A recent press conference addressed the rights of homebuyers in the secondary market and the risks of losing the purchased property without any compensation.
Even if the transaction is approved by state authorities, the court can later decide to confiscate the apartment.
The current judicial practice has seen the cases where people who have bought a home with the last of their money lose to the swindlers who are on the run or in prison.
Pensioners or families with children might find themselves in the street as the state does not protect their interests.
Shota Gorgadze, a lawyer and member of the Human Rights Council (HRC) under the Russian president said that every potential buyer on secondary housing market is at risk. You can run a thorough check on the list of documents that are submitted for registration and hire several lawyers to confirm that there are no pitfalls in this transaction. In the end, a few years later, you can still lose the apartment.
The case of the large family of Rashad Koshkarov, who bought an apartment on the secondary housing market, is a striking example.
According to the documentation, it was registered as the last will. Its owner sold it to Koshkarov. The apartment had a perfectly clean legal record. No underage children were registered there. The registering authority, which is responsible for executing the transaction, suspended it to make sure that the will was not forged. A corresponding written request was sent to the notary.
“The notary confirmed that he certified the will stating the testator’s first and last names. After that, the registering body conducted the transaction. My principal came in possession of property and his family with three children aged 11, 8 and 6 moved in,” Shota Gorgadze said.
After a while it turned out that the will for the apartment was a fake. A criminal case was filed where Rashad Koshkarov became a witness.
The perpetrator of the will forgery was not caught. Gorgadze draws attention to the fact that the notary, who had confirmed that the will was authentic, was also a witness.
Koshkarov had not suspected anything until he received a summons from the bailiff to appear in court in order to start the process of eviction from the apartment.
The family was also unaware that a civil case to deprive the large family of their apartment had been considered by the Tagansky Court in Moscow. As there are no other heirs, the Department of Property Relations of Moscow is the plaintiff.
“Officials, given the complete innocence of the purchaser, have found no other solution than to have the apartment revert to the municipality,” said Gorgadze.
The Tagansky District Court dismissed the claim. Time was running out. All the procedural time limits for appealing had been missed.
Suddenly, Tagansky district prosecutors said that the rights of the person who had registered a forged will on himself had been violated, and that he had not been brought into proceedings. The property relations department filed an appeal to the Moscow City Court.
After receiving the appeal, the Moscow City Court decided to terminate the property rights of Rashad Koshkarov and his family and evict them from the apartment. The court did not pay attention to the fact that the guardianship was not brought in although minors were being evicted. The case was referred to bailiffs, who firmly decided to evict the family from the apartment within a week.
Then it turned out that a group of people had forged the will of a lonely old lady and illegally registered the apartment to the seller, who later sold the apartment to the Koshkarov family.
According to Gorgadze, after the Moscow City Court realized what an illegal decision it had made, it began to restore the procedural period. A cassation appeal was filed to the Second Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction.
“I hope that the Court will put its foot down. Along with that, I believe that Moscow Mayor will pay attention to what his structural unit is doing to the family of Muscovites, evicting them from the apartment. In my opinion, all the lawlessness is done by low-ranking officials. They are the main reason why people have grouches against the local authorities,” said Gorgadze.
Lawyer Violetta Volkova said that she would like to turn to the Prosecutor's Office of Moscow, not necessarily to the Prosecutor General, because this issue can also be resolved at a lower level. The thing is that in cases of eviction, the prosecutor is always involved to protect the rights of those who are evicted.
“In this case, the Tagansky Prosecutor's Office of Moscow amazed me. It filed an appeal saying that the rights of the heir, who had sold the apartment to Koshkarov, were violated,” Volkova said.
Human rights activist and HRC member Andrei Babushkin said that courts steamroll thousands of bona fide purchasers of housing leaving them without property.
“We understand that if the country has a system where it is impossible to check the bona fides of the party that sells this housing in the secondary market, almost everyone faces the risk to be deprived of his or her apartment. It is very bad that executive authorities have little understanding of the social consequences that this kind of situation is likely to cause,” Babushkin said.
Vasily Koltashov, an economist and head of the New Society Institute's Center for Economic Studies, says that the situation that happened to Rashad Koshkarov shows how corruption schemes can make a family with children lose their home.
“This case shows that being cautious when buying a house does not always protect from troubles. This is frightening, because we expect a lot of similar situations to happen,” he says.
Shota Gorgadze promised that he would do everything possible to make the city authorities aware of this story.
“Protection is a touchstone which shows how the authorities treat our fellow citizens. Either they will protect their rights and show that despite the mistakes department officials might make, the overall policy is to protect the rights of Russians. Or it will be your fault if the department needs this apartment,” Gorgadze said.