The Malta Independent 4 August 2021, Wednesday

Searching the unsearchable?

Anthony Zarb Dimech Tuesday, 15 June 2021, 11:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

There comes a time in life where one has to search for documents as proof of entitlement to property claims and also for ascertaining the identity of person/s and their lifetime transactions (buying and selling of property, wills and testaments and so forth). One can easily be caught up and trapped in a maze of government entities and documents. This feature attempts to simplify what seems, at first hand, a very complex process.

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It is not the first time that a person's search can take him/her back to several generations of ascendants to find the source (provenienza) when the property he/she believes by legal right is his/hers, was first created, either by division of property, testament or purchase. This process takes time and is usually done by a notary, but nothing can stop an individual carrying the searches himself/herself. In itself, it is an exercise to learn about a person's family history.

 

The parish priest's records

If you have no exact details of your parents' data, such as exact date of death, marriage or birth, it would be wise to make an enquiry at the parish priest's office. An approximate date can yield results. These results give the exact date of marriage, birth or death as well as the names of the parents.

 

Geneologists

There are also online geneology sites such as www.maltageneology.com/ragusa and individuals who can do searches on your behalf. These sites and persons can obtain the missing link for the starting point for you to delve deeper into your family's history (ascendents and descendents).

 

The Public Registry

Using the parents' names and date of demise, it is possible to order full copies of death, marriage or birth certificate from the Public Registry. In the Public Registry are preseved all the Civil Status Acts registered since 1863, when it was decreed that all acts of birth, marriage and death were to be recorded at the Public Registries of Malta and Gozo. The registrations of transfer of immovable property, hypothecs, wills, marriage settlements as well as the decontrol of privately-owned dwelling houses also fall under the responsibility of the Public Registry.

 

Identity Malta's offices (Searches Section)

It is then possible to use the parents', grandparents' or even great grandparents' death certificates to make a deeper search for all transactions, wills and other, up to 10 years after the person's demise. This is usually done because the inheritors of the person who passed away have up to 10 years to renounce the will of the person. Searches at ID Malta can yield a number of results with a synopsis of the document. Before ordering full copies of the contracts, the synopsis gives at first sight the parties to a contract, date and nature of the transaction or will. Anybody having the identity card number of a person and the names and surnames of his parents can do a search at Identity Malta.

 

Notary to the Government and Notaries Archives

If synopsis searches are relevant, one can go to the Notary to the Government to order full copies of the documents. The main seat of the Notiral Archives is in Vassalli Street, Valletta. Here the original deeds, drawn up by Notaries Public, are kept, while their copies or Registers are housed in a separate building in St Christopher Street, Valletta. The Archivio Notarile had originally been set up in 1640. In the Notarial Archives are deposited deeds inter vivos and causa mortis published by Notaries Public who have practised or are practising in Malta.

 

Electoral registers

Electoral registers, held at the National Library, are another source of information to find who is actually living in the property you claim to be yours. Registered voters appear in these registers and if the property is not occupied you will not find the address in the register. Having a good look at different Electoral registers over the years can give you a picture of how a property changed hands.

Lawyer's office

The final step would be to present all the searches with all supporting documents to a lawyer specialised in civil law in order to put forward your claim for the property.

It is truly amazing how much information can be retrieved through such a meticulous search. For instance, in the 19th century, it was customary to have a blindfolded boy drawing up lots of properties for division among the owners asking for a division. Each lot would be valued by an architect so that the values would be approximately the same.

 

Procurator and administrator

One can also find who was or is still acting as a procurator. The procurator is a person chosen by the person who owns or is renting an estate. His work is similar to an accountant who collects rents/pays rent and ground rents.

The administrator, on the other hand, is appointed by the court in case of a person being interdicted (for example, the owner suffers from Dementia). The administrator draws up an inventory for the benefit of the inheritors.

 

Capitalisation and Lands Department

Another important office that comes into play is the Lands Department. This office, among other matters, holds information of any properties that have been capitalised. There were properties that were destroyed by enemy action during the Second World War and the persons owning these properties had their property appropriated by tgovernment who later issued a recognition rent to the owners. The owners could capitalise such a rent. Capitalisation and redemption of ground rents/rents of property is done at a rate of 5%.  A different rate applies to commercial premises.  Such capitalisations appear in the Government Gazette notices. Some capitalisations were worked out by the Lands Authority at the rate of €100 for every €1.25 of recognition rent.

 

Abandoned and dilapidated properties

There are many properties in our towns and villages that are dilapidated. They not only present a danger to passers-by and next door neighbours but they are also an open invitation to homeless squatters, not to mention rodents that make them their home.

Some persons may be quite sure that some of these properties are owned by them and are tempted to file a Planning Authority application to commence renovation and restoring such places without first investigating if the property is truly theirs or not. This is very dangerous as any structural changes or renovations may be done but the real or pretended owner can come along and claim that the property is his/hers. It is therefore better to carry out documentary searches and have legal evidence at hand, as explained in this feature rather than being approached by third parties, who will legally stop your efforts, even if you think that you are the owner of that property.


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