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Bogus residency declarations can cause a headache for householders in Latvia

When a person changes their place of residence, the law stipulates that they must declare their new place of residence within 30 days. In general this is a simple process and can be done at the municipality where the place of residence is located, or via the "Latvija.lv" portal with just a few clicks.

However as Latvian Television's 'Studio 4' show reveals, innocent citizens can find themselves in a mess of bureaucracy if it is the case that someone else has declared the property as their place of residence without the owner's knowledge. 

Ingrīda, a viewer of 'Studio 4', said it is only because she very scrupulously examines every bill received for communal services, that she discovered that instead of two people, three people were declared as residing in her apartment. 

"Recently, I noticed that in the bill for the waste removal service, it is written that there are three people in my apartment. I found out on "Latvija.lv" that a stranger has declared at my apartment. I immediately wrote an application to undeclare this person, because of whom I have bigger utility payments. I also recently received a real estate tax bill, where it is also written that there are three residents. I wrote again to the Housing and Environment Department of the Riga City Council, but there was no answer," Ingrīda said.

Can it really be that an apartment owner can only discover the fact that a stranger is officially 'living' in their apartment from bills?

Mārtiņš Vilemsons, the representative of the Housing and Environment Department of the Riga City Council, explained: "When the application reaches the municipality, the Housing and Environment Department's Apartment Administration, this application is handed over to a special commission that evaluates it, checks whether it is really the case, or if false information has been provided. Then the commission makes a decision, cancels the declaration and passes the information to the municipal police, which starts the administrative process, applies a penalty, starting from a warning to fine of up to 700 euros for providing false information to the state and municipal authorities."

Ingrīda stated that a response to her application submitted to the municipality on December 20 was received on January 30. The Commission has decided that a person named 'Pavlo' has provided false information, and the information about the declared place of residence in Ingrida's apartment has been cancelled. 

Even though the situation has been resolved, Ingrīda asked Studio 4: "Why do you need so many steps to cancel a stranger's declaration on your property? When he declared, I didn't even receive an SMS! How is it possible that the owner isn't notified in the course of declaring a new resident?"

Madara Puķe, Head of Public Relations of the Citizenship and Migration Affairs Administration (PMLP), stated: "Technically, when a person declares using the e-service, there is a section that says 'I confirm that all the data provided is true'. The person takes 100% responsibility, that the submitted data is true. If it is otherwise, then it is a violation of the law."

So - when declaring with the help of the extremely convenient e-service, the state assumes in good faith that the person provides true information.

In Riga in 2023, false information about a declared place of residence was provided 276 times – as far as is known. In the last five years, the highest number was in 2019, when the convenience of the e-service was misused 378 times. In general, the number in Latvia is not large – fewer than 3% of all declaration cases are bogus. 

"At the moment, an initiative has been submitted to the Saeima regarding the arrangement of this process. Next, is the alignment of both finance and information systems – both with the cadastral register and the Land Registry. Other institutions are also involved so that this can be done," said Puķe.

This initiative is the result of the activity of citizens, not civil servants. Although, according to PMLP data, the percentage of dishonest declarations is small, the initiative has been signed by 10,322 supporters. The Saeima Mandates and Ethics Submissions Committee will consider the collective submission "Declaring ownership only with the permission of the owner" on February 14. 

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