Buying real estate in Belgium?

We've created a guide to help you avoid pitfalls, save time, and make the best long-term investment possible.

Understand the title deed when buying a property in Belgium

Last updated on 

All sources have been thoroughly verified for credibility. Furthermore, a local real estate expert has reviewed and approved the final article.

risks pitfalls buying real estate Belgium

Everything you need to know is included in our Belgium Property Pack

Exploring property investment in Belgium is intriguing. The country has charming townhouses, picturesque cottages, and modern city apartments for potential investors.

However, international buyers may find it difficult to understand the Belgian real estate market, especially when they need to confirm if the "acte notarié," which is the official title deed in Belgium, is genuine and legal.

We have actually covered this specific document (among others, like the sales contract) in our property pack for Belgium.

In this article, we will give some insight to ensure a smooth and legally compliant property transaction in Belgium.

However, please do not forget that this blog post is for informational purposes only and that we are not legal experts. It's always advisable to consult with one. They can indeed thoroughly examine your specific situation and provide you with the most appropriate and tailored advice.

What is the acte notarié in Belgium?

The "acte notarié," or notarial deed, in Belgium is a crucial document in real estate transactions.

It's the official record of a property's sale or transfer, prepared and authenticated by a notary public. This document is distinct from other property papers like the preliminary sales agreement or the title abstract.

While those documents are important in the buying process, the "acte notarié" is what legally finalizes the sale and transfers ownership.

When you buy property in Belgium, you first sign a preliminary agreement, like a "compromis de vente," which is a mutual commitment between buyer and seller. But it's the "acte notarié" that officially seals the deal.

This deed is a public document, meaning it's registered with the government and provides a definitive record of who owns the property. This registration gives it a high level of reliability and legal standing.

Now, let's talk about what rights this document confers. Holding an "acte notarié" means you're the recognized legal owner of the property.

This ownership comes with the right to use the property, benefit from it (like collecting rent if it's leased), and dispose of it (sell or transfer it). In terms of what it doesn't do: it doesn't absolve you from following local laws and regulations related to property, like zoning laws or tax obligations.

For resale, having an "acte notarié" is essential. It's your proof of ownership, making any future sale or transfer much smoother. In the case of inheritance, this deed helps in clearly defining property rights, crucial if the property is part of an estate being passed down.

For foreign investors, the "acte notarié" is just as important. It guarantees your ownership rights in Belgium, regardless of your nationality.

This can be reassuring, knowing that your investment is backed by a legally binding document recognized by the Belgian government.

However, as a foreign investor, you must be aware of any additional regulations or tax implications that apply to non-residents owning property in Belgium.

Get the full checklist for your due diligence in Belgium

Don't repeat the same mistakes others have made before you. Make sure everything is in order before signing your sales contract.

buying property foreigner Belgium

How to verify a title deed in Belgium?

The process

Verifying the authenticity of an "acte notarié" in Belgium is a critical step in ensuring that a real estate transaction is legitimate. This process involves several key players and steps.

Firstly, a notary public plays a central role in real estate transactions in Belgium. They are responsible for creating the "acte notarié" and ensuring it is accurate and legally binding. If you have doubts about a deed, the simplest and most direct approach is to contact the notary who prepared the document.

Every "acte notarié" should have the notary's name and contact details. The notary can confirm whether the deed is genuine and whether they indeed prepared and authenticated it.

If for some reason you cannot contact the notary or wish to further verify the document, you can reach out to the Belgian Federation of Notaries. This body oversees notaries in Belgium and can assist in verifying the authenticity of a deed, as well as providing information on the notary in question.

Lawyers can also be helpful in this process. A lawyer specializing in real estate law can help you understand the deed, verify its contents, and guide you through the legal landscape of property ownership in Belgium. They can also liaise with the notary or the Federation of Notaries on your behalf.

Real estate agents, while not directly involved in the legal aspects of the "acte notarié," can still offer assistance.

Experienced agents are familiar with the process and can often provide guidance or suggest where and how to verify a deed. However, remember that their expertise is more in the realm of property transactions, not the legal validation of documents.

