Restitution to former owners (or their legal successors) of property taken over by the state through nationalisation or expropriation, or the award of compensation for lost property, takes place through proceedings before administrative authorities, administrative courts and civil courts, and through settlements between the claimants and the State Treasury or local governments. In the case of religious entities, proceedings are held before church and state property commissions and in court.
Those entitled to reclaim property in kind (or obtain compensation) are the former owners or their legal successors, including successors through inheritance and in certain cases persons who acquired rights or claims to property from former owners through civil transactions.
In order to reclaim property, a violation of the law by public administrative authorities at the stage when the property was taken over must, in principle, be demonstrated. In certain cases, for example related to real estate in Warsaw, the ability to reclaim property in kind is also conditioned on historical performance of certain acts by the former owners. Restitution in kind is not possible when there have been intervening acts with irreversible legal consequences.
Actions that may be taken by administrative authorities in this area include:
- Setting aside or invalidation of judgments or administrative decisions that resulted in the deprivation of ownership, communalisation or expropriation by public entities
- Issuance of decisions establishing the right of perpetual usufruct of land for the former owners
- Issuance of decisions declaring that real estate was not subject to nationalisation under agricultural reforms
- Issuance of decisions awarding compensation for lost property.
Administrative courts exercise review over decisions and other acts of administrative authorities.
The common courts hear cases in this area concerning:
- Compensation for nationalised property that cannot be returned in kind
- Compensation for non-contractual use of real estate
- Reconciliation of the land and mortgage register with the actual legal status
- Vesting of title by prescription
- Delivery of possession of real estate
- Declaration of the invalidity of transactions affecting real estate.
Cases before church/state property commissions dealing with the restitution of property to religious organisations are handled in a different manner. Such cases are also heard by the state courts if the commission fails to reach a decision on property claims by religious organisations.
Reprivatisation claims and other claims of former owners, including comprehensive regulation of the legal status of property, are governed by the decrees or other laws under which nationalisation, expropriation or communalisation of property took place, as well as the Administrative Procedure Code, the Real Estate Management Act, the Land and Mortgage Register Act, the Civil Code, and the Act on the Relations of the State with Specific Churches and Other Religious Organisations.