Obviously, you need to employ a lawyer, preferably one recommended to you by people you trust. You should make sure someone can translate and explain all the documents and procedures for you, if the lawyer cannot. It is worth understanding what is going on. Certain parts of the process, especially registration of ownership, can take a long time. Sadly, sometimes you have to check on the lawyer, as occasionally they fail to take necessary actions at the right time. Don’t be fobbed off with verbal assurances that “everything will work out fine”, without making sure that the paperwork is being done correctly. A reputable lawyer will advise you of the legal costs involved in the purchase at the outset.
Do your homework
It is a great help if you spend time in the place where you are thinking of buying, and take the trouble to get to know some of the local people. Learning Croatian is very difficult, but people appreciate it if foreigners make the effort to know at least a few words and everyday greetings.
You need to check all the necessary details: every property has a plot number, and this can be checked against the entries on the Land Registry, where ownership details are held, and the Katastar, the property register where all property and plot numbers are defined, together with details of current ownership or possession. When buying a building which has been constructed or extended in recent years, you need to be sure that all the work has been done legally. To define the boundaries to a property with certainty, a surveyor (geometar) should be employed to visit the property and map out its limits, so that you can be sure the situation on the ground matches what you have been told.
Any restrictions on the property, such as rights of way across it, are listed within the Land Registry description, as are mortgages or charges (teretovnica).
Planning consent and building permission
If you buy an old property which needs renovation, you need to check which permissions will be needed. Any major work renewing a derelict property is likely to need consent from the local Conservation Office before it can be considered for planning permission, which then has to be followed by building approval, both from the local Planning Office. Even where no major reconstruction is needed, any structural work, especially involving the roof and rafters, usually needs to be approved by the Conservation Office. If planning permission is not needed, you still need confirmation from the local Planning Office that this is so. It’s unwise to be tempted into doing works without the necessary permits. If a neighbour complains and calls in the building inspectors, at the least work will be held up while an appeal procedure in court decides whether the work can go ahead; at worst, the renovated parts may have to be taken down. Any building firm which undertakes work without getting necessary permissions is at risk of a heavy fine and a three-month ban on working. Reputable firms ensure that all permits have been acquired before they start work.
If you are interested in a land plot for a building, you need to check with the local planning office that it falls within a building zone, at least sufficiently for the size of house you want to build. Be warned that getting planning and building permission for a renovation or a new-build can be a lengthy process.
Recognizing the owner
Of course, it’s essential to know that the person selling the property is the legal and sole owner. If there is more than one owner, you should make sure they are all agreed about the sale and selling price. Ownership is defined in the Land Registry entry, but this is not always up to date. In the case of an inheritance, the seller(s) must show proof of probate (rjesenje o naslijeđivanju) to demonstrate that ownership has been passed down. Ideally, the seller will be registered as owner in both the Land Registry and the Katastar, and there will be no active legal cases or procedures (aktivne plombe) relating to the property.
Foreigners have only been able to buy property in Croatia in recent years, since Croatia became a free independent country. However, foreigners are not allowed to buy agricultural land. Up to 2009, foreigners had to apply for permission to own property from Zagreb before they could become legal owners. Initially two Ministries were involved in this process, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but later responsibility was devolved to the Ministry of Justice alone. As from February 2009 foreigners from EU countries no longer need permission to buy, but can own property on the same terms as Croatians. Foreigners from outside the EU still need permission from the Ministry of Justice to buy property in Croatia, unless they have a Croatian registered business. Ministry permission depends on reciprocity, that is, it is granted if Croatians can buy property in the country or state in question. In the United States, certain states do not allow Croatians to be property owners, so their citizens are not allowed to purchase in Croatia, except through a registered company. For details of the current regulations, check here
As soon as a contract of sale (ugovor o prodaji / ugovor o kupoprodaji) has been finalized and the money for the property duly paid over, the buyer has to register to pay the purchase tax, which is currently 5% of the purchase price. If the tax office suspects that a property price has been understated on the contract for tax avoidance, inspectors are sent to assess it and set their own valuation. The buyer can appeal against this, if it seems too high. Once the demand for tax payment has been issued, the buyer has 30 days in which to pay it. Late payment may attract a fine and interest charges.
