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23.06.2017 The Russian Constitutional Court Has Published Its Judgement in Defense of Good-Faith Purchasers of Real Property

On June 22, 2017, the Russian Constitutional Court published its decision on the complaint of Alexander Dubovets.  Judgement No. 16-P forbids the seizure of residential property from good-faith purchasers by government organs.

Dubovets’ complaint concerned Article 302.1 of Russia’s Civil Code.  According to this statute, the owner of property has the right to require the property from a good-faith purchaser if (a) the property was lost by the owner or by an individual to whom the owner transferred possession, or (b) the property was stolen from either of these individuals, or (c) the property was otherwise removed from their possession against their will.  On the basis of this statute, an apartment that Dubrovets purchased in good faith back in 2008 was seized by the City of Moscow in 2015.  This apartment previously belonged to a resident of Moscow who died intestate in 1994.  The government organ that was supposed to assume ownership of the apartment as escheated property did not take any action either to identify the apartment or to register the apartment as its property for an extended period of time.  As a result of the inaction of the government organ, the apartment was fraudulently acquired by a third party.  Dubrovets became the final purchaser after a series of transactions including the apartment.

In his complaint to the Constitutional Court, Dubrovets claimed that Article 302.1 of the Russian Civil Code is inconsistent with the Russian Constitution because:

1)  The statute allows for the seizure of real property based on claims of government agencies from purchasers whose property rights had already been recognized by the state after completing the official process for registering real property rights; and,

2)  The statute is ambiguous with regard to the meaning of a “good-faith purchaser”, which places the burden of proving the good-faith nature of the purchase on the citizen and leads to a judgmental evaluation of its status that is based on arbitrary and subjective criteria.

The Constitutional Court held that the Article 302.1 of Russia’s Civil Code is inconsistent with the Russian Constitution in as much as the statute allows government organizations that have failed to take action in identifying residential property and obtaining the rights thereto to seize the residential property from a good-faith purchaser who relied on the Unified State Register of Real Estate and registered the property rights for the acquired real estate.

As a result, Dubrovets’ case was remanded for retrial.

Dubrovets’ complaint to the Constitutional Court was jointly prepared by lawyers from the Institute for Law and Public Policy (ILPP) and the Center of Housing and Housing Rights Protection (CHHRP).

Attorney Dmitry Stapanov represented the interests of Dubrovets before the Constitutional Court as part as ILPP’s project for defending rights in constitutional legal processes.

Ilias Vakhitov, a lawyer with CHHRP, is representing Dubrovets in general jurisdiction courts and before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

In November 2016, at the request of CHHRP, lawyers at ILPP prepared an expert opinion about the standards of defending the rights of good-fail purchasers of residential property as formulated by the practice of the ECtHR.  This expert opinion was used by CHHRP as part of an address to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe about measures taken by the Russian government for executing the ECtHR’s judgement of December 6, 2011, in Gladysheva v. Russia (application No. 7097/10) and of January 29, 2015, in Stolyarova v. Russia (application No. 15711/13).  As a result of the Constitutional Court’s most recent judgement in the case of Dubrovets, CHHRP will send an additional address to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

Expert opinion of the Institute for Law and Public Policy (in Russian).

Address of the Center of Housing and Housing Rights Protection to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

Text of Dubovets’ complaint to the Russian Constitutional Court (in Russian).

Link to video recording of arguments before the Russian Constitutional Court (in Russian).

 

 

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