Croatian Families Misusing State Subsidies to Purchase Parents’ Apartments

Lauren Simmonds

Updated on:

As Index writes on the 5th of November, 2019, for two years now, the state has been subsidising loans for young Croatian families who are buying a home for the first time. The beneficiaries of such loans pay the state, or taxpayers, who provide money to the state, up to half the instalment of the loan for the first five years.

This is clearly a pretty good scheme in itself, and some have, according to RTL Vijesti, found ways to commit legal fraud.

Thus, some beneficiaries of APN loans, that is, subsidised loans from the Croatian state, bought the flats or houses from their own parents. RTL writes about at least five such examples, in five different cities. It is easily possible that there are also many, many more cases like this.

There are also cases where children donated their own apartment to their parents and then applied for APN loans.

So far, over 3,300 loans have been approved and the average loan amount is over half a million kuna. The average rate is about 2,800 kuna, so the state pays 950 kuna of that amount. The loans are negotiated with the banks and it is up to them to determine whether or not someone is buying the apartment from their parents.

”Bankers usually look at the situation and check whether it’s a real sale in each case,” says Martina Mataić Škugor, a real estate agent.

If the buyer and seller have the same last name and the same address, then the entire story does get called into question, but agents say: changing your address is enough to fool the banks.

”A banker may ask if you’re in any kind of relationship with the seller, if the buyer says no, it’s a coincidence, the banker will not go so deeply into it and say: Well, come on, show me your birth certificate now,” explains the real estate agent.

Željko Uhlir, HNS secretary at the Ministry of Construction, says there’s no real harm in it.

”Whether it’s a little left or right, we were able to help people out. As for the money remaining within the family and having to return it, well… these are loans. Someone will have to return it. There’s no harm done to society or the state. The bank gave someone credit, he didn’t just take it from the state,” says Željko Uhlir (HNS), secretary of state at the Ministry of Construction.

Asked if this is fair, Uhlir says of course it isn’t, however, it is unknown how many such cases there are.

Why is the state getting involved in housing sales at all is a question worth asking. Many economists believe that the state should not subsidise the purchase of apartments at all. This, they believe, has led to an increase in the price of apartments.

“The fact is that since these incentives came about, housing prices have risen at the same time. That’s a strong correlation,” says Zoran Löw, CEO of Lipa.

This isn’t the first case that Croatian families have been caught ”cheating” with state-owned apartments. There have been numerous cases where POS flats have been used for tourist purposes, which is by no means intended.

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