State and municipal ownership in Bulgaria is public and private and natural and legal persons may be owners of all real estate properties with two exceptions:
► they cannot own properties over which the State has exclusive ownership in accordance with the Constitution;
► they cannot own public properties when the latter are privately owned by the State or by a municipality by virtue of the law.
In view of the above, natural and legal persons can in principle become owners of state and municipal properties only if the same are privately owned by the State or by a municipality. However, until recently, acquiring such properties by statute of limitations was not possible (with one exception in the period from 31 December 2017 until 19 January 2018). This was due to a moratorium that precluded the running of the statutory limitation term.
Initially adopted for a period of 7 months, the moratorium has been in force since 31 May 2006. The last one of numerous subsequent renewals in the course of 15 years was supposed to be in force until 31 December 2022 and stated: "the statutory limitation term for acquiring real estate properties in private State and municipal ownership by statute of limitations shall stop to run until 31 December 2022, including for the acquisition of agricultural land which is owned by State or municipal schools or the ownership of which is restored thereto or to other State and municipal institutions in the system of pre-school and school education in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Agricultural Land Ownership and Use Act."
The moratorium puts the State and the municipalities in a privileged position as property owners as opposed to private individuals - the statutory limitation term runs only in respect of the latter. Additionally, since the statutory limitation term is also a means of losing the right of ownership, with the moratorium in place, the State and the municipalities are practically deriving rights from their own inaction as they have become uninterested in the possession and management of their property.
Having this in mind, the decision to lift the moratorium on the acquisition of state and municipal properties by statute of limitations came out of the blue after 15 years of subsequent renewals. It is safe to say that it made the principle of equality of all subjects of private law prevail in the cases of acquisition and loss of the right of ownership over real estate properties by statute of limitations. This happened after the Constitutional Court unanimously declared the last renewal of the moratorium unconstitutional. The Judgment of the Court is already in force after it was duly promulgated in the State Gazette on 4 March 2022.
Thus, there is no longer an obstacle in practice for a person to acquire ownership rights over properties which are privately owned by the State or by a municipality by statute of limitations through continuous possession for a period of 10 or 5 years, respectively (depending on whether the possession is bona fide) has been complied with. In addition, there is no doubt that the Judgment of the Constitutional Court declaring the last renewal of the moratorium unconstitutional does not affect its previous effect. In other words, it cannot be claimed that the moratorium has lost its effect since the date of its initial introduction. Nevertheless, it should be borne in mind that the statutory term has run for 18 days in the period from 31 December 2017 until 19 January 2018.
1. The natural and legal persons who have started possessing properties which are privately owned by the State or by a municipally on 8 March 2022 could acquire them by statute of limitations.
2. With regard to the persons who have been possessing properties which are privately owned by the State or by a municipally in the period from 1 June 1996 until 31 May 2006 and who have more than 18 days left (the period from 31 December 2017 to 19 January 2018) until the expiration of the relevant statutory limitation term, each subsequent day in possession of such real estate properties after 08.03.2022, will be respected and they may become owners by statute of limitations after the expiration of the necessary term (which will be added to the term that has already expired in their favour).