Explained: Removing “Building Violations” under Decree No. 40 of 2012

The most recent law concerning the removal of so-called “building violations” is Legislative Decree No. 40 of 2012, which has been increasingly relied upon in recent weeks in campaigns carried out by local administrative units and municipalities to demolish buildings in violation of the construction code.

Before this decree, three laws concerning the removal of building violations had been issued since 1960. The four laws do not differ greatly from one another, except in terms of various fines and penalties, and their provisions coexist without completely cancelling out the others. This is due to the link between the building violations in question and the date of their building, and as follows, the provisions of the law to be applied to them during the period of the violation’s occurrence.

What are building violations?

Legislative Decree No. 40 of 2012 determined that buildings will be demolished if a building violation occurs within approved zoning plans, or on public property such as roads and public squares, or on properties belonging to administrative units, or within areas included in expropriation decrees, or in development zones, or if the structural integrity of the building is endangered.

Settlement

In all cases mentioned above, the buildings require removal; the legislative texts that were in force when a given violation was committed will be the ones applied to it. As for other violations, Decree No. 40 authorised administrative units to settle them under certain conditions.

For instance,  some violations can be settled if it can be proven that they occurred before the law was issued, if the building does not “distort” the general look of the area, it is structurally sound and connected, the imposed fine has been paid, and a technical report has been approved by the Order of Engineers proving that the building can withstand the loads of its own storeys, to be licensed according to building regulations.

Decree No. 40 also allows for the settlement of building violations for exceeding the total permitted building percentage within a property.

The 2012 law also permits the settlement of informal neighbourhood violations, provided that they are rehabilitated and the statuses of existing properties within such neighbourhoods are settled, and that such areas are included in formal zoning plans after collection of fees from the violation perpetrator.

Decree No. 40 authorised the Supreme Council of Local Administration to issue decrees determining the types of building violations acceptable for settlement that were committed after the date of the law’s issuance. The council, was created according to the Local Administration Law No. 107 of 2011, and includes the prime minister as its head, the minister of local administration as deputy, and the head of the Planning and International Cooperation Committee, governors, heads of provincial local councils, the head of the Regional Planning Committee and the deputy minister as members. The deputy minister also serves as rapporteur.

Building violations that cannot be settled include those committed before Decree No. 40 came into effect, as well as those that caused total or partial structural collapse, or violated the terms of structural safety.

Demolition

According to Decree No. 40, an administrative unit’s police force is responsible for seizing the violating property, and presenting it and the violators to the judiciary. The administrative unit then sends a letter to the State Cases Administration to follow up on the case and submit a personal claim in its name. Under Law No. 40, the head of an administrative unit has the right to issue immediate decrees for demolishing violating property.

Trial

The trial takes place before a criminal court in accordance with the criminal category of the building violation. The crime is considered a misdemeanor if it includes one of the violations that is not acceptable for settlement; it is a felony if the building has partially or completely collapsed.

If the crime is a misdemeanor, the Court of First Instance is in charge of examining it. Felonies, however, are considered by the Criminal Court, in accordance with the legal principles stipulated by the Syrian Criminal Courts Rules Law No. 112 of 1950. 

Source: Suwar Al-Sham web page.