Book III of the New Civil Code – its main amendments regarding property law

As mentioned in previous newsletters, Book III of the New Civil Code constitutes a major achievement in terms of the evolution of Belgian civil law. Although a few components of this new regime were borrowed as is from the former regime (e.g. forced joint ownership), with this last reform, the legislator intended to bring about important changes within property law so as to bring it up to speed with nowadays issues.

Without any intent of exhaustivity, we would like to emphasize certain major changes that have been implemented with this reform.

  • Usufruct : The Code now provides that the bare owner of a building has to support the major works that need to be carried out within the premises, such as the replacement of the frames for instance, whereas the usufructuary (beneficial owner) is only burdened with all maintenance repairs, such as the painting of the frames. Nevertheless, the bare owner now has the right to financially involve the usufructuary in the execution of major works proportionately with the remaining value of the usufruct. This proportionality is calculated according to the remaining duration of the usufructuary’s enjoyment of the property based on his life expectancy. The younger the usufructuary is, the higher the value of the usufruct and the higher the proportional charge shall be.
  • The right of emphyteusis: The minimum duration of the right of emphyteusis, formerly of a minimum of 27 years, is now reduced to 15 years (normal duration for a regular real estate lease). At the end of the contract, the ownership of the works and plantations carried out by the emphyteutic lessee passes to the emphyteutic lessor, provided that the latter duly compensates the emphyteutic lessee for the works performed. The Emphyteutic lessee has a right of retention in the meantime. Finally, it should be noted that that the right of emphyteusis is no longer required to be granted against consideration. It can be granted for free as well.

In a future newsletter, we will have the opportunity to elaborate more on acquisitive prescription within the framework of real estate property .

For more information on this subject, please feel free to contact Carole DE RUYT.

Best regards,

The Cairn Legal team