Law No. 3 of 2018, which is concerned with the removal of rubble from buildings damaged by natural or unnatural causes, or those slated for demolition, was actually issued to deal with buildings damaged by the conflict. The law also aimed at removing buildings considered to be in violation of construction codes under various laws, most notably Decree No. 40 of 2012.
The 2018 law allowed governors the authority to determine the real estate area and damaged buildings to be removed, leaving the owners of properties slated for removal only one month to prove their rights. The owner may not appeal the governor’s decision. The law also granted governors the right to issue removal decrees for buildings at risk of collapse.
Under Law No. 3, the governor may form a “committee to categorise the damaged buildings and prove ownership of the buildings and the rubble.” The committee has five members: a real estate judge, the head of the survey department in the Land Registry, a real estate expert, a representative from Cadastral Affairs and a representative of local residents. The five members are tasked with surveying the damaged buildings and verifying ownership then drawing up a chart that lists the name of the real estate area, plot numbers, owners’ names, building conditions, scale of damage, structural safety of the buildings, and recommendations for full, partial, or no demolition.
Law No. 3 allows real estate owners to object before the Civil Court of Appeals, but only regarding mistakes in the list of rights holders’ names as drawn up by the committee. They may not object to the committee’s decisions regarding the condition and potential demolition of their properties, despite the fact that the committee may make mistakes in classifying a building’s condition or in recommending whether the structure is suitable for demolition, habitation, or rehabilitation.
Administrative units may demolish the buildings before the objection is dealt with in court. This means that the right to object does not actually halt demolition and is beneficial only for proving ownership of a piece of real estate.
Law No. 3 does not refer to the legal fate of lands where the demolished buildings or buildings at risk of collapse are located. It also does not clarify whether the owners of such lands may construct new buildings or if the building owners must be compensated. Also, it is unclear if the land is meant to be expropriated and if the owners would be paid an allowance or compensated via alternative housing. However, the law did clearly indicate the right of the real estate owner to own the rubble of their building.
Finally, Law No. 3 does not take into account the situation of displaced Syrians, as the deadlines granted to owners during the implementation of the law are insufficient to complete all the procedures and potential complications surrounding the process of proving ownership. Many owners may be altogether unable to prove their ownership as their fear of security persecution and other risks may impede them from receiving proper legal representation.