Solving the Land Problem of Unknown Owners.

The Nikkei Newspaper published an article where the cabinet met to discuss the issues of land where the owner is not properly documented or registered.

We translated the Japanese article to English for our readers.
For the original Japanese article, click here.

Mandatory Inheritance Registration: Measures with Unknown Land Owners, related bills decided

At a cabinet meeting on March 5th 2021, the government decided to amend related laws such as the Civil Code in order to solve the problem of “unknown” land owners. Some amendments discussed were to have a mandatory registration application when inheriting land or changing the owner’s address, and imposing a fine if violated. A new system will be established to return land that has become difficult to manage to the national treasury, and management of land for which the owner is unknown will be strengthened.

Unknown ownership for land, not certain by looking at the real estate registry, hinders public works, recovery from disasters such as earthquakes and heavy rain, and private land transactions. According to a 2017 survey by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, the owners of 20% of land nationwide is unknown.

The reasons for not knowing are, 66% of the cases are inadequate inheritance registration and 34% have not changed their address. The amendment will revise the real estate registration system to encourage proper registration.

Previously voluntary, mandatory application for registration of inheritance and address change is planned to be implemented. The law states, you must apply for inheritance within 3 years of learning about the acquisition of land, and within 2 years of changing your address. If you violate the new civil code, you will be charged a fine up to 100,000 yen for inheritance, and up to 50,000 yen for address changes.

The Japanese government will also establish a new system to simplify the troublesome procedures (inheritance). Reduce the burden by allowing one of the heirs to apply independently. The Legal Affairs Bureau will be able to seek out information using the Basic Resident Register Network about those who are deceased, and the change of addresses. The registrar can display death information (ex officio) or change the address with the consent from the individual(s).

A new bill regarding inherited land will also be submitted to the national treasury. If the inherited land (real estate) is difficult to manage, the Japanese government will introduce a mechanism that allows the land to be returned to the national treasury if certain conditions are met. The Legal Affairs Bureau will examine the building, soil contamination, and buried objects, and if the owner pays the management fee, the returned land (real estate) will be accepted.

There will also be a system which allows renovation and sale of parts of land and buildings owned by multiple individuals even if the owner(s) is unknown. It will be announced after confirmation by the court, and if the remaining owners agree, it will be easier to renovate the building or change the purpose of land use.

The current Diet aims to enforce these administrative laws within two years after its promulgation. Since it is necessary to change the administrative system, the mandatory inheritance registration will be enforced within 3 years, and the mandatory address change will be enforced within 5 years.

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