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Government Reconsiders Land Ownership Laws

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Government Reconsiders Land Ownership Laws

Icelandic Farm

Photo: Golli.

Nearly one third of all land in Iceland is owned by businesses, not individuals, RÚV reports. Land purchase laws have become a subject of public debate recently, particularly with respect to non-residents buying land in the country.

A government task force is in the process of re-examining Iceland’s land purchase laws. Minister of Transport and Local Government Sigurður Ingi Jóhannson says the group hopes to introduce new legislation on the matter early this autumn. He believes tighter regulations on land ownership could apply to both Icelanders and foreign nationals.

“Many of us are of the opinion that areas outside urban areas, land and larger territories, should be in the ownership of Icelanders or those who live on the land here in the country and work on it,” Sigurður Ingi stated. “So the people there live in the community, create jobs and are not hoarding land which could later lead to there being deserted land or even deserted valleys.”

According to law, residents outside the European Economic Area (EEA) cannot purchase land in Iceland without a legal exemption granted by the Minister of Justice. However, if the land is purchased by businesses, it can be near impossible to determine who the true owners are.

Sigurður Ingi says it is difficult to prevent businesses from buying land in Iceland by way of other businesses. “Therefore I think that requirements for usage rights, exploitation rights, and requirements for some kind of usage of the land are better suited to deal with this factor than legislation alone. We’ve simply seen it, it’s difficult to have oversight in this.”

In 2013, parliament passed legislation barring foreign nationals from owning property in Iceland without a legal domicile or business operations in the country. The legislation was later rescinded, as it was believed to be a violation of EEA regulations. Minister of Justice Sigríður Andersen says the ministry is working to determine which conditions should apply to foreigners who wish to purchase land in Iceland. Sigríður has expressed her belief it would not be right to ban foreign nationals from purchasing land altogether.

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