BUYING PROPERTY IN BULGARIA

by Catherine Barber*

Getting independent legal advice is essential to avoid disappointment

I’m reading “The English Neighbour” at the moment, a book about an Englishman who moves to a quiet Bulgarian village. Many people had recommended it to me.

It’s very amusing, and I’m learning slang words that I would never come across in my formal lessons. It's well worth reading, or watching when it comes out on Bulgarian National Television in September.

My heart fell, however, when the Englishman in question got into a property dispute. Sadly this is an all too familiar occurrence. I receive at least one letter on property issues every week, and sometimes several.

It’s obvious why British people buy property here. The climate is lovely, nature beautiful, people friendly, it’s close enough to the UK to get back and forth easily, Bulgaria is in the EU which should make the bureaucracy easier, and property is comparatively cheap. Thousands of British people buy property here and have a great time. Inevitably though, the people who write to the embassy are the ones who’ve run into difficulty.

What are the typical problems? “Double selling”, when a purchaser pays for a property and then discovers that it has been sold a second time. Developers or management companies going bankrupt (for real or for convenience) and the purchasers finding themselves at the end of a long line of creditors. A development being half-built before it turns out that the right planning documents don’t exist, or that there is a dispute between the developer and the municipality.

These cases often end up in court and take a long time to resolve. In addition I receive an increasing number of letters recently about utility disputes, in which British property owners feel their management company is seriously overcharging them for electricity or other bills.

So what can the embassy do? Well, we’re not lawyers. We can’t provide legal advice – and we have no investigative powers so can’t say that our citizens are in the right where it comes to property disputes. At the same time we are obviously concerned when there are problems that repeatedly affect British investors. We provide advice about what to do before buying property here, and direct people towards English speaking lawyers. We tell people about the Bulgaria Property Action Group. And we raise the issues with the Bulgarian government at a general (not case-by-case) level.

Recently we’ve seen some results. The Ministry of Regional Development has set up a working group to get different agencies together to address the problems. My colleagues and I went to meet Deputy Minister Zaharieva, and Deputy Minister of Justice Petrova to explain the typical issues facing our citizens. We found the ministers very responsive to our concerns. They offered to create a special website dedicated to helping foreigners with property problems. We discussed this and agreed that what would really help was an interactive service through which people could submit queries about property disputes, and get a response, or be directed to the appropriate authority. The government is also considering some legislative reforms that may help.

These steps won’t resolve everyone’s problems, and the effects won’t be immediate. I will continue to receive letters from Britons in distress, none of whom I can help as effectively as they or I would like. But at least there is recognition from the government that there is a problem, and a desire to help. At the end of the day these issues affect Bulgarians and foreigners alike; and it’s about Bulgaria’s reputation as a place to live and invest. We’ll keep working with the government to try to improve the experiences of investors here.

More on www.blogs.fco.gov.uk/roller/barber/

*Catherine Barber is the British chargé d'affaires in Sofia

  • COMMENTING RULES

    Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

    Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

OFFROAD MADNESS
Spring adrenaline often needs to find an outlet, and on 20-21 April you have the perfect excuse to let it all out. For two days Hadzhidimitrovo Village, near Yambol, will host Tundzha Trail, one of craziest 4WD competitions.

EMBASSY RECIPES
Emma Hopkins OBE was appointed Her Majesty's Ambassador to Bulgaria in May 2015. Since then, she has been exploring Bulgaria, its people, culture, landmarks and, last but not least, its cuisine.

TRANSPORT FOR SOFIA?
"Do I feel lucky today?" This popular movie tag could easily apply when considering whether or not to chance the public transport network in Sofia.

IN FOR A RIDE
A French girl emerges from Sofia Airport and, before she even looks round for a taxi, she is bombarded with offers of a ride into the city.

GETTING A JOB
According to the National Employment Agency, Bulgaria's official unemployment rate is 9.6 percent. Eurostat, however, has produced different data, stating that in June 2011 the unemployment rate was 11.4 percent, compared to 10 percent a year earlier.
STUDYING HOW TO STUDY
You may have various reasons for choosing public education in Bulgaria, either for yourself or for your children, ranging from an inability to afford the fees at private educational institutions to being unable to access their services because you live, for
LEGALISE IT!
Whether you are buying property or marrying a Bulgarian, you will certainly come to a point when you will need to get documents officially translated and/ or legalised.
GETTING EMERGENCY HELP IN BULGARIA
Three young Finns set out in May 2010 to trek over the mountain pass at Bachkovo, in the Rhodope. The day started well but ended up as a nightmare when one of them fell and was injured.

HAPPY BUYERS?
"I bought a pair of winter shoes, they seemed stable. After two weeks the sole of one of them came off“ a friend of mine complained. "They were under warranty. I exchanged them for another pair at the shop. Two weeks later the sole came off again.
TRACED IN WARS AND DISASTERS
It could happen to anyone. Your brother or husband goes on what seems like an exciting trip to the Middle East or the Pacific. Then you switch on the TV and you catch some breaking news.
ADOPTING A BULGARIAN CHILD
There was a report in The Sunday Times a few years ago that described how easy it was to purchase a child from some Gypsy quarter in Bulgaria. A healthy child was priced at ₤16,000.
NAVIGATING THE BULGARIAN LEGAL SYSTEM
What is the level of corruption in the Bulgarian judicial system? Judging by what WikiLeaks has revealed, the US Government is as concerned with corruption in this sphere as it is with all branches of power in Bulgaria.