In order to register for the tax, the buyer must have a personal identity number, which is also needed for all official purposes, including paying household bills and accessing any account held in a Croatian bank. Other necessary documents include a recent map of the plot issued by the Katastar, and proof from the local planning office that the building or building plot falls within an accepted building zone. The lawyer usually deals with all this, as well as making the application to register the buyer as official owner in the Land Registry and Katastar. As the actual registration of new ownership can take a long time, it is not unusual to be asked to pay the final part of the lawyer’s fees after the application has been lodged at the Land Registry.
The LAND REGISTRY
zemljišna knjiga = land registry
općinski sud = county court, the place where the land registry for an area is sited
vlasnički list = ownership document, which is legal proof of title.
izvadak iz zemljišne knjige = entry extracted from the Land Registry, which show current actual state of official ownership
aktivne plombe = (on upper left of extract from Land Registry) shows whether there are any active legal processes going on, such as inheritance, or change of title because of sale, and the year such process was initiated.)
broj uloška: entry number, which is used to access the particular property you want to check, whether on the internet or at the Land Registry.
katarska općina (k.o.) = the local council/ area where the property is
posjedovnica = the property, possession
vlastovnica = ownership, listing the property owner(s)
teretovnica = mortgages / loans secured on the property
In order to know the exact state of ownership of a property, you need to have a newly issued extract (izvadak iz zemljišne knjige) from the Land Registry, which your lawyer can obtain for you. If you apply in person for documents from the Land Registry or Katastar, you need to have special “tax stamps”, which you can obtain from a post office or selected local kiosks. There is also a small charge, which is usually payable directly at the Katstar, but through a local bank or post office in the case of the Land Registry.
You can access the public records on property through the internet. Nothing you find is legally binding, so it isn’t official “proof” of anything, but it is a guide. The process of lodging all properties on the official website is ongoing, and not all properties have been entered yet
To use the site, you need to know the location of the property, the place where the land registry office governing it is, and the property number(s).
The LAND REGISTRY is the website of the Ministry of Justice (Ministarstvo pravosuđa), whose motto is “success through co-operation” (suradnjom do uspjeha)
1. In the left column, click “ZK ulošci”. This opens a box, “Dohvat z.k.uloška” = “access to land registry properties”
2. The top line is the list of Land Registry offices – “ZK odjel”. Scroll down to the one you need.
3. The second line (Glavna knjiga = main book) gives the town or village where your plot number is sited.
4. Enter the plot number you are checking on in the third line (Broj zemljišta / kat.čestice): if it is a building, you need to put the letters ZGR after the number; OR enter the plot reference number (zk uloška) in the fourth line. This number, if you have it, will be preceded by “zu”, but you do not need to enter the letters.
5. Enter the control number (kontrolni broj), as given in the box, in line 5
6. Click “Traži” = “find”
If nothing happens, and you remain on the same page, it may be because the control number was incorrect, in which case the control number box will be empty and you will see a new number to inscribe. Otherwise, you may see a message in red text underneath, which will probably say that the number you’re looking for has not been found. This may mean it has not yet been entered into the computer records, or that it has been changed, or that you have entered a building plot number without the letters ZGR after it. If your entry is accepted, you will see a coloured document with the Croatian crest, which shows you the details of properties and ownership contained. Several different properties may be listed within a single document.
To print, click “Pregled za tisak” = “print preview” to the right just above the head of the document, then “ispis” = “print”.
You may also wish to check the plot details. The KATASTAR
is the property register, in which the land and building plots are defined, and people are registered as being “in possession”.
katarska općina = locality: town, village or district
katarske čestice = land / building plot numbers
čest.zgr. = building plot number
čest.zem = land plot number
kuća = house
zgrada = building
dvorište = courtyard / patio
kuhinja = kitchen (usually refers to an outside kitchen / outbuilding)
vrt = garden
gustirna = well
and for land there are various descriptions according to whether the plot is registered as vineyards, olive groves, orchards etc.
To use the internet to search for buildings and plots on the KATASTAR :
1. Scroll down to PUK …., which gives you the general area of your search, then choose “ispostava ……” from the right box. This takes you to the place where the land registry maps and possession details are held in any given region. A new box appears, headed “odaberite katarsku općinu” = “choose the local council area”, which takes you to the town or village where your plot number lies.
