Ericeira residents fight old law


This is a bit farther north than we usually talk about but it can become relevant for the Algarve as well.

A group of property owners from Ericeira – north of Lisbon – is contesting an ancient law which concerns waterfront properties being transferred to the Portuguese State unless one can prove in court that the land has been in private hands for at least 150 years.

Now if you think a little back, we talked about a controversial ruling which obliges owners of property in waterfront locations – such as those along the entire Algarve coastline – considered by the State as ‘hydric land’ in the public domain, to prove the public ownership of said land for at least a century-and-a-half in court before January 1, 2014, or it would revert to the ownership of the state.

The properties affected by this ancient law are those located on land within fifty metres from the sea or clifftop edge and within thirty metres in the case of a riverbank.

In the case of Ericeira, it is a coastal town – like so many in Portugal – with a history that goes back many hundreds of years and clifftops lined with very old properties, but not that many legal documents proving the ownership for such a long period of time.

The Ericeira group was formed back in 2005 – when this old law was reviewed – and comprised of twenty property owners.  The group is now made up of more than 80 owners who with the assistance of lawyers and historians, meet regularly to discuss their actions against this preposterous measure.

Earlier this year the group sent a formal letter to the Ministry of the Environment, which apparently has dismissed the subject by passing it onto the Secretary of State for the Environment and no satisfactory reply to the letter was ever received.

Several political groups have also contested the complexity of the process for property owners to legalize their situation, but haven’t really said anything about completely abolishing this old law.