If you read internet forums or you are subscribed to internet news bulletins related to Spain, you would have probably come across many angry Britons who have been suddenly fined for renting their apartments in the Canary Islands without the necessary permissions. In some cases, the fines are imposed because the property owner has let the property without a licence but in other cases the fines are imposed because the property has not been signed up with a management company.
Tourist Law 1995 of the Canary Islands states that all tourist accommodations in a specific development should be managed by one single company. This means that all the owners in a development who are planning to let their properties for short periods of time must agree to instruct the same management agent and inform the local authorities appropriately. The owners who forget to do the above will be deprived of the right to let their properties and will be fined with relevant amounts.
The authorities in the Canary Islands have appointed several inspectors who will be checking developments, asking the agents for the required documents, looking at rental websites and sometimes even impersonating a potential tenant in order to catch illegal rentals.
The main problem is that the amount of the fines can be disproportionate to the profit obtained. That is why if someone has been contacted and informed of a potential fine, it is worth to seek legal advice and see if it is possible to challenge the fine. In those cases where the challenge is not possible, a reduction in the fine is always a possibility and negotiations with the Authorities can be advisable.
Photograph from www.dreamstime.com
This week I wrote a post explaining the counties that belong to the jurisdiction of the Spanish Consulate in Edinburgh. Somehow, the blog does not show the entire list so I now take the opportunity to provide the list in a more direct format.
To summarise what I was saying in my previous post, the Spanish Consulate in Manchester is no longer operative. If you live in one of the areas below you will now depend on the Consulate in Edinburgh, specially if you are Spanish or require something from the Spanish Consulate.
Cheshire, Cleveland, Cumbria, Durham, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, North Yorkshire, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, West Yorkshire and Northern Ireland.
I hope this time it can bee seen properly on the blog! If not, drop me an email and I will be happy to provide further information.
Some time ago I informed about the closing of the Spanish Consulate in Manchester. I consider that this kind of news is always sad for both the Spaniards living in this country and the British and other nationals living in the North of England. We should not forget that Manchester is probably the second biggest city in the UK, and a priority destination for lots of youngster willing to learn English.
Independently of future appointments as there are some talks of appointing an Honorary Consul in the North of England, I want to take the opportunity to remind you of the new Spanish consular districts in the UK. Please note that you will have to contact the Consulate of London or Edinburgh depending on where you live:
Consulado General de España en Edimburgo
63 North Castle Street
TEL: (0131) 220 1843
Consulado General de España en Londres
20 Draycott Place
TEL: (0207) 589 89 89
East Riding –ofYorkshire
Isle of Man
Fortunately the Consulate in Manchester is not completely disarmed. There is a Section of Labour and Immigration which is now working from a new address:
SUITE GD, ARMSTRONG HOUSE
Phone (0161) 237 3736
By the way, if you are Spanish and looking to come to live to the UK, they have a lot of information about interesting topics. You can request freely their periodical news at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photograph of a building in Manchester from www.dreamstime.com
This week a Spanish national from Castilla but living in England for many years came to see me for advice on wills. In fact I was the second solicitor to be consulted. The other one recommended him, without taking into account his national law, to grant an English will and leave everything to the surviving spouse. There is an attractive reason to do so and this is making use of the inheritance tax exemption between spouses. The idea may seem clever if we obviate a detail: my fellow countryman is the proud father of two children. Given the fact that under Spanish law his nationality determines the law governing his estate, the children are entitled to get what is called a forced share on the estate (legítima) which in this case equates to 2/3 of the estate.
English law gives to the testator freedom to dispose of his assets on his death. Spanish law, on the contrary, places some restrictions on the testator and therefore he is not free to dispose entirely of his estate and he has to ensure that certain beneficiaries such as children, spouses and, in certain cases, even parents receive their forced shares. The forced share is not a typical English legal concept. That is the reason why this concept may seem odd for a solicitor who is used to prepare English Wills for English clients. However, the origins of the forced shares are old. It is a concept developed in Roman law, but if we consider it from a sociological point of view it is clear that the forced share appeared in earlier societies to protect family welfare after the death of a relative.
A forced share is the right of the next of kin to receive freely a share of the deceased’s estate (unless they have been given this share by a previous gift). Although it may seem strange for an English person, this concept is very important in inheritance issues, not only inSpainbut in other countries.
Most of the legal systems based on Roman law have preserved this succession system. We can mention France, Germany or the countries which continued with Spanish law in South America. The forced share or “legítima” is not a controversial topic in Spain, but there are obviously different opinions about it. On one hand it has a good reason to exist: protecting the future of the descendants and the spouse. If we accept that the Laws should always safeguard the interests of the weakest parties, then forced heir-ship is a good idea that helps to avoid unfair situations. On the other hand it is clear that the forced shares restrict freedom to dispose and in the event of this Spanish person, in particular, it may affect his plans to protect his children from potential inheritance taxes.
Returning to the main subject of this article, in the end I informed the Spanish national that he had restrictions to his capacity to make a free will and recommended him to comply with Spanish law and therefore provide for the children’s rights in the will. If not, on his death his children could challenge the will and demand the mother and surviving spouse, the payment of their rights under Spanish law. This, which may be difficult to believe if you have a happy family, does happen in real life and as lawyers our obligation is to inform the client appropriately and try to avoid potential problems. The client’s will might not be as tax efficient as he wanted but at least is a legal will that complies with his national law. As a colleague of mine said the other day: you can’t always win!
Photograph by www.dreamstime.com
Some months ago, the Socialist Prime Minister, Mr Rodriguez-Zapatero (or Zapatero as he is commonly known in Spain) decided to call elections for the 20th November. Since then, both main candidates, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba for the Socialist Party and Mariano Rajoy for the Popular Party struggled to convince the Spanish voters that their proposals were the right ones for the economic crisis. The truth is that the fight has been lopsided since day 1 and the result was already decided moths ago. The consequences of the economic crisis, specially the dreadful unemployment figures, made Rubalcaba’s triumph almost impossible. In the end, Rajoy obtained absolute majority of votes and he has now “carte blanche” to implement his proposals.
The problem is that Spain needs more than proposals. The economic situation has resulted in social unrest. The threat of a national bankruptcy frightens the Spaniards. A bail-out will not only mean new public cuts but also real problems for the Euro-zone’s stability.
The new government has at least three economic challenges:
-There are approx 5 millions of unemployed in Spain. The unemployment rate in youngsters is the highest in the developed world.
-Financial problems are huge: Public debt is high, international investors increase the pressure over markets, the banking sector is reluctant to grant loans, and the stock exchange fluctuates between quietness and depression.
– Structural reforms are needed. To improve the competitiveness of Spanish companies, fight against tax evasion, avoid convoluted bureaucracy and make the labour market more dynamic.
The challenge is enormous. I would not want to be in Mr Rajoy’s shoes right now but part of the future of Spain relies on him and his party. Will he able to succeed where others have failed? Time will tell.
This article has been written in colaboration with Manuel Baena Pedrosa, Spanish lawyer