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ELEMENTS OF CONTEXT
HISTORY OF CITIES – HERITAGE
RIGHT TO HOUSING
In Kosovo, any surviving titling comes from the Turkish tapi system. This system identifies the owner and delineates the property through describing boundaries and neighbors. A survey of Kosovar land, effectively used as cadastral documentation, was completed in 1937 and was carried out primarily by the Kingdom of Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia. The system was understandably piecemeal and often not used because of the population movements created by ethnic and political conflict. Albanian occupants of Kosovo generally did not make use of the tapi system, primarily because of illiteracy and high transaction costs. Because of this lack of participation, ethnic Albanian land rights have been marginalized and disregarded by subsequent political regimes.
While informal land transactions are the most common, the rarely used tapi system does remain at the core of the registration system in Kosovo. Under this system, land and immovable property are apparently fully alienable, with support from a Certificate of Possession, which is issued by the Communal Directorate of Geodesy. Legally, these certificates are proof only of possessory rights, and not ownership rights. However, in practice property is seen as owned by those with possessory documentation. As these land certificates are necessary for all land transactions, most residents know the boundaries and exact parcel of land they possess. There has been some overlap of certification, but in large part, the use of land for a certain number of years has given uncontested ownership rights to the occupier of the land. The requirements for obtaining an official tapi are:
First obtaining a certificate of possession;
Establishing ownership through the Commune Council;
Publicizing ownership for 1to 2 months (presumably to elicit any conflicting claims); and
Finally, the court will issue the tapi and a copy is sent to the Cadastre Office.
The recent war in Kosovo has been a contributing factor in the lack of registered titles to land. The displacement of minority ethnic groups, a substantial refugee population, and the destruction of government offices and records have made legal land documentation a rarity.
(Source : FAO, The Balkan Countries of Albania and the Former Yugoslavia)