Czechia: Abandoned plots of land, houses or tombs to be handed over to the state from January
Abandoned plots of land, houses or tombs will be transferred to the state from January, the ombudsman has warned of a change. The ten-year transitional period when owners could apply for abandoned properties is coming to an end. The ombudsman's office announced this on its website yesterday.
The rules changed in 2014 with the new Civil Code, and instead of municipalities, abandoned properties now belong to the state. But at the same time, the state had to wait ten years before a property could truly be considered abandoned. It is this ten-year protection period that expires at the end of the year. Now, if a municipality wants to take possession of an abandoned property, it must first document it and then take possession of it by protocol. According to the Ombudsman's office, municipalities in the border region in particular are finding that they also need to organize older records of a very specific type of property - they are beginning to deal with the ownership of abandoned tombs on their territory.
In this context, the Ombudsman has been approached by representatives of towns in the former Sudetenland asking how they should deal with abandoned tombs on their territory, not only in the context of the new Civil Code. The fate of several hundred tombs is at stake, particularly because of the post-war removal of the German population.
"The municipality must first of all establish when the tombs were abandoned. In determining ownership, the rules in force at the time of abandonment are always followed," explained lawyer Marek Hanák, who works in the field of funerals at the Ombudsman's Office. The regulations have changed several times since the establishment of Czechoslovakia, so each case must be assessed individually.
German tombs abandoned at the end of the Second World War can be owned by the state, but from October 2005 until the end of 2013 it was the case that abandoned items fell under the ownership of the municipality. In doing so, they can be architecturally and historically valuable buildings commemorating important native people and local personalities. They not only form part of the history of the village, but may also be of practical importance to the village. "Tombs can be used by the municipality to store human remains, for example, after social funerals or in cases where no one picks up the urn," Hanák added. Therefore, he said, it is logical for municipalities, as operators of most public burial grounds, to keep the tombs or at least to start looking into whether their records are in order.
The municipality should document the abandoned tombs, photograph them, enter them in the cemetery register, and then officially take them into its possession together with the city's property department. If the municipality finds that some of the tombs have fallen to the state, it can apply for them through the Office of State Property Representation. Any disputes over the acquisition of ownership of abandoned properties will be settled by the civil courts.