Business Scene

In the past, violations of property rights usually applied to the poor, but now the Tel Aviv municipality is reaching out in all directions.

Shimon Shoval88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Shimon Shoval88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
THE TEL Aviv Municipality is clamping down on people who have extended their homes to the degree that the overall property includes public land. Sometimes it's not exactly a matter of knowingly usurping land that has been designated for public use. Occasionally it's failure to read the small print on the title deed to a property. Property ownership filed in the tabu details the land measurements of the property. Very often when one has enough money to buy a large estate, one checks that change of hands of the title deed has been officially recorded, but one does not always peruse what is actually written in the deed. That may have been the case when Ofra Strauss, who chairs the Strauss-Elite Group, and her husband, Eddie Kaisman, purchased their home in the upscale neighborhood of Tsahala in north Tel Aviv. But whether they are at fault or whether it was the previous owner who trespassed on municipal land and took up squatter's rights is immaterial. What counts is that the Tel Aviv Municipality has decided to put a stop to such encroachments and has filed suit against the couple in the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court. The story was taken up by most of the Hebrew dailies on Monday, and although there were some discrepancies, the gist is that the municipality has issued several notices in recent years telling the current owners that their Jacuzzi and their manicured lawn and bird cages are on land that doesn't belong to them. The notices, according to the municipality, have been ignored. By going to court, the municipality is treating the couple with kid gloves. In some other cases, it has simply torn down the illegal structures and reclaimed its property. In the past, violations of property rights usually applied to the low socioeconomic sector of the population, and structures were often pulled down by municipal workers or contractors before construction was completed. But now the municipality is reaching out in all directions and going after all violators in the Tel Aviv area. Reportedly, there are 19 violations of this kind in the more affluent sections of the city. Over the last weekend, a news item on Channel 1 showed municipal works destroying a private garden that had been planted on what used to be a laneway between two properties. Under the supervision of the manager of the department dealing with illegal building and the usurping of public property, workers uprooted trees and turned up the soil until the strip of land bore no resemblance to its previous incarnation. When interviewed by a television reporter, the manager said the municipality would act wherever there were infractions, regardless of the people involved.