Facilitating building regularisation

Ahmed Abdel-Hafez, Tuesday 28 May 2024

The latest amendments to the law on building contraventions may encourage more people to apply for regularisation, reports Ahmed Abdel-Hafez

Facilitating building regularisation

 

Egypt’s long-standing issue of contraventions to the building code may be on its way to be solved due to the release of the executive regulations of the Law on Reconciliation on Building Violations in April.

The law has undergone several amendments, all with the aim of facilitating procedures for violators to pay the slated fees to regularise the status of their buildings. It will also help generate more government revenue.

The law does not offer simple solutions, however. One major challenge is that some people may find the fees too expensive, while it can also take some time to obtain the final reconciliation document. These delays, compounded by bureaucratic issues, affect the efficiency of the system.

This is the third amendment to the law and is set to be enacted for a limited period before being suspended. Initially introduced in 2019, the law was created to address the problem of buildings constructed without proper permits, in violation of licence conditions, or of failing to comply with height and street width regulations.

The 2014 estimates put the number of building violations in Egypt at close to nine million.

To initiate the process of regularisation, the applicant must obtain a certificate, valid for six months, as evidence of submitting the request. Once the applicant completes the technical procedures, they can acquire a document that halts any legal actions or disputes concerning the property concerned.

The new amendment states that applicants are not required to pay additional fees for their request if they had previously submitted documents and paid the application fees.

Mohamed Rashid, a member of the Board of Directors of the Real Estate Development Chamber, said that 82 per cent of properties suspected of contravening the regulations are located in Cairo, Giza, Qalioubiya, and Alexandria. The remaining 18 per cent are dispersed across other governorates.

Local authorities have received half a million regularisation requests thus far, he added, adding that the recent amendment will encourage further requests.

Civil servants responsible for receiving applications and the technical committees reviewing them are being trained to find ways around the bureaucratic hurdles that can discourage violators from filing for regularisation, Rashid said.

The success of the new law can only be assessed after the completion of the first deadline to see whether this has helped increase the number of applications, he added.

This is the first time in Africa and the Arab world that a law has been issued for a limited period. Due to the absence of precedents, the amendments were released one by one to assess their effectiveness individually in addressing each of the various challenges.

In tandem with the release of the law’s executive regulations, the Faculty of Law at Tanta University has released the first doctoral thesis focusing on it.

The thesis, “Legal Dispositions on Violating Real Estate Units Under the Unified Building Law and the Reconciliation Law: An Analytical Study,” was presented by Ahmed Al-Sheikh, an advisor to the State Litigation Authority.

While acknowledging that the problem of building contraventions has been exacerbated primarily due to domestic challenges, the study finds that the law does not establish provisions to safeguard land owned by entities like the ministries of religious endowments, defence, and the interior.

The study puts forward several recommendations, including the inclusion of a legislative provision to declare that buildings constructed without a licence or legal justification on state-owned land should be regarded as the property of the state.

Additionally, it proposes that the financial amounts allocated for regularisation should be regularly reviewed to ensure their alignment with the circumstances of each area. Fees should be adjusted to keep pace with economic changes, ensuring that they remain substantial in order to represent a significant deterrence for violators.

Al-Sheikh suggests that any actions taken on units built without proper permissions should be considered sound from the date of filing for regularisation, rather than from the date of the regularisation itself.

Ignoring this problem could lead to various legal complications, the study argues. It would also fail to uphold the principle of security of tenure, which goes against international conventions that regulate the right to housing and could result in uncertainty in the legal status of real-estate assets.

Mohamed Abu Samra, a former expert with UN Habitat Egypt, argued that the amendments do not reward law-abiding citizens.

The current formula of the law grants violators an advantage by legalising contraventions and providing them with larger areas and higher buildings than originally authorised.

On the other hand, law-abiding citizens who followed the regulations will not receive compensation equivalent to the value gained by violators after regularisation.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 30 May, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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