Spanish mortgages – Latest news.

 

Following our previous article about mortgages in Spain.

The CJEU resolution (21th of December 2016) allows consumers to claim their money back retrospectively from Spanish Banks

 

As we explained in our previous article, The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) was recently asked to decide about an important case for Spanish consumers as well as for Spanish Banks. The final decision has now been issued and this is good news for those individuals who got a Spanish mortgage but not for the banks.

Some of you will recall that some Spanish mortgages signed in the last 15 years contained a clause that Spanish Courts recently declared null and void because of the “lack of transparency” and “the failure to inform customers adequately” when they signed the mortgage deed. These clauses are known as a “cláusula suelo” which means that they are subject to a minimum monthly payment even if the interest rate, which usually has a variable rate linked to the Euribor, is negative.

If you bought a Property in Spain during the property bubble (2000 to 2008) you were probably paying the appropriate interest. However, the interest rates were quite low after the recession and those who had a “clausula suelo” on their mortgages have been paying an unfair and excessive interest on their mortgages which they can probably claim back.

The consumer’s action group (Adicae) started in 2013, on behalf of 15.000 mortgage holders, a claim against banks claiming for the nullity of the “cláusulas suelo”, after these had been declared “abusives” by the Spanish Supreme Court but with a retrospectivity to May 2013. This was clearly unfair. If a clause in a mortgage was considered abusive then the consumer’s right to claim should not be capped to May 2013. It should be retrospective to the date in which the mortgage deed was signed.

The said action group went to Luxembourg asking for the backdating to the date that the mortgage was signed and the CJEU has today decided that Spanish Banks have the obligation to refund unlawful interest from the very beginning: backdated to the date the mortgage was signed (instead of May 2013).

This means that Spanish banks have to pay consumers around €4.000.000. Goldman Sachs says that BBVA will be the Spanish Bank with a higher debt in front of consumers with €1.815.000.000; CaixaBank (La Caixa) with €750.000.000; following them: Banco Popular and Bankia with €160.000.000. These are the main banks but there are around 40 more banks involved.

Obviously, there are some exceptions depending on the mortgage holder’s profiles or depending on the specific circumstances of each case, but what is clear is that if you or your clients signed a mortgage in Spain during the property bubble years you or them could have the right to claim some money back.

In the following months Spanish Banks will probably try to sign transactional agreements with consumers. We strongly recommend to contact a Spanish Lawyer for advice to 1) analyse your mortgage in detail and inform you if contains a “cláusula suelo” and 2) see if you have the right to ask for a refund when that Decision takes place and last but not least 3) to deal with your Bank to ask for the refund or to negotiate with it.

 

 

Claudia Font & Antonio Guillen

Spanish lawyers at gunnercookellp

1 Cornhill London EC3V 3ND 53 King Street Manchester M2 4LQ

 

Spanish Powers of Attorney signed in the UK

image-for-poaA new Spanish case Decision by the Director General of Notaries and Registrars in Spain (DGRN) has been issued on the 14th of September 2016 affecting Spanish Powers of Attorney signed abroad and therefore also those signed in the United Kingdom.

The said decision of the DGNR rejected the registration in Spain of a purchase transaction where a Spanish Power of Attorney signed before an English Notary Public had been granted. The reason for rejecting the registration of the document was that the Land Registrar considered the powers and faculties of the English Notary Public who notarised the Power of Attorney (POA) not sufficiently proved.

Under the aforementioned Decision, a foreign POA should have the same structure than the Spanish public documents. This means that the document should be signed by an authorized person with capacity to give faith and certify the identity of the donor/grantor and his/her capacity.

 

This Decision stated that the foreign POA should also mention that it will be legalized according to the relevant International rules. In the case of a POA signed in the UK, this means the legalisation of the document with the apostille of the Hague Convention.

 

The key point is to ensure on the document that the UK Notary public is giving sufficient warranties to the relevant Spanish authorities as to the capacity of the donor/grantor. From now on, a Spanish POA where the UK Notary Public is restricted to certifying the identity of a person will not be sufficient. A Judgment on capacity will also be required.

 

We are of the opinion, that the said decision cannot be extrapolated to all cases. The power of attorney that created this “storm” of doubts was a power of attorney solely drafted in Spanish and the Notary Public in question limited his involvement to adding a certificate to the power of attorney which lacked any mention to capacity. We therefore think, and hope, that Spanish Notaries and Land Registrars will reconsider their position with regards to the powers of attorney executed in the UK and will soon start to recognise these again. However, there could be the odd exception where a Spanish Notary or Land Registrar will turn down a perfectly valid power of attorney executed in the UK. To avoid these kind of situations, some carefully attention needs to be put into the drafting of the power of attorney to ensure that the document has a higher chance of being accepted in Spain.

