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Investment Land in Bulgaria

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   The legal system of Bulgaria is in the process of been aligned in full, with that of the European Union, in view of the expected membership of the country to the Union. Besides, cutting off corners, very common in the communist legislation, the legal system under introduction takes full care of the rights of the individual, protects the citizen against the supremacy of the state institutions and in general promotes, natural justice, freedom and protects in full the right of ownership.

In particular, the laws relating directly or indirectly to the question of "ownership" provide for a number of mechanisms, designed to fully guarantee and protect the buyer of immovable and movable property.

PURCHASE OF REAL ESTATE BY NON- BULGARIANS:
With regard to the question of "buying and owning" immovable property or real estate by "foreign citizens" the law as it stands today provides:

  1. Any foreign citizen can legally own a building (apartment - villa - cottage - mezonette), without any conditions attached to it, but in order to own the land on which the building is build, the permission of the Council of Ministers is needed.
  2. In the meantime there are no restrictions of ownership for "legal entities" meaning companies, legally registered in Bulgaria and owned wholly or partly by foreign citizens.
  3. Foreigners can not also buy agricultural land at present! This law is under review and it is bound to be amended within the spirit of the European Union directives, in order to allow the purchase and ownership of agricultural land by EU citizens. It is stressed here that "legal entities" registered legally in Bulgaria and owned wholly by foreigners, can purchase and own agricultural land, without any restrictions.
  4. Most foreign buyers, even EU citizens, choose to register a "legal entity" mostly owned by the buyer or the buyer and his wife and register the legal entity, as the legal owner. Besides the low cost of registering such an entity (it costs between €500 to €600) and the short time needed for the registration, there are some interesting tax advantages in doing so, which will be explained further on.

TITLE DEED /OWNERSHIP/ CONTRACTUAL SAFETY

Any contract or legal transaction has full validity in court, once it has been endorsed and registered by a Public Notary (Commissioner for Oaths). The reason been that unless the contract is in full accordance with provisions of the laws and provides for a lawful deed, the Public Notary will not give his/her consent and obviously, will not register such a deed in the General Registry. Once though the legal deed (contract of sale -agreement-transfer of ownership) is registered and endorsed by the Public Notary, then is fully valid and legally binding. It is though important to point out that any agreement made and signed by a number of parties, this is valid and binding at any court of law!

The Public Notary always issues Title Deeds, they are called "Notarial Acts" or simply "Acts" and are obligatorily registered at the regional court of justice! A Notarial Act is valid, only when it bears the signature and stamp of a regional judge. The same Acts as every other legal deed, are registered in Central National Registry, which is accessible by all Public Notaries, solicitors and court servants.

The Notarial Act is written on the basis of the signed sales contract and contains all the characteristics of the property (address, size, boundaries, and status), the name/s of the previous owners and that of the new and in general everything required by law in order to recognize the ownership. In the case where the property has been mortgaged, sold to an other party or for any reason has legal holds, this will appear automatically once the property register number is entered into the computers of the Central National Registry.

In the case where the contract signed refers to a property "to be build", buyers are advised to be extremely careful and to seek expert legal advise. In this case though the contract is register with the Central National Registry, it is considered by the court as "a civil dispute". The reason been that the subject of the contract (the apartment - villa - cottage etc) is not in fact in existence and the Sellers undertaking is to build in accordance with the provisions of the contract.
In order to offer a straightforward deal to our buyers and actively safeguard their interests, we have devised the following formula, which provides for the absolute safeguarding of parties, buyer and seller:

  1. On the signing of the contract of sale and the payment of deposit (normally is 33%), we transfer the ownership of the building plot on which the property will be build on the name of the buyer. In the case where the property is an apartment, we transfer the ownership of that part of the building plot, which corresponds to the apartment in question.
  2. Upon the commencement of construction, the buyer is obliged to deposit 33% of the contract price, in an earmarked Bank Deposit Account, with irrevocable instructions that the sum will be released to the order and benefit of the Seller (Developer), upon the presentation of a Surveyors Certificate that the construction works provided by the contract as "the first phase" has been completed. The same method apply with the "second phase", the buyer upon the commencement of the second phase, deposits the remaining 34%, which is payable to the Seller (Developer) upon the Surveyors Certificate that the building is ready and constructed in accordance with the provisions of the contract.
  3. The above method not only offers full security to the buyer, but additionally the money paid is in fact invested in the property already owned by him/her. An other serious safeguarding offered to the buyer, is the fact that the building permission and all other licenses to this respect, are issued on his name and upon the completion of the construction he/she, becomes automatically the owner of the property build on the land.

RESIDENCY - WORK PERMIT - TEMPORARY RESIDENCE:

The laws of Bulgaria are very liberal and allow a lot of possibilities, to those wishing to live and work in the country. Though there is a procedure to be followed, this takes only a few days and will not cost you more than a couple of hundred euros. In particular, a visitor to Bulgaria, staying over 15 days (not tourists on organized tours) is required by law, to register with Aliens Department of the Ministry of Interior or the local Police Station. This is obvious common in every country and is done for security purposes.
For foreigners, wishing to stay for longer periods, the law provides:

  1. Owners, Proprietors and staff of foreign owned companies registered legally in Bulgaria, are entitled to a "temporary residents status" and work permit, valid for 12 months and renewable, every 12 months for an unlimited period of time. In this case an application is needed, to the Aliens Department of the Ministry of Interior or the local police station. Within 15 days, the authorities will issue the required permit, which has the form of a "temporary identity card". It is naturally required for the Company employer to prove that the applicant has the means to live and social security installments are paid.
  2. Foreigners residing temporarily but legally in Bulgaria, for a period over five years, have the choice to apply and be granted a "Permanent Residence Permit".
  3. Owners of property, legally registered can apply for a 12-month residence permit, which is again renewable every 12 months. The only condition attached is that they have to prove that they live on " imported means" or " locally earned means, which have been cleared by the Tax Authorities". On completing the 5-year limit of living in Bulgaria, legally, the owners of property can apply for "Permanent Residence Permit" or even Bulgarian citizenship.
  4. With regard to EU citizens, it is expected that the legislation due to be passed by the Bulgarian Parliament, will unconditionally allow EU citizens to reside and work in the country without any further permit, except the normal "address registration".

ADDITIONAL COSTS (EXCLUDING PURCHASE PRICE):

As the situation stands today, Bulgaria is probably the cheapest country in Europe, when it comes to transferring and owning a property! We give you below, a detailed estimate of what you will be expected to pay in the form of professional charges and taxes, when buying property:

  1. Legal fees: Receiving full legal advise and drafting of the sales contract is about £412.
  2. Stamp Duty/Transfer Fee: Both combined together are paid to the Public Notary at the time of transferring and registering the property and it is equal to 3.6% of the "Declared Sales Price" or of the "evaluation of the tax authorities", whichever is the highest.
  3. For example, you buy a property for £20.000, the additional costs will be as follows:
    Legal fees (optional, as the actual conveyancing is done by the Public Notary): £412
    Stamp Duty/ Transfer Fee: 3.6% x 20.000 = £720
    Total: £1132 OR 4.1% maximum

Annual Running Costs (based on a £20.000 property):
1- Immovable property (based on the tax department evaluation 0.20%) Maximum £40
2- Municipal taxes (once again based on the tax evaluation 0.20%) Maximum £40
3- Insurance (all risks, including theft) @ 0.45%) Maximum £90

Total Maximum:                                                                                            £170.00