Bulgaria: new developments in the use and reclassification of agricultural areas

Ownership structure current
Since May 2014, ownership rights for land and soil can only be acquired by natural and legal persons who have resided or been established in Bulgaria for longer than five years. Companies incorporated under Bulgarian law that were founded less than five years ago may be the owners of agricultural areas if their stakeholders or shareholders meet the requirement of settling or residing in Bulgaria for at least five years. Self-employed farmers who are EU citizens and properly registered as such in Bulgaria and would like to establish themselves for this purpose in the country can purchase agricultural land.

The owners are free to select the specific usage, but this must be done in compliance with the agricultural purpose of the land and with the legal requirements. Buildings and annexes can be constructed in compliance with the regional planning act. If the land is not reclassified, however, only greenhouses and, under certain conditions, infrastructure objects (such as pipes for water and electricity) can be built, as well as objects connected with the agricultural purpose of the soil.

According to the changes in the law concerning ownership and the protection of agricultural areas from May 2018, agricultural land can be leased by owners and co-owners personally, or by specific persons authorised by them, and by persons who are authorised by the owner to use and manage the land. The power of attorney must be created explicitly for this purpose and certified by a notary. A rental, or rather a lease agreement in accordance with the law on agricultural leases, which is concluded for more than one year, as well as any changes, amendments or notice of termination, must be made in writing with notarial certification of the signatures and must be entered in the property section in the local land registry. The notarial certification must take place at the same time for all contracting parties. Such lease agreements can only be concluded by co-owners who hold more than 25% of the property rights. The law also limits the notarial fee, which is to be paid for the certification of signatures on such rental and lease contracts.

A reclassification is generally only permitted in exceptional cases and in accordance with the provisions of the Law on the Protection of Agricultural Areas in the event of a proven necessity for reclassification. The changes in the reclassification process have led to the introduction of certain facilitations. In some cases, the preliminary project of a general development plan is no longer required, but only a schema of the property showing the boundaries and surfaces areas. According to the new regulation, the Minister for Environment and Water - as long as the limits of the sand dunes are not registered - must provide a written statement on the surface areas established in accordance with the law on the regional planning on the shore of the Black Sea in the so-called A and B zones, in order to confirm that no sand dunes are located on the land

Author: Kinga Słomka