Do you know the volume of land area in Japan, for which the owners are unknown?
According to a survey by the Unknown Owners Land Problem Research Institute, which is organized by the Japan Land Planning Association and so on, it is estimated that there were approximately 4.1 million hectares in 2016.
You may not be able to imagine how large 4.1 million hectares is. In fact, it is larger than Kyushu Island (3.6 million hectares), which is the third-largest island of Japan and the most southwesterly of the four main islands.
Then, it seems that one of the main causes of unknown land ownership is the replacement by inheritance, so in the future, there will be a large inheritance period, in which the baby boomers will die in large numbers, and this trend will lead to about 7.2 million hectares in 2020. As the area of Hokkaido is 8.3million hectares, this means that the owners of a land area equivalent to the area of Hokkaido will not be known.
There will be a problem if this occurs.
Why does land with unknown ownership occur?
It is because the ownership of land also involves obligations, such as property tax payment and land management. In other words, the more land with unknown owners, the less tax revenue there will be, and then even more land will lack proper management and will degrade.
Of course, the government has addressed this problem. It has already enacted the Special Measures Act for Facilitating the Use of Lands with Unknown Owners at the regular parliament last year (2018). This makes it possible for companies and municipalities to use existing land with unknown ownership for public purposes, such as parks and parking lots.
However, since this is insufficient, in the current parliament, the following bill is being discussed. That is, the registrar investigates land for which the owner's name and address are not properly registered and correctly rewrites the owner on the register. If they still do not know the owner, the court will choose a manager by petition of the municipality or company that wants to use the land, and the manager will be able to sell the land.
When it comes to the fact that there are lands with unknown owners that amount to more than the area of Kyushu in the whole country, there may be lands that many people want, so it is possible that such a law can lead to activity for the real estate business.
In addition, as mentioned above, the occurrence of unknown land ownership is one of the reasons that the registration of heirs is not made at the time of inheritance, so the government is currently making progress in discussions towards the obligatory registration of inheritance. In addition, because the existence of the obligation (property asset tax payment and land management duty) associated with land ownership is also a reason for the occurrence of unknown land ownership, discussions as to whether the abandonment of land ownership rights is permitted are also underway. Abandoned land will be once assigned to the recipient organization and will create a mechanism for matching unused land with people who want to use it. Regarding the obligatory registration of succession and the abandonment of land ownership, there is an aim to propose a bill to the extraordinary parliament in 2020.
One of my specialties is real estate law.
This problem (unknown ownership of land) is very interesting to me and I will continue to monitor this situation from now on.