If you buy a property in Croatia that is in an area that is under the protection of the Cultural Heritage and you intend to renovate the house or make exterior changes to it, you must seek permission from the county Cultural Heritage department as part of the planning application process.
Many old towns in Croatia are protected and in some cases individual properties, with different rules applying to both. Clearly protected Croatian property comes under closer scrutiny than Croatian properties that are not directly protected but are located in a culturally protected area. The purpose of this article is to outline the procedure relating to property in Croatia that is not directly protected but located in a protected area. Furthermore for the purposes of this article we will assume the county in question is Split Dalmatia.
So when is it necessary to seek permission from the Split Dalmatia County Cultural Heritage Department ? Generally speaking if you buy a property in Croatia or more specifically a property in Split and it is in a protected zone and you intend to renovate it and in doing so make changes to the interior, be that knock down walls, put in new electrics, plumbing, sanitary equipment, windows or do anything else to the property that constitutes a change to the existing structure, you are supposed to get the permission of the Split Dalmatia Culture Heritage Department.
Some people do not but for foreigners buying property in Croatia it is highly advisable to do so. In fact in not doing so you are potentially breaking the law. For some reason when foreigners buy property in Croatia they sometime leave their common sense at home. The question to ask yourself is how would i approach this if i was at home ? For anyone from a western european country the answer is to follow the appropriate rules and regulations and employ the necessary professionals to help you do so. But for some reason some people seem to think that small changes to a property in Croatia will go unnoticed and having bought their dream home in Croatia cannot live with the idea that in fact what they thought they could do or in lots of cases were told by their agent they could do, might now not be able too.
However, in not following the necessary procedure you are leaving yourself open to a lot of hassle and unnecessary cost, and in some cases possible prosecution. This is especially true of the Croatian island property where small communities are prone to gossip especially during the winter period and it is highly likely you would get a visit from one of the relevant authorities be that the Split Cultural Heritage Department or the building inspector during the construction process. If you cannot provide the necessary documentation to validate the works being undertaken they can shut down the site with immediate effect. They will then ask you to either legalise the works prior to starting again or knock down and remove what you have done so far, if legalisation is not possible. To legalise the building works you will need permission from Split Cultural Heritage Department, as well as the local planning office.
So at what point do you apply for permission from the Split Cultural Heritage Department ? This is always done at the beginning of the process by your architect who supplies the relevant department officer for the area in which your Split property is located with your intended project. If you are doing basic renovation and modernisation to your Split property, which includes rearranging the interior of the object, knocking through walls, putting in new bathrooms, new joinery, electrics, plumbing etc then it is, in most cases, not necessary to contact them prior to submitting the project. However, if you intend to do anything that constitutes a change to the existing structure with particular regard to the buildings outside appearance then it is essential they are contacted and consulted prior to submitting the planning application.
The sort of things that area deemed to be contentious when reconstructing your property in Croatia are; raising floors, opening new windows or doors, lifting the roof, demolishing existing walls & swimming pools. There are others but these are the most common. It is always best to ask your Croatian architect to have a preliminary discussion with the Split Cultural Heritage Department during the initial design phase. This should save you time and money. If they raise objections you are then able to negotiate, trying to find some middle ground, with your architect producing creative solutions to their objections. This can take a little time but is the most agreeable path. Having said that do not expect any major deviations in your favor, the rules & regulations are strict and it is unusual to get away with anything that could be deemed to be out of the norm. One things for sure there is very little point submitting the application and hoping for the best.
How important is the Split Cultural Heritage Department to my planning application ? They are extremely important since the planning office is very unlikely to approve an planning application without the permission of the Split Cultural Heritage Department. In fact, for applications in relation to the reconstruction of old stone houses located in protected areas, their approval is tantamount to being given permission to build. Of course the subsequent planning application must be made to the relevant Croatian planning authorities. Moreover, all the necessary and valid documentation relating to your property in Croatia must be provided. Also, it is important to understand the situation regarding your neighbors who do have the right to object, although they must have valid grounds in order to do so. However, assuming the documentation is in order and there are no complaints from the neighbors then your application should be processed without delay.
How long does it take the Split Cultural Heritage Department to give their approval ? In general, although it does depend on the complexity of the case, they give their approval within 30 days. If they have been consulted prior to the application being made and any necessary changes made to the project in accordance with their wishes, then there is very little reason to slow the process down. It is a simple case of them issuing the necessary approval document.
What are the chances of having your application rejected by Split Cultural Heritage Department? For basic renovation of your property in Croatia with only interior changes the chances are very small. If you are making changes to the exterior this is a different matter. As mentioned previously to avoid problems it is always best to consult with Split Cultural Heritage Office prior to putting in your application. In fact if you are buying a property in Croatia that is in a culturally protected area and your property purchase is dependent on being able to make changes to the exterior, it is a very good idea to get your Croatian real estate agent to put you in contact with a Croatian architect who could make some preliminary enquiries. Clearly it is not necessarily something a real estate agent will want to be exposed to since it could affect their sale. However, unless you have an initial opinion you are open to possible limitations regarding the redevelopment of the property which could affect both your possible enjoyment of it and ultimately your purchase decision.
In summary there there is no hard and fast rule regarding the process of obtaining Croatian Cultural Heritage approval for your planning application to renovate or reconstruct your Croatian property situated inside a protected zone. The key is to do your research, ask questions and make sure that if the real estate is in a culturally protected zone, that you make contact with the relevant cultural heritage office to speak to a representative before you make your purchase decision.
Of Importance: There is one other very important piece of information that one must be aware of when purchasing Croatian property that is located in a culturally protected area. As a buyer you do not have the right to purchase the property until it has been offered for purchase to the local council, county council and Republic of Croatia. The law states that each institution must confirm its intention to purchase within 60 days from receipt of the vendors confirmation that the property is for sale. If none of the institutions correspond within the given period then they automatically forfeit their right to purchase and you can legally buy the property.
In most cases an option contract is signed with a deposit paid onto an approved third parties account with completion 14 days after having received confirmation from all three institutions that they do not intend to purchase or after the 60 day period has passed, whichever is sooner. Please note whilst this is a necessary process, it is extremely rare for any of the institutions to take up the offer to purchase Croatian properties in culturally protected areas. They do not have need or the means to do so. However, the procedure must be followed since failure to do so can result in the Croatian property purchase contract being cancelled with you left responsible for getting your money back from the vendor.