Newly introduced use of social security numbers for land register searches – Commentary

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Introduction
Goal
Key aspects
Remark

Introduction

In Switzerland, there is no central land register as it falls under the competence of the cantons to manage the land registers. In most cantons there are even several districts, each with its own land register. Likewise, there is as yet no centralized facility to search for cadastral information. This even applies to authorities that have the right to access all cadastral data.

The land registers are based on the application principle. Consequently, registrations and changes to register data are made only on the basis of applications and the register is not updated ex officio. As a result, data in the land registry of individuals and companies can sometimes be outdated.

As a result, searching the Land Registry for property owners or beneficiaries of certain rights can be time consuming and not always successful.

Goal

It is possible that a person is not exactly indicated in the land register (for example due to a different spelling or name changes). In such cases, a permanent and unique personal identifier improves registration, in particular in terms of data quality, and facilitates searches in the land register. For legal persons, on the other hand, there is already such an identifier, namely the company identification number.

The citizen service number allows the unique identification of each person, especially if data needs to be compared or exchanged between different databases or registers. Since all persons who legally live or work in Switzerland have a social security number, this number is also the ideal personal identifier for searching land registers.

However, using the Social Security numbers for purposes other than Social Security requires a legal basis at the federal level.

Key aspects

In general, access to cadastral data is regulated in Articles 970 and 970a of the Civil Code (BW)(1) and in Articles 26 to 30 of the National Ordinance on the Land Registry.(2) The law distinguishes between data accessible to the public without special requirements, from data for which a legitimate interest must be demonstrated in order to access (for more details, see “Access to land register information” and “Easier access to land register information”).

The new provisions do not change these principles. Instead, a national search for cadastral data will be introduced on 1 January 2023. The new search function allows competent authorities such as tax, debt inspection, social security and Lex Koller(3) authorities to search for properties associated with an individual based on their social security number.

To this end, the new Articles 949b to 949d of the Dutch Civil Code stipulate:

  • the land registers will systematically use the BSN to identify persons;
  • the land registers only pass on the BSN to other authorities and institutions that need this number for the fulfillment of their statutory duties and that are entitled to use this number;
  • the Federal Counsel defines the nationwide search by competent authorities for property associated with an individual based on their social security number; and
  • the cantons can appoint private service providers to:
    • provide electronic access to land registry data;
    • ensure public access to main registry data that can be accessed without proof of interest; and
    • handle electronic cadastre transactions.

In particular, the following novelties should be noted with regard to the Land Registry Regulation:

  • In the newly introduced personal registration register of the electronic land register, everyone who is entitled to a property registered in the land register receives his citizen service number.
  • The entries in the register of persons are linked to the corresponding entries in the land register.
  • The BSN is not registered in the main book, the journal or the auxiliary registers, but is kept in the personal register as a separate auxiliary register of the land register.
  • A nationwide search is available to federal, cantonal and municipal authorities who need it to carry out their legal duties (competent authorities) associated with the Land Registry to find information about the properties to which a particular person is entitled.
  • The Federal Land Registry and Bureau of Real Estate Law operates a nationwide land parcel search service (Land Parcel Search Service).
  • The Federal Land Registry and the Office of Real Estate Law grants employees of the competent authorities, upon reasoned request, the right to access the lot search service.
  • The Federal Land Registry and Real Estate Agency will revoke the entry authorization if a particular employee of a competent authority no longer meets the requirements.

Remark

The new nationwide property search based on social security numbers will facilitate the work of competent authorities (e.g. in bankruptcy and inheritance cases).

There are strict conditions regarding access authorization and data protection. The new search is only available to competent authorities, not to individuals. For private individuals, the current requirements for access to cadastral data and the associated searches continue to apply.

The BSN is not included in the main book, journal or auxiliary registers of the Land Registry, but only in a separate auxiliary register.

For more information on this subject, please contact Michael Lips or Melanie von Rickenbach of Pestalozzi Advocaten by telephone (+41 44 217 91 11), fax (+41 44 217 92 17) or e-mail ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Pestalozzi Attorneys at Law website can be accessed at www.pestalozzilaw.com.

Endnotes

(1) Civil Code, SR 210.

(2) Land Registry Ordinance, SR 211.432.1.

(3) Federal Law on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Non-Swiss Residents (Lex Koller), SR 211.412.41.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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