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New entity will deal with vacant land fee

JEDDAH: The Housing Ministry intends to establish an operating company to manage the vacant land fees program.

According to Mohammad Al-Mdaihem, the chief of the vacant land fees program, the company will be operational by the end of 2016. He said the ministry would announce decisions on the payment of fees by land owners in December.
The decisions will oblige banks holding the certificate of mortgages on lands to register and pay applicable fees.
Al-Mdaihem was speaking during a seminar held in the Eastern Province to discuss the executive list of the “Tax Law on Vacant Land” issued by the Housing Ministry.
The objectives of the program for vacant lands are to increase the supply of land to reach a balance between supply and demand in addition to dealing with the challenges faced by the ministry to fill the gap gradually and in sequence and to overcome the lack of data and information on the land all over the Kingdom.
“The ministry is currently working on three balanced projects — the completion of the organizational structure for the management, the establishment of a data base and the commencement of the implementation process,” he said.
On the matter of lands encumbered by banks for mortgages, he said the matter was discussed extensively and because of the absence of mortgage laws except for those of the Real Estate Development Fund, the fees would be imposed on the party holding the certificates of mortgage.
“In the case of banks, they are obliged to register and pay the fees. The banks are capable of protecting themselves for bearing the costs through the provisions stated in the contracts with the original owners of the land,” he said.
He noted the ministry is working with the Saudi Authority for Accredited Valuers (Taqeem) as the body having jurisdiction to assess the property. He also noted that the ministry was working on the completion of the geographical information for Makkah and Madinah, asserting that in Riyadh alone there are 67,000 plots of vacant or unused land with an area ranging from 200 to 1 million square meters.
Commenting on the issue of the cadastral survey, he said: “The ministry needs to conduct cadastral surveys to define the extent, value, and ownership of land, all with the aim of providing services and utilities.”
The next step will involve opening all channels of information for citizens to be familiarized with the land assessment processes in accordance with the transparency principle.
“The step following the assessment will involve issuing the decision (the billing process) by which the relevant individual or body will receive a text message sent by the Absher system, and a letter sent by the Saudi Post containing all the details about the land,” he explained, asserting that there was an objection mechanism which involves filing objections within 60 days of the issuance of the decision. The system also grants the ministry 60 days to respond, he added.
Regarding Dammam urban lands, he said the remaining period to register was 6 months before the issuance of the decision, after which the land owner can object within a period of 60 days and then the fees must be paid, or the owner will be granted a grace period of 12 months to develop the land.
Commenting on the existing disputes among heirs, he said: “The ministry is not concerned or involved with these disputes. The fees must be paid no matter what.”
He expressed the fears of the Ministry that some would cause imaginary problems to evade payments, but in all cases settling the disputes and differences between heirs or partners is within the power and jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice.

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