Historical Buildings Preservation in Israel

Israel is experiencing a renaissance in the preservation of historical buildings. As well as preserving unique architectural and cultural facets of Israel for future generations, investing in historical buildings is often a smart business move.

An historical building is one which is legally defined as such. It will usually fall into one of the following categories:

  • Architectural Styles – the building’s architecture is outstanding, or reflects a certain style
  • Leading Architect – the architect has a national or international reputation
  • Famous Connections – a person of historical interest lived there
  • Historical Connections – a well-known historical event occurred there
  • Yishuv – the building belongs to the Zionist Yishuv period

In Israel, any building constructed before 1700 is considered an antiquity and is governed by the Israeli Antiquity Law. Buildings built after 1700 may also be considered to be historical but they are governed by Israeli zoning laws rather than the Israeli Antiquity Law.

You can find historical buildings in the original agricultural settlements of Petach Tikva, Rishon Lezion, Rehovot, Zichron Yaakov, Hadera, Rosh Pina and other locations. In Tel Aviv, the Bauhaus buildings are stunning examples of an architectural style for which Tel Aviv was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. There are also, of course, many examples of historical buildings in cities such as Jerusalem, Haifa, Beer Sheva etc.

What Makes Historical Buildings Different from a Legal Perspective?

20120427_110852Dealing with the legal aspects of historical real estate is often more complicated than dealing with non-historical buildings. Firstly, these buildings are governed by a strict set of zoning laws. They are often registered in the name of the original owner, and it is necessary to correct this – which can be very complicated. The process may entail filing probate orders for the original heirs and their descendants. There may also be special taxes involved in getting a building permit, such as betterment tax. Additionally, in some situations, owners of a historical building may be entitled to compensation from the municipality.

The costs to preserve a historical building are high, since special materials and workmanship must be used. Very often it is possible to sell the building rights in the building to help finance the preservation work. This is also a complicated situation which may incur capital gains tax as well.

In any real estate project, you need a lawyer who understands real estate, real estate taxes, zoning issues, and contracts. In a project which also involves the preservation of a historical building, you need an expert who also understands the additional laws which apply, such as any international treaties dealing with heritage sites, zoning laws which pertain specifically to the preservation of historical buildings, betterment tax and compensation issues.

Nicole Levin, in addition to her law degree and extensive experience in real estate deals, taxes, inheritance, and estates, also has a specialist degree (B.A) in the Preservation of Historical Buildings and Sites from the Western Galilee Academic College in Acre. This gives her an additional perspective and allows her to understand the technical and physical issues involved in historical preservation projects – which is of significant benefit to the clients she represents.