not designated for development (this mainly pertains to agricultural and forest areas). Moreover, in the case of an acquisition of an enterprise as a going concern, if such a transaction also covers the purchase of real estate, it shall be subject to 2 per cent PCC. Sales of real estate are generally also subject to capital gains tax.

An owner of real estate is also obligated to pay real property tax annually, which is a municipal tax calculated based on the area of real estate owned, the area of the buildings located thereon and the percentage of the initial book value of other structures.

Additionally, as mentioned above, agreements on transfers of real estate must be executed in front of a notary public in the form of a notarial deed; otherwise they will be considered null and void. The notarial fees are calculated on the basis of the value of the subject of the transaction; however, they cannot exceed 10,000 zlotys (the fees are customarily covered by the entity acquiring the real estate). In addition, there are registration fees relating to disclosure of the newly acquired rights in the relevant registers (i.e., the land and mortgage register and the land and building survey).

In 2018, a new kind of income tax was introduced in Poland – a tax on commercial real estate. It must be paid by the owners of commercial, service or office buildings, whose initial value exceeds 10 million zlotys.

iv Finance and security

Transactions covering transfers of title to real estate are typically financed either through the buyer's own resources (corporate funding) or from bank credits (project financing), with project financing being used more frequently. To secure claims of a bank or any other financing institution or entity, a mortgage is most commonly established over the real estate, which is also considered as one of the most certain types of security. An additional advantage of the mortgage is that the debtor is not prevented from using the pertinent real estate. A mortgage is a limited right in rem that encumbers real estate (or perpetual usufruct right), enabling the creditor to satisfy its claims from the real estate regardless of the current owner thereof. A mortgage may be established by way of agreement between the parties or by way of a statement of a landowner executed in the form of a notarial deed that must be recorded in the relevant land and mortgage register (constitutive entry). The notarisation requirement does not apply to mortgages established in favour of banks seated within the territory of Poland as, in accordance with the Bank Law, a written statement stamped with the bank's stamp is sufficient for establishment of the mortgage and its entry into the land and mortgage register.

Other types of security in favour of banks crediting acquisitions of real estate are:

  1. a voluntary submission to enforcement (a statement by the debtor made in the form of a notarial deed allowing court proceedings to be bypassed and to proceed directly to enforcement of the debt);
  2. a pledge over the shares of the debtor (if it is a legal entity);
  3. an assignment of rights to collect profits from the real estate (most common in acquisitions of commercial or office buildings);
  4. third-person guarantees; and
  5. promissory notes (used less and less frequently).