Explained: Procedures for Restoring the Land Record

Most new laws contain articles that cancel out previous laws. However, Law No. 33 of 2017, which regulates the restoration of lost or damaged real estate documents, did not cancel out Land Registry Law No. 188 of 1926, which lays out procedures for issuing replacements for such documents.

Law No. 188 obliges owners of lost or damaged real estate documents to submit a request to the General Directorate of Cadastral Affairs to prepare an official report supported by witnesses, which is then published in the Official Gazette and three other local newspapers. After 15 days, if no objections have been submitted to the report, the real estate registrar can give the applicant a certified copy of the land record entry. However, if an objection is submitted, the applicant may turn to the Court of First Instance.

Under the pretext of wartime damage to local Land Registry directorates, Law No. 33 of 2017 established procedures for restoring real estate documents. There are two ways to do so: administrative restoration and judicial restoration.

Administrative restoration applies when sufficient documents are available to restore the lost or damaged document with the concerned Land Registry Directorate. In these cases, the Director General of Cadastral Affairs issues a decree forming a committee to determine the real estate documents that must be restored and to locate, gather and categorize the documents that would help in restoring those damaged. The Director General is responsible for issuing decrees to restore land records through administrative restoration. These decrees are published in the Official Gazette and other official audio-visual media. A copy is also sent to the relevant governorate to inform local administrative authorities. This method of publication is considered sufficient notice and is subject to objections before the Civil Court of First Instance for a period of 15 days.

In the absence of these documents, applicants resort to judicial restoration. Under this method, the real estate area to be restored must be announced in advance, including the numbers of the records of these real estate properties. The Minister of Justice appoints a real estate judge in each governorate to complete this task, and the Director General of Cadastral Affairs sends any available documents to help with judicial restoration of the land records. Then the relevant judge issues a ruling describing the nature of the damaged land records as well as the real estate number and area. The judge grants a six-month period for the submission of documents to the record.

After the six-month deadline, the real estate judge must issue a final decision within two months in the deliberation room, confirming the real estate documents that have been submitted, unless there are objections. The decision must be published in the real estate judge’s office for a period of 15 days and must appear in the Official Gazette and one of Syria’s other official newspapers. Decisions are subject to appeal before the Civil Court of Appeals for a period of 15 days. If those 15 days go by with no appeals submitted, the decision is sent to the relevant Land Registry directorate in order to open the new records.

The land record of any judicially restored document must include an indication that the real estate property is still subject to a claim over the so-called “original right” for a period of five years. This means that during those five years anyone who claims a right to that property can demand it before the court. This record indication is automatically terminated after the five-year period.