Peculiarities of registration of inheritance rights on privatized housing in the Republic of Armenia
At the beginning of the 1990s, the right of private property was introduced into the legal system of the Republic of Armenia, which had been denied at the ideological level for the previous seven centuries. As a result, property, which had been in the hands of the state until then, was privatized and began to gradually pass into the hands of private individuals. Especially active denationalization was subjected to the housing fund of the Republic of Armenia.
Peculiarities of the emergence of ownership rights to privatized housing and subjects of privatization
The first legal impetus for these processes was the Decision of ASSR Soviet of Ministers and Armenian Republican Council of Trade Unions of 13.06.1989 “On selling apartments in houses of state and public housing stock to citizens as personal property”, which allowed selling the mentioned apartments as personal property right to tenant (tenant) of apartment or his family members with the consent of all adult persons living in that apartment. Later with the introduction of the right of ownership these apartments were transferred to the private ownership of the citizens and their family members who bought them out.
During the next wave of privatization the apartments were transferred to the citizens for free. The law ‘On privatization of state, public and municipal housing stock of the Republic of Armenia’, adopted on 29.06.1993, defined that privatization of apartments and houses of state, public and municipal housing stock in the Republic of Armenia means a free of charge transfer of apartments (dwelling spaces) to citizens on a voluntary basis. Both state, public and municipal apartments (those owned by ministries, departments, former collective farms, cooperatives and trade unions, etc.) and dwelling houses could be privatized. As a general rule, an apartment was sold or donated to all family members, registered and residing at the address of this apartment, on the right of common joint ownership (less often – shared ownership), subject to the consent of all adult family members. After that, the executive committee of the district (city or village) council made a decision recognizing the right of the buyer and his/her family members to the purchased apartment.
After a unified real estate cadastre was formed in Armenia, data on the owners of the mentioned apartments (private houses) were entered into the unified database. However, in many cases only the tenant(s) of the apartment were listed in the cadastre database as the owner because only his (their) name(s) was (were) included in the decision of the executive committee. The data about the other owners were mentioned neither in the decision of the executive committee (it mentioned only the number of participants of the privatization), nor in the certificate of the right of ownership of the apartment.
This, however, did not lead to the loss of the right of ownership of the remaining participants of the privatization. To this day their data is kept in the databases of local authorities. Therefore, in order to prove that a person has the right of ownership to a certain apartment, the certificate of the list of persons who participated in the privatization of the apartment is crucial. Often this document is the only possible way to prove one’s rights to real estate.
Registration of inheritance for privatized housing in Armenia
In practice, problems often arise when registering inheritance rights to privatized apartments. There are situations when heirs of privatization participants, whose data are not included in the database of the unified cadastre, make claims for recognition of their inheritance rights to the property.
The lack of state registration of the deceased coowner’s (participant of the privatization) rights to a share of the residential premises only complicates the inheritance process and may ultimately result in the loss of property rights and significant material losses for the heirs. Therefore requires a competent legal assessment of the situation.
As a general rule, the inheritance by law shall be accepted on the basis of filed within 6 months after its opening of the application for acceptance of the inheritance. After that, the heir shall be issued a certificate of right to inherit. This way of registration of inheritance is the easiest and most reliable. The notary at the place of opening of inheritance within the specified period shall be presented the death certificate of the testator, a certificate from the last place of residence, a document confirming family ties of the heir and the deceased (birth certificate, paternity recognition, marriage certificate, etc.), passport of the heir and the testator, information about the known property owned by the heir at the time of death, title documents (certificate of ownership, etc.). After the expiry of the specified 6 months the heir is issued a certificate on the right to inherit. If any of the heirs of the successor order did not accept their share after the expiration of the specified period, the remaining heirs of the same order inherit the share in equal parts. Application for acceptance of this share can be submitted within 3 months.
At the same time, as already noted, the lack of state registration of a participant in privatization does not deprive him of the right to own housing and gives his heirs the right to include a share of the apartment (private house) in the inheritance estate.
Another way of acceptance of inheritance in Armenia in case of inheritance by law is the actual acceptance of the inheritance. Actual acceptance of inheritance occurs when the heir by his or her contingent actions within 6 months after the opening of the inheritance
- entered into possession or management of inherited property,
- Has taken measures to preserve the inherited property, protect it from encroachments or claims of third parties,
- Made at his own expense the cost of maintenance of inherited property,
- Paid the debts of the testator at his own expense or received money owed by the testator from third parties.
Issuance of a certificate of right to inheritance on the basis of the actual acceptance of the inheritance often occurs in court. Although the actual acceptance of the inheritance in some cases may also be established by a decision of the notary.
To prove the actual acceptance of the inheritance shall be approached with great seriousness. In practice, the probative value have receipts confirming the payment of utility bills (gas, electricity, water, etc.), property tax, registration of the heir in the premises, contracts for construction and repair work in the housing, receipts for the purchase of building materials for the repair, etc. Actual acceptance of the inheritance may also be established by proving the adoption of measures to preserve the housing (fence the area, replace the pipes, the possession of the key apartment, etc.). Sometimes even the replacement of an ordinary door lock can play a crucial role, indicating that measures were taken to protect the property from encroachment by third parties.
In some cases, the testimony of witnesses in court may be of some value. Witness testimony is the least weighty of all types of evidence, but in some cases (when proving the time period and the fact of a person’s residence in the housing) it may be quite important in the consideration of the case.
There are also situations where the heirs are not aware of the deceased testator’s title to the housing. If the housing was privatized in the past and there is suspicion that the testator took part in this procedure, information about this can be obtained at the request of the person concerned from the local (urban or rural) self-government body. In the situation in question, the response of the local government, which is drawn up on the basis of the documents it holds, will have legal force. This will allow the heirs to formalize their inheritance, and if the actual acceptance of the inheritance – to submit a claim to the court to recognize themselves as having accepted the inheritance. If recognition of inheritance rights involves contesting the inheritance rights of third parties, among other things, it is necessary to submit a claim for recognition of the invalidity in the relevant part of the certificate of right to inheritance of another heir and state registration of his property rights to real estate. In the latter case, it will be important to prove that the plaintiff actually accepted the inheritance within 6 months after the death of the testator or did not accept the inheritance for valid reasons.
However, it is important to note that under the laws of the Republic of Armenia, the actual acceptance of the inheritance is feasible only in the case when it comes to the inheritance by law. If the deceased testator made a will, the heir cannot make a de facto acceptance of an inheritance (if, among other things, he or she is not a heir under the law or does not have the right to a compulsory share in the inheritance). In this case, the inheritance may be formalized if the reasons for missing the deadline for acceptance of the inheritance are recognized as valid (unawareness of the testator’s death, ignorance of the will, being in a helpless state, etc.).
The above and much more makes the process of registration of the inheritance of a privatized apartment or private house in Armenia very confusing and difficult. Sometimes it is necessary to have a lot of evidence for the court to establish the actual acceptance of the inheritance. Therefore, the legal support of a competent specialist is obligatory for registration of inheritance rights.