Explained: The Role of the Power of Attorney in Transferring Real Estate Ownership

Syrian law grants the notary power of attorney the status of a real estate title deed, in one limited case stipulated in Article 681 of the Civil Code--that is when the power of attorney is irrevocable and therefore the sale of the property is considered final.

The notary power of attorney is one type of real estate ownership document, as the notary public in charge of it documents an irrevocable power of attorney under which the seller entrusts the buyer with a special, irrevocable power to sell the property to himself or anyone he chooses.

The notary public’s irrevocable power of attorney must include an explicit statement that the seller has authorised the buyer to execute the sale, as well as register the property in his name or the name of whomever he wants, without the presence of the principal, i.e., the person that signed the power of attorney. After the notary public documents the seller’s statement before him that he has sold the property to the buyer, the document is kept in the notary’s records. The document is given a general number, a special number and a record number, and the buyer obtains a certified copy.

Though the irrevocable power of attorney is an official deed, it is not recorded in the Land Registry. This is a potential source of problems, as the property remains, in the Land Registry, under the name of the seller, with no evidence of the buyer’s rights. This discrepancy may result in fraud, as the seller may attempt to sell the property again.

As a temporary measure, Land Registry Law No. 188 of 1926 grants the buyer the right to place a temporary entry in the Land Registry based on the notary’s irrevocable power of attorney, without the need for approval from the court. However, the validity of this entry lasts no longer than 10 days, during which time the buyer must formally transfer ownership of the property to his name in the Land Registry according to the rules, or risk cancelling the temporary entry.

In all cases, the process of transferring real estate ownership to the name of the buyer requires filing a court case against the seller to document the sale or inheritance. The process is not a real court case, but rather a formal process the buyer must go through in order to officially transfer the property to their own name. Essentially, this means that the notary public irrevocable power of attorney alone is not enough to fully transfer ownership of the property to the buyer.

Why do people use this type of documentation?

In the 1980s and 1990s, real estate sales via the notary public were common because this is an easy method, especially in informally built neighbourhoods where it is not usually possible to transfer ownership to the name of the buyer in the Land Registry. This method also spread because of its relatively cheap fees. More importantly, this method did not require obtaining a financial clearance for the property--however, this requirement has since been introduced, leading to a decline in demand for irrevocable power of attorney in documenting real estate sales.

Like other real estate sales, the irrevocable power of attorney process requires prior security approval according to a ministerial circular issued in 2015. That same year, the Ministry of Local Administration issued another circular stressing that confirmation of a real estate sale in the Land Registry may not be accepted based on the notary public’s irrevocable power of attorney before addressing the notary public who notarised the document, in order to prevent fraud.