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The new Belgian Property Law Code

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The new Belgian property law code entered into force on 1 September 2021. The reform replaces old laws dating back to 1824 (long term lease right and building right), integrates provisions on mortgage publicity and certain legal easements and codifies key jurisprudence on neighbor nuisance for example.

Furthermore, the reform aims to modernize the rights in rem, to make them more apt for new real estate developments, and to create more flexibility, for instance regarding duration.

Key highlights in a 5-minute read 

The below infographics are intended to provide a useful summary of the most important changes in the new property law code, and to give you, as real estate practitioner, one key consideration per topic to keep in mind. So, no lengthy explanations or legal jargon, just effective, creative and proactive information.

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Only the distinction between visible and non-visible easements has been maintained, whereby a visible easement can now also be acquired by prescription or the division of a plot. The rules on plants and views were incorporated in the new Civil Code and therewith the right to remove overhanging branches if the neighbor refuses to take action within 60 days after a notice of default has been sent.

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Long term lease

Certain key changes concerning the long term lease are the abolition of the obligation to pay a yearly fee (canon), the reduction of the minimum duration of the long term lease to 15 years and the adjustment of the default arrangement for major repairs and the compensation upon termination of the long term lease.

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Building right

The main change for the building right is the extension of the maximum duration to 99 years and, in certain exceptional circumstances, even perpetual, which can be interesting for mixed real estate projects to avoid co-ownership.

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For usufruct as well the maximum duration (for legal entities) has been extended to 99 years. In addition, some changes were made to the default regulations regarding maintenance and repairs and the compensation due upon termination of the usufruct. Furthermore, a legal framework was created for the usufruct on financial instruments, receivables, and intellectual property rights.

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Neighbor nuisance

The regime of neighbor nuisance is now incorporated in the new Civil Code, whereby the discretionary power of the courts to assess the excessive nature of the nuisance and the measures to be taken has been restricted. However, it has been made possible for the courts to impose preventive measures, even before the nuisance starts.

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Mortgage publicity regime

The scope of the compulsory transcription by the competent Office of Legal Certainty (“Kantoor Rechtszekerheid/Bureau Sécurité Juridique”) has been broadened, a.o. to deeds containing a preemption right or option right, which increases enforceability against third parties. In addition, in the future (date not yet determined) a marginal mention (“kantmelding/mention marginale”) shall need to be made for any claim regarding the judicial termination of a right in rem in order for the termination to be enforceable towards third parties acting in good faith (such as a bank benefiting from a mortgage on the real estate).

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Rights in rem and personal rights

The law reform is intended to increase the flexibility of granting personal rights and rights in rem on the public domain by settling the jurisprudential debate. These rights can be granted on public domain property, provided they are compatible with the public destination (“openbare bestemming/destination publique”). It is therefore not always necessary to fall back on a domain concession.

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