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The window of opportunity for pursuing a restitution claim in Warsaw won’t last forever; it expires on 17 March 2017 (Part 1)

posted 8 years ago

The biggest
case of corruption to hit Poland in recent years is the so-called
“reprivatization” scandal.
The recently revealed facts show a series of
irregularities in property restitution, where forgers have unlawfully acquired
ownership of prestigious real estate in Warsaw. Many people believe that it is
only a tip of the iceberg.


It is also believed that the new rules on the purchase of claims will
stop the criminal activity concerning forgery of documents and fabrication of


The new rules bring also a deadline for filing a restitution claim.  If no motion is filed by 17 March 2017, the
claims will expire without compensation.


After the
destruction of Warsaw during the Second World War, the newly formed communist
authorities issued on 26 October 1945 a decree on the ownership and the use of
land in Warsaw, upon which nearly all land was taken over by the State. This decree
is commonly called the “Bierut’s decree”, after the president of the communist


In the days
of Stalinization of half of Europe, a decision to nationalize all the land in a
city was nothing out of the ordinary. While all of Poland has sustained a major
damage when it comes to property, only in Warsaw nearly all the land within the
city borders was seized by the State. The official reasoning for this decision
was to facilitate the reconstruction of the ruined city, which was partially


previous owners were entitled, within 6 months, to file a motion for granting
temporary ownership over the seized property under Article 7 of Bierut’s decree,
the legal basis for nationalization. In practice, those motions were always denied.

Poland’s transformation in 1989 and the end of communist rule, Bierut’s decree
remained in force. Only recently it was amended by the new law which is coming
into force on 17 September 2016.


recently, the interpretation of Bierut’s decree by the current Warsaw
authorities has been very favourable for the pre-war owners. The relevant
provision of Article 7 of Bierut’s decree has been interpreted in such a way
that it obliges the Warsaw authorities to grant temporary ownership to the applicant,
if it was in conformity with the use of the land stipulated in the area
development plan. Until recently, this meant that the pre-war owners (or their
heirs) were entitled to receive the property back, unless the municipality sold
it to a bona fide buyer.

But the
situation changed drastically when the new rules came into force on 17
September 2016 and when the ‘reprivatization’ scandal was revealed. It turned
out that the return of properties in Warsaw developed into a very lucrative
illegal restitution business based on forgery of documents and fabrication of

The new
rules introduced many changes. Two points seem to be of paramount importance
for the rightful heirs of pre-war owners:

excluding the right to get the property back in kind when it has been
already sold, used for a public purpose or rebuilt with public resources if the
building was damaged in more than 66%


setting the 6 months’ deadline for the potential heirs to file their claims
with Warsaw municipality.


The recently
revealed scandal poses a serious threat to the rights of the rightful heirs.
Due to a series of irregularities in property restitution the Warsaw
municipality decided to “freeze” all proceedings. The mayor said the city will
only start returning properties once the country has passed legislation
regulating how the process is supposed to work.


been dealing with re-privatization for a long time
,” she said. “I’ve
been asking that this burden be lifted from us for a long time. However, there
hasn’t been a re-privatization law for 25 years.”


governing party, the Law and Justice (PIS), is also an opponent of the
restitution idea.

the prospects of recovering the property by the rightful heirs in the nearby
future do not look rosy. It is hard to say what will happen and what will be
the attitude of the Warsaw municipality towards this issue.


What should
be done in these circumstances? In life, like in sport, you have to take
advantage of the opportunity, otherwise you are out. This is exactly how the
things stand in Warsaw now. There is a ‘window of opportunity’ (a very short
one and maybe the last one) which must be used, otherwise you are out. However
small the chance might be, it should be taken.


who potentially is the rightful heir of a pre-war owner of real estate in
Warsaw has now 6 months to file his documents with the Warsaw authorities and
claim the property back. Without filing a claim by 17 March 2017,  the
chances for recovering the property will be significantly reduced or even may
expire without any compensation.


To reach a
wider audience, we made this article as straightforward and clear as possible.
We have put the information in the most logical, simplified and comprehensible
way and spared you excessive stats and legal analysis as the issue of
restitution of property in Warsaw is a very complicated area. For those who are
interested in a deeper dive in this subject, please read ‘The Window of opportunity Part 2’.

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