Filing islands as second residence forces ministry to consider amending law

Houses in the Kalamaja district of Tallinn Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Hundreds of people registered one of the western islands of Estonia as their second residence during the emergency situation. The accuracy of the process is not monitored by anyone, but the interior ministry is now thinking of amending the rules.

The field for an additional residence was added to the population register in 2019, because people genuinely can have several residences - for example, living in one house during summer and in another while working in the city. Under current rules, additional residences can be registered without the consent of the owner.

"As filling that field will not give the person any rights - neither to the property nor for residing there - it will not jeopardize the person whose address was added," head of the Population Operations Department at the Ministry of the Interior Enel Pungas told ERR's online news in Estonian.

"By law, we have one legal address, from which we pay taxes to the local government, participate in elections and receive services. These other addresses are informative," she said.

Correct data might prove to be very helpful for local governments. "A local government with a vacation house zone might not even know what is their summer waste management or road workload," Pungas added.

Public authorities can search for people on their second address if they cannot find them anywhere else; the Rescue Board can assess how many people might have been at a scene of an accident. This is why Pungas believes that it is worth keeping data correct.

Between May 4 and May 8, only those with an additional address registered on one of the western islands were able to travel there. Saaremaa, Hiiumaa and Muhu received new residents in a few days, but Pungas believes none of them were malevolent liars.

"In reality, I believe this option was used by people who deemed it necessary. It was an opportunity for them to prove their connection to the island. I believe people went there for their grandmothers and summer houses, they weren't tourists," she added.

Pungas noted, however, that the vigorous registration that took place in the beginning of May has made the ministry think of more careful inspection. "We probably have to amend this law so the owner could, at least in retrospect, say that the person isn't there. But we certainly don't want to make it as rigid as it is for primary residence, for which the owner must give their consent. This will make providing data cumbersome and people won't do it," she said.

The population register is managed and developed by the Ministry of the Interior as the data controller and the IT and Development Centre of the Ministry of the Interior as the data processor.


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Editor: Anders Nõmm

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