About a year ago I bought a family house with land through a reputable real estate agent. The ownership of the house was duly registered in the Land Registry, and during the whole registration procedure there were no signs that there might be any problems in the future. About 14 days ago, I received a letter from an insolvency administrator informing me that the former owner of the family house had filed for insolvency and that the insolvency administrator was including my family house in the estate of the debtor – the former owner of the house – because he considered the purchase contract for the house to be an invalid legal act. To make matters worse, I also received a decision from the police to seize the family home. The reason given for the seizure is that the family home is proceeds of crime. Can you please advise me on how to resolve the situation so that I do not lose the family home and my savings?
Your question concerns two completely different legal matters, but they do not preclude them from occurring simultaneously. If your property has been included in the bankruptcy estate by the bankruptcy trustee, you must file an action against the bankruptcy trustee for exclusion of the property from the bankruptcy estate in the appropriate bankruptcy court within 30 days of the bankruptcy trustee’s service.
The action for exclusion could be supported by the argument that you acted in good faith when purchasing the family home, that there was no indication that the purchase agreement might be invalid, even taking into account that all signatures on the agreement were officially notarized and that you purchased the property through a reputable real estate agency with the assistance of a lawyer. It could also be established that you paid the purchase price properly, on time and according to the terms of the purchase or escrow agreement. It should also be remembered that during the escrow process, the debtor did not raise any objections regarding the invalidity of the purchase agreement or misrepresentations made when entering into the purchase agreement, nor did he challenge the proposal to escrow the title to the family home. If you had supported these allegations with adequate evidence, and if the bankruptcy trustee had not sufficiently demonstrated that you had deceived the former owner-debtor, the court would have ruled that the property should be excluded from the debtor’s estate, so that the family home would remain in your ownership.
If the former owner of the family home claimed that the purchase agreement was invalid and that the property in question was not subject to bankruptcy proceedings, as in your case, then he would be forced to file suit to determine whether or not a legal relationship existed. In simple terms, this would mean that a lawsuit would be filed to determine whether or not a legal relationship was created between you and the former owner of the family home as a result of the purchase agreement. Your argument in this proceeding would be essentially the same as that set forth in the paragraph above. In addition, the former owner of the family home should have filed an application for a notice of dispute with the relevant land registry office to point out irregularities in the land registry with respect to your family home. If the former owner of the family home had applied to the competent land registry office for the entry of a notice of contestation, he would have had to prove at the time of the application that he was also seeking recognition of his ownership by way of a lawsuit.
The second part of your question concerns the situation in which your family home was seized by the police. This indicates a situation in which a crime may have been committed in connection with the conclusion of the purchase agreement with the former owner. There is a legal remedy against the police seizure of the family home, namely an appeal. It should be noted that the time limit for filing a complaint is only 3 days. Again, the appeal could be based on the fact that you purchased the property in good faith.
From the context of your entire question, it appears that the family home in this case was more likely used to commit a crime, but that it certainly was not the proceeds of a crime. The proceeds would primarily be the purchase price that was unlawfully paid to someone without your knowledge or involvement.
In this case, even if the family home is seized by the police, you do not have to worry about losing the family home because you are the victim in this case.
The seizure of the family home is only a precautionary measure to prevent the property from being out of the reach of law enforcement. Therefore, the decision of seizure itself in no way deprives you of your property rights to the home.
To summarize what I have written above, you have a long road ahead of you. However, I think it is unlikely that you will lose the family home.