What can be more complicated than the relationship between a powerful construction company, which has lawyers' groups, representatives of the law enforcement agencies and other interested parties on its side, and an ordinary person trapped in the severe system of resettlement? Who is likely to win in this dispute?
On its official website the PIK group of companies presents itself in this way: "We create the most modern construction technologies. They allow us to quickly and efficiently design and build affordable, beautiful, functional and long-lasting housing. Our mission is to develop the best global building solutions that are eco-friendly, energy-efficient and minimize our carbon footprint."
On the face of it, that sounds great. Housing should be built for the ages, with carbon footprint minimized. The company’s mission seems honorable. However, these business activities leave some unsavory aftertaste.
There are numerous offers of flats in houses built by the PIK. They can be purchased directly from the developer. There are flats under construction, in a new building, with or without finishing, in Moscow and the Moscow region, etc.
This company has put up buildings also on the land near Moscow, the former military town of Odintsovo-1. Previously, this territory belonged to the Ministry of Defense, but then the land was transferred to the jurisdiction of the local authorities. Its officials handed it over to housing developers. And then active construction works began.
"We were prepared to see a significant part of our town get into the development zone,” Tatiana Biba, a resident of Odintsovo-1, told wek.ru. “But look at what the developers are doing to the residents of Odintsovo-1! For example, I have a house on my plot. It is my property. According to the housing law, I have the right to get a similar house on the same plot. That's what I told the PIK group. However, a contractor came and immediately started intimidating me by saying that they would tear down our fence.”
And the company meant it. In February this year, some people came to the plot that had been Tatiana's property for 30 years and demolished the fence. It happened in an ordinary and business-like manner, without any court ruling or investigation. The sections of the fence were carefully put away by some strangers. The contractor's representatives explained for their actions very simply. They said that a construction crane would work, as the dismantling of a nearby five-story building was about to start. Tatiana's blood pressure shot up after this action. As a result, she was down with a hypertensic crisis. Her underage daughter is afraid to go out in the evenings because the neighboring residential block with broken windows was taken over by the homeless and other strange people who collect scrap metal. Tatiana is grateful for the fact that the excavator has not hit the gas and water pipes so far.
“There must be an effective court ruling for seizure of the property,” Galina Khovanskaya, the chairwoman of the State Duma Committee on Housing Policy, Housing and Communal Services, told wek.ru. “In this case, the owner herself should file protests with the court and the prosecutor's office, since her rights have clearly been violated. As I understand it, the negotiations between the PIK company and Tatyana Biba have completely stalled. So, she needs to go to court, with the documents on her property price estimates. In fact, all the executive documents have to be taken there. If there are any disputes between the parties, they will be settled only in court. For my part, I will also keep an eye on the situation. If there is anything, call me immediately!”
The PIK construction company has already resettled people from almost all the five-storey houses in the former military town. As for the five-storey building where several families with small children still live, their heating and gas have already been cut off. In other words, people live without conveniences during wintertime, all the more so amid the frosts that hit the Moscow region in February. However, the PIK group of companies, apparently, ignores this fact. It is noteworthy that the Prosecutor's Office and the Investigative Committee are aware of the situation. However, Russian law sets a 30 days deadline for examination of these complaints, and it seems contractors do not fear anything.
Notably, no one has terminated Tatiana's property right to the house and the land. It is still in force. A year and a half ago, the construction company offered Tatiana, the owner of a 1,500 sq. m land plot and a 140 sq. m house in the outskirts of Moscow, an 80 sq. m flat in a panel system building as a compensation. But could it be considered as an equivalent? Of course not. She rejected the offer. This was followed by another one, a cash equivalent of her house and land. A certain Sergei, who was negotiating on behalf of the construction company with Tatiana and her lawyer, advised her to do an appraisal of her property by herself.
The valuation of the house and the plot was done by Tatiana and then handed over to PIK. It should be said that it was just before the COVID-19 pandemic, in January 2020. For a long time, PIK pretended to be scrutinizing the documents, assessing the case, etc. Finally, in August, Tatiana was informed that the construction company did not agree with the valuation and that they would make the one on their own. Another six months passed. The fence was demolished without a court ruling. When Tatiana and her lawyer told a representative of the PIK group about this outrageous action, he acted strangely.
"Ah, oh year, sure, sure, but we haven't made a value assessment yet,” he said. “Well, okay, we will pass all the data to the information department."
It looks like the construction company has not offended anyone. At the first glance, it has nothing to do with it. It did not order any hit-and-run raids on its part. At the same time, such interesting events as demolition of the fence take place.
PIK has taken a rather strange position. It offers nothing to the house owners. The local administration also keeps silent so far.
Meanwhile, Tatiana's daughter recently called her while she was at work and said that some strange people had come to the site again and started taking some measurements.
"In my innocence I thought that this was possible," says Tatiana Biba. “At least by a court ruling which proved that this land is, let's say, occupied with authorization. However, works are in progress without any documents. Moreover, we have been promised that the dismantling of buildings on our own plot will begin. I came to the sad conclusion that the people who resettled to new houses were totally unprotected by law. I've already complained to the Investigative Committee, but they told me that they were investigating criminal offences and that there was no criminal case in this case. They said that when there is a case, then I have to come to them.”
This situation has been going on in the area since 2018. The intransigent owners keep receiving threats. Some residents of the five-storey buildings where all communications, including heating and gas, have been cut off have said in unofficial conversations that certain people have told them, "You will crawl to us on bent knees yourself!” But where would they crawl if it is impossible to contact either the construction company or the local authorities?
It is only fair to say that after the residents wrote a collective complaint to the Investigative Committee, they received a phone call from a woman who called herself a representative of the local administration and said: "Tomorrow we are waiting for you at a meeting regarding resettlement.” It was a rather strange and somewhat deliberately hasty call. Notably, nobody called Tatiana Biba at all.
P.S. While this article was being prepared for publication, Tatiana received a phone call from the PIK group of companies. Chances are there will be a successful and humanistic solution.