Explained: Compulsory Land Readjustment

Syrian laws related to zoning and urban planning do not  provide any clear definition of the so-called compulsory land readjustment. The process occurs in development zones, through the distribution of shares to rights holders, often not in the original locations of their properties and after deducting a percentage of the area of these properties without compensation.

Compulsory land readjustment is applied during the preparation of a plot of land for construction, in accordance with the detailed master plans and through one of two methods: either planning or subdivision. Planning entails partition of the land into plots by the administrative authority, while subdivision is the partition of land into plots by the owners. Zoning plots are the pieces of land resulting from the subdivision or planning of the original plot of land.

Rights holders in a zoning area do not have the right to choose the location of their new plots of land within the detailed master plans. Under the Planning and Urban Development Law No. 23 of 2015a development zone is a legal entity that replaces all owners and rights holders within it. Its work ends with the distribution of the properties within the area to rights holders according to their shares. The law added that decisions issued by the Dispute Resolution Committee(DRC) are the basis of the compulsory land readjustment.

Under Law No. 23, the Compulsory Land Readjustment Committee (CLRC) is formed by decree from the Minister of Justice, based on a request from the local administrative body. The committee is headed by a judge with the rank of counsel and assesses the value of each plot of the specified area on the General Master Plan. Law No. 23 also states that the CLRC is meant to allocate shares to rights holders in the same locations as their original properties, or as close as possible.

Afterwards, the committee draws up the compulsory land readjustment plans and informs the local administrative body. That body then informs rights holders and grants them a period of 30 days to submit any objections to the committee chairperson. After those 30 days pass, the committee studies the objections and issues its final decision on the readjustment of the plots to rights holders. That decision is subject to appeal before the Civic Court of Appeal, which makes a final ruling. When the committee’s readjustment decision is finalised, the local administrative unit informs the cadastral records office, so that it can record the real estate rights according to the compulsory land readjustment plan, which replaces the previous properties in that location.

Compulsory land readjustment and free deduction?

Administrative units can deduct a certain percentage of the area of a private property free of charge, in return for the benefit that property owners will receive as a result of including part of their property into a developing area. The purchasing value of their property will also increase. These so-called deducted properties are allocated for building the infrastructure needed  for roads, public squares, parks, parking lots, public buildings, social housing units, and private service centres. The deduction cannot exceed 40 percent of the surface area of properties located outside cities and governorate centres and cannot exceed 50 percent within cities and governorate centres.

However, the administrative body has the power to ensure liquidation of properties and attached rights after deducting the expenses, fees, taxes, and other duties. Alongside water, electricity, phone, and sewage companies, the administrative unit determines the estimated costs of the expenses and other costs of providing public utilities such as roads, sidewalks, sewage networks, water, and electricity to the plots within the developing area. These expenses are considered a senior debt owed to the administrative body. A mortgage sign is assigned to the property when it is registered in the real estate department. The first half of the expenses are paid when the CLRC issues its decision for the development area or upon issuance of the decision approving the subdivision, and the second half is paid upon licensing. Ownership of a plot may not be transferred until expenses and associated costs are paid in full.