New property rules for GCC nationals

MPs have unanimously approved new restrictions on GCC nationals owning property in Bahrain.

The amendments to the 2001 Non-Bahrainis Ownership of Property and Plots Law aim to reorganise the real estate sector in the country – but without violating the rights of GCC nationals.

Gulf nationals and expat inheritors are considered Bahrainis under all laws.

The government-drafted amendments will give the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister the power to approve requests for property ownership in designated areas.

New rules and regulations will be determined by the High Urban Planning Committee, chaired by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Premier.

The same rules will also apply on property passed to GCC nationals through a will or inheritance.

Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa told MPs yesterday that the new rules serve the country’s future interests without breaching GCC equality rights.

“The new amendments are vital as they take into consideration the future needs of the kingdom in having sufficient land and determining sites for residences and investments,” he said.

“Under the amendments, the government will have more flexibility to determine an actual balance between ownership and available spaces while ensuring rights are not violated.

“The new system will bring Bahrain on par with practices followed in other GCC countries, with rules and regulations only putting restrictions on the location and size of a property but not on the ability to buy property as a national.

“The rules will not be backdated and there will be no exodus.

“If someone gets property through inheritance or a will then the size and location will be assessed and if it constitutes a violation then it will be auctioned, not seized.”

The legislation was passed during Parliament’s session yesterday and referred to the Shura Council for debate on Sunday.

MPs last month insisted on amendments to the same law to ban expats from owning property in certain areas in Bahrain.

This was rejected twice by Shura and a joint vote is needed from both chambers, which has never happened since 2002.

According to the law, foreigners are able to buy property and land anywhere in Bahrain.

However, in 2003 the government imposed restrictions that limit this right to certain locations such as Hoora, Abu Ghazal in Manama, Al Fateh District in Juffair, the Diplomatic Area, Reef Island and Seef. Expats can also buy properties in designated investment projects such as Amwaj Islands.

Expat ownership is just around seven per cent of the total property sector, and of this 97pc are GCC nationals.

In existing legislation, GCC nationals are considered Bahrainis, so the actual percentage is much lower.

Meanwhile, MPs yesterday also voted in favour of an amendment drafted by the Shura Council that would oblige the government to take into consideration water channels on maps.

The amendments to the 1994 Urban Planning Law would see water channels ‘towards the water’ or ‘inside the water’ indicated alongside the allocation of historic, municipal, industrial and other use tags for plots on maps.

Parliament unanimously rejected Shura amendments to the 1971 Civil and Commercial Defence Law that would give lenders open rights to claim owed payments.




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