2. Click the place you need
3. Enter the plot number or possession document number in the first box.
4. Enter the control number, given in a kind of grid on the left, in the second box. NB, if you go back and enter another plot number, the control number doesn’t change automatically. Instead it will not allow entry, but a message appears saying “pogrešan kontrolni broj!” = “mistaken control number”, at which point you can enter the new number which will be shown.
5. Click “Katarska čestic.” for details of the property / plot or “posjedovni list” for details of the owner/user / person in possession of the plot or property.
6. From “katarska čestice” you will come to:
“podaci o katastarskim česticama” = details of plots, usually including the description and number of square metres, plus which land map it appears on (in the final box, marked “broj D I kat.plana”)
If you want to find the owner/user/possessor from this page, you can click the red number under “broj pos.lista” = “number of possession document” and it will take you there. The person listed as the possessor should be the registered owner, but this is not always so. That may or may not be a problem if you are trying to buy the plot. In principle the owner registered on the Land Registry should also be registered as being in possession in the Katastar.
Maps and land plots
A very helpful technological innovation in 2011 is the facility for looking up Croatia’s land maps with the land plots and plot numbers superimposed. You can see where a plot number lies, and how neighbouring plots are arranged. This gives you the ability to check who is registered as owner and possessor of the properties around a plot which you own or are thinking of buying. It is helpful if want to have an idea of where the boundaries to a plot lie. The website on which the land maps are available is ARKOD.
The site is in Croatian, but it is not difficult to find one’s way to the maps. Here’s how:
From left box menu select ORTO-FOTO KARTA 1:5000, and KATASTAR, – possibly ŽUPANIJE (counties) (optional), – and de-select other boxes
Click PRETRAŽIVANJE on top-bar of box
Click Pretraživanje sloja Katastar (2nd down of 3 options)
Enter the plot number in first box: Broj kat. čestice. If it’s a land plot number, just enter the number, if it’s a building, enter * followed by the number.
Enter the KO number if you know it in the box: Šifra KO
Enter the locality where the plot is in the box: Ime KO
Click Pretraži (If you want to start your entry again, click Obriši = delete)
You may then get a choice of plot numbers which roughly correspond to your search, or because there are different plots with the same number. EG one might be a land plot, čes.zem., and another a building, čes.zgr. In the top-line bar the third word Rezultati (Results) is highlighted. Click the plot number (under Broj kat.čest) that you want
You are then given the plot number (line one), the locality ID number (Šifra KO) and the locality name (Ime KO), plus the plot size (Površina)
Click the zoom symbol (magnifying glass) in the bar above the plot number.
The katastar map then appears, with your chosen plot number shaded in yellow.
To navigate around the map (left, right, up, down) use the four-sided tool to the upper left of the map.
To enlarge / diminish, use the vertical tool (+ or -) to the upper left of the map, or the magnifying glass symbols on the upper right line.
If you want to print the map out, click on the print icon, second from right at the top of the map. This brings up the printable image of the map, and the plot number you entered, its location ID number, and the plot size.
Be warned, however, that the Arkod maps are not 100% accurate, and are not a substitute for looking up the Katastar map (preris) if you need to identify a site with legal certainty, nor is it a substitute for calling in the geodetar (land surveyor) to measure up and produce an official document identifying a plot’s shape, size and limits on the ground.
Follow-up after purchase
Once you have bought your property and the application for ownership registration has been made, you can check on progress on the internet. Find your plot number on the Land Registry as described above and click on the red number beside “Aktivne plombe” to the upper left of the page. (If you know your case number, you can click here
, or go to the Land Registry
page, and click on “Statusi Z predmeta” (= status of “Z” cases) in the list on the left.) A box opens: in the first line, scroll down to find the town with your local Land Registry office; leave line 2 on “Z”; in line 3 enter the reference number of your case, in line 4 the year in which it was submitted, then click “trazi” = “find”. A new box appears, which shows the date on which the Court received the application in the top line, the subject on the second (which should read “ugovor o kupoprodaji”= contract of sale), the file number, if any on the third line, and the application on the fourth, which should be “uknjižba” = registration in the Land Registry; line 5 gives the plot number(s), line 6 shows what is happening; line 7 gives the outcome: if it says “u radu” the matter is still in hand; “udovoljeno” means it has been accepted, and “odbaćeno” = rejected; line 8 gives the date of the final decision. Once your application is listed as accepted, it is just a matter of time before your name appears on the internet as registered owner, and you can apply to the Land Registry for the official ownership document in your name.