The Protector of Citizens was a guest in the show “Jutarnji dnevnik” on Radio Television of Serbia.

The building in Zagradje Street No. 2 in Mirijevo could soon change tenants due to the double sale of apartments. The current tenants duly bought the apartments from the investor who completed the building, but the investor who started construction and bought the plot, but never finished the building, sold the apartments to other tenants. The legal entanglement which 12 families from Mirijevo found themselves in is not an isolated case. Data from the Protector of Citizens show that in 2016 there were more than 20,000 such cases. Zoran Pašalić will speak for “Dnevnik” on what legal remedies are available to them and whether both parties can be protected in such a situation. Mr. Pašalić, good morning, thank you for speaking for “Dnevnik”. This is just the latest in a series of such cases. Both parties paid properly, with one difference. Those who bought them first – in 2004, did not live in those apartments. Do you have any official knowledge about this case and can both sides be protected here?

- This case will certainly end with a court epilogue, but how satisfied both parties will be, I really could not prejudge, because I would be prejudging a decision of the court, but there are many such cases and there were even more before 2010, when the Unified Register of Real Estate Transactions was introduced, and less since 2014, when notaries began to deal with the control of real estate transactions. Now it is absolutely reduced to a minimum, or should I say, it is impossible for such things to happen today. These are all cases from before. As far as I know about this case, the first buyers bought in 2004.

And they now have the judgment on the basis of which bailifs came to evict these tenants who bought in 2012. And in that case, both sides, so to speak, the tenants who bought in 2012, are still waiting for the court's decision. Whose rights can be protected first? What is your jurisdiction here and how can we expect this situation to end?

- We cannot control the work of courts, that's why I will not comment on the previous verdict, nor on anything that the court will pass in the future...

But you have jurisdiction over some other services.

- Certainly, apart from the courts, we can control the work of inspections, the work of the cadastre, we can even indirectly control the work of bailifs through the Chamber of Bailifs, as well as notaries public through the Public Notary Chamber.

You mentioned that there were such cases before and these are all actually the cases that happened in the 90s and 2000s. You also mentioned your jurisdiction, were there any such cases on your desk and what was the epilogue? You had insight into the work of some of the inspections and services you mentioned, so were there any concrete developments?

- The most difficult thing is when someone comes who complains that they are dissatisfied with a court verdict and you cannot help them, for the reason that it is either a legally enforceable judgment or you absolutely cannot interfere in the work of courts. But in other cases, when there were errors of the inspections or when there were some errors in the cadastre, we always reacted and I must tell you that there were a lot of such cases.

You mentioned a number, these days the media reported about 20,000 cases until 2016. You also invited all citizens who have a similar problem to come forward with it. Were there any such calls and what kind of problems did they complain about?

- There are always calls like that, a good part of our activities relates exactly to such cases and the most important thing is that we really handle such cases with great, great care. The reasons are simple because really a lot of money is at stake, those are huge properties. I say huge, because for each of us, an apartment, a house or any other building, is something that can really create an extraordinary life problem, if this kind of situation happens.

That's right. Many have invested their life savings exactly in such facilities, hoping that they will provide a roof over their heads. And that, I mentioned, was current in the 90s and 2000s until the Real Estate Registry. What about those cases, they are basically obsolete, but can they be revived now and is your address actually the right one for the citizens to turn to?

- We have to make a cut there. If it is a matter of decided matters, then the Protector of Citizens really cannot help in that situation. If something is happening now, which is current, that concerns these institutions that we can control, they should definitely contact us and we will get to work.

One of the new types of fraud that reigned, so to speak, in the previous years, is not the double sale of apartments, but the fact that what was agreed in the contract was not respected, when it comes to quality, the speed of construction, and so on. Have you been contacted by citizens with such cases, how far can you reach there?

- Yes. In such cases, citizens must first contact the competent inspection. When the competent inspection does its work, then the citizens, if they are dissatisfied with that decision or what the inspection found, turn to us, or if the inspection does not respond at all to the citizens' request for some kind of control, then they turn to us again, because that is the classic silence of the administration, where we normally act.

So, what are your competences in that sense?

- We control the work of the inspection.

We have mentioned all possible types of fraud and we have been talking about it for decades. However, it seems that this lesson needs to be constantly renewed somewhat. What do citizens need to know so that in the end they wouldn’t need to turn to you, dissatisfied?

- First of all, citizens should know that the fact that they have a sales contract, that they regularly pay bills, taxes and other duties related to the real estate, does not mean that they have insured their real estate in the sense, as I would say, that it is theirs. Because in order for them to fully own real estate, the immovable property, in addition to the sales contract or some other legal transaction by which they acquired it, it must also be registered. Only when these two things are combined, then one can truly speak of a complete ownership right.

And is it possible to talk about the protection of the rights of both parties in such cases of double sales of apartments?

- You have one judgment that is final and enforceable and you have one proceeding that is ongoing. Now the biggest problem is that both of them will definitely not be able to be in the real estate, in those apartments. I really couldn’t say what the court's epilogue will be.

Thank you very much for this conversation.

- Thank you for the invitation.