Akkar Plain: Termination of Common Properties Has Not Finished Yet!

The Tartous City Council has demanded the termination of common properties in the Akkar Plain area, as well as a detailed memorandum to be sent to the parliament to pass a law addressing the issue. The Akkar Plain extends across 16,000 hectares of land on either side of the Homs-Tartous highway, reaching the Lebanese border. Dozens of towns and villages are located within the plain, the largest of which is Al-Safsafeh.

Common lands are single properties with a large number of owners who have shares. Terminating such a large common property entails dividing it up into smaller real estates and distributing them to the owners according to their existing shares.

The area underwent delimitation and census in 1925, although efforts to terminate common properties did not begin until 1958. The process was halted that same year with the issuance of Agrarian Reform Law No. 161 of 1958. The law determined the property ceiling and distributed excess property to farmers. The properties would be registered in the Land Registry under farmers’ names after 20 years.

After a long hiatus, the termination of common properties began again in 1980 under Legislative Decree No. 166 of 1967, which aimed to consolidate farmlands and terminate common properties. Consolidation entails giving the owner one contiguous plot of farmland rather than multiple scattered plots. However, the process stopped the same year with the issuance of Property Ceiling Law No. 31 of 1980.

In 1988, the termination of common property continued, although a number of administrative and legal obstacles hindered the process. The back-and-forth between the owners and official entities continued until the Ministry of Agriculture halted the termination process in 2007. The process has been further complicated by the Ministry of Irrigation which owns a large number of common shares after inheriting certain powers and properties from the Agrarian Reform Establishment. Residents accuse the Ministry of Irrigation of being unwilling to continue the common property termination process for bureaucratic reasons and due to corruption. Further complicating the issue, some properties in the Akkar Plain are endowment properties that belong to the Lebanese city of Tripoli and administered by the Tartous endowments institution on its behalf.

The government’s failure to terminate common properties in the Akkar Plain means that rights holders are barred from obtaining construction permits because they cannot specify the location of their shares or because they are unable to prove their ownership in the Land Registry. The problem becomes more complicated with time as owners die and their heirs inherit the properties.