The process of verifying the authenticity usually involves checking the details of the deed against official records. This can mean ensuring that the property description matches public records, that the seller is the legally registered owner, and that there are no undisclosed liens or encumbrances on the property.

As for red flags and avoiding scams, be wary of any deed that lacks detailed information or seems hastily put together. The document should be comprehensive, including full names, addresses, property descriptions, and the notary's official stamp and signature.

If the seller or anyone involved in the transaction is evasive about providing the deed for verification or insists on rushing the process without proper documentation, these are significant red flags.

Also, be cautious if you are asked to make payments before the "acte notarié" is verified or if you're pressured to skip legal procedures.

Legitimate transactions in Belgium follow a well-established legal process, and deviation from this process can be a sign of a scam.

What to check

In Belgium, accessing and understanding a property's history is an essential part of a real estate transaction.

To access and trace the property's history records, you typically start with the "acte notarié" or title deed, which contains information about the most recent transaction.

For a deeper history, you can visit the local land registry office, known as the "Cadastre/Kadaster" in Belgium. This office maintains comprehensive records of property transactions and ownership details.

Understanding a property's past ownerships and transactions is crucial. It allows you to confirm the legitimacy of the property's title and to identify any potential legal or financial issues that might affect your ownership.

Past transactions can also reveal patterns, like frequent changes in ownership, which might warrant further investigation.

To check for any outstanding debts or liens against the property, you should consult the same land registry office.

In Belgium, liens or debts, such as mortgages or tax liens, are registered against the property. These are important to identify because, as a new owner, you could be responsible for these debts. Inheriting such encumbrances can lead to unexpected financial liabilities.

Verifying the accuracy of the property's measurements and boundaries as stated in the title deed is another critical aspect.

Discrepancies in this area can lead to disputes with neighbors or legal challenges. A professional land surveyor can measure the property and compare their findings with the information in the deed.

If discrepancies are found, resolving them may involve legal processes to update the title deed or even renegotiate property boundaries.

Regarding zoning laws and land use restrictions, these are crucial as they dictate how you can use your property.

To understand the zoning laws and restrictions affecting your property, you should consult the local municipal or city planning office. They can provide detailed information on the current zoning regulations, any upcoming changes, and specific restrictions that apply to your property.

After our research and the feedback collected from our local real estate partners, we have written an article about the risks and pitfalls when buying a property in Belgium, you might want to check it out.

Don't sign a Belgian document you don't understand

Buying a property in Belgium? We have reviewed all the documents you need to know. Stay out of trouble - grab our comprehensive guide.

buying property foreigner Belgium

How to update the title deed after the property transaction in Belgium?

After purchasing a property in Belgium, updating the title deed, known as 'acte notarié' or 'notariële akte', is a crucial step.

This process is typically handled by a notary. Once the sale is concluded, the notary drafts the new title deed reflecting the change in ownership. This updated deed is then registered at the local Mortgage Office (Bureau de la Conservation des Hypothèques/Hypotheekbewaring).

It's important to note that this registration is a legal requirement and serves as the official record of your ownership. The notary usually takes care of all these steps, including the payment of registration fees, as part of their services in the real estate transaction.

Regarding insurance and additional protections, once the title deed is verified and the property is purchased, it's advisable to consider several types of insurance.

Firstly, a comprehensive home insurance policy is essential. This typically covers damage to the property from events like fire, flood, or theft. Liability insurance is also important, protecting you against claims if someone is injured on your property.

Additionally, if the property is part of a condominium, you should review the insurance coverage provided by the condo association to understand what is covered and what additional insurance you might need.

For foreign owners, understanding the implications of the title deed in the context of inheritance laws is crucial. Belgium has specific inheritance laws that may differ from your home country.

In Belgium, a portion of your estate is reserved for direct heirs (children, spouse), and this can affect how you plan your estate. It's important to consult with a legal expert to understand how Belgian inheritance laws apply to your property, especially if you have heirs who are not residents of Belgium.

This is crucial for estate planning and can have significant tax implications for your heirs.

Make a profitable investment in Belgium

Better information leads to better decisions. Save time and money. Download our guide.

buying property foreigner Belgium

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered financial advice. Readers are advised to consult with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions. We do not assume any liability for actions taken based on the information provided.