Do not hesitate to contact gunnercooke’s Spanish desk if you require further information or help with the signing and execution of a Spanish Power of Attorney in the UK.

A quick guide on buying property in Spain for UK solicitors

Beach huts

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a client looking to buy property in Spain?

How can you help him/her from the UK?

 It is quite likely that you will have one or two clients looking for a property in Spain. The uncertainty of Brexit and the temporary weakness of the Sterling pound has not stop British buyers from their dream of buying a home in Sunny Spain. It is true that they are not buying as much as they did before the recession but they are still buying second homes and looking for a place to retire or a place to spend family holidays.

Very often, clients will contact their trusted advisors to see if they can give them some guidance or recommend a lawyer able to deal with the purchase of the property in Spain. Obviously, you cannot be expected to be versed on Spanish law and the normal thing is to recommend the client to look for a Spanish lawyer or to recommend one, if you have come across a firm in the past and you were happy with the service provided. Having said that, knowledge is never a burden and therefore see below a few tips on what should and what should not be done when buying property in Spain which will prove of help if you are approached by one of your clients asking for advice:

1) Help your client to make an accurate budget.

Apart from the price of the property your client should consider other costs involved in the transaction:

– Taxes, Notary and Land Registry: Approximately 10%-12%.

– Spanish Lawyer fees*

– Surveyor**

* althoughnot mandatory (because the Spanish Notary usually carries out the main checks on the title and charges), we would always recommend instructing a Spanish lawyer who can collaborate with you when your client is buying in Spain. He will carry on a full due diligence on the property and draft the necessary contract. The Notary Public will not do the above.

** we would recommend to have one when your client is buying a resale property in order to be 100% sure about what yourclient is going to buy.

2) Inform your client that he/she should save a 30%-40% deposit plus 10%-12% for the Notary, taxes and Land Registry fees.

Nowadays, most of Spanish banks are not offering mortgages which exceed 70% of the appraised value of the property. Your client will need to ensure that he/she has enough deposit to complete on the purchase, usually around 30%-40%.

3) Your client should have a clear idea of what he is planning to buy before committing to a purchase

Spain has different regions with big differences between them in terms of weather, lifestyle, tourism, etc and most importantly, in terms of price. We would recommend your clients to visit the place in winter so they can get an idea of the way of life outside the tourist season.

Once they decide where they want to buy, the second step is to consider the different types of properties they can buy, i.e. brand new, old property, off-plan property, urban or rustic land, and obtain legal advice to ensure they are fully advised on all aspects of being the ownerof a property in Spain.

4) Encourage your client to check different options of mortgages.

Make sure your client fully understands the conditions of the mortgage offer. We would recommend to have the draft mortgage deed reviewed by a Spanish lawyer in order to ensure that it does not contain abusive clauses. In our recent article about Spanish mortgages we talked about some abusive clauses that some Spanish lenders have been including in their mortgages in recent years and that should be avoided when getting a Spanish mortgage.

Look for the mortgage which is most appropriate for your client´s income and financials. There is a range of mortgages on offer and yourclient should pay special attention to the interest rate, repayment period, fees for setting up the mortgage as well as early repayment and cancellation fees.

 5) Advise your client to reserve the property and sign a purchase agreement or “contrato de arras”.

If yourclient finally finds “the” property, he/she will have to reserve it while you and your Spanish lawyer will be collaborating and dealing with all the checks that the transaction requires to ensure that they are buying safely. Your client will need to pay a reservation fee of around 3000 Euro which will take the property out of the market. Then, once all the checks have been done, and the documentation has been reviewed, he/she will be asked to pay a deposit of around 10% with the signing of the purchase agreement (contrato de arras) and the rest will be due on completion.

Signing an “arras” contract means that both parties have the right to withdraw:

If your client decides not to proceed with the transaction he/she will lose the deposit, but if it is the seller who withdraws, or if the property has been misrepresented, yourclient will be entitled to claim double of the deposit: his 10% plus another 10% compensation.

6) Consider engaging a surveyor.

Your client may consider that the property needs to be surveyed by a professional with appropriate experience and qualifications. That is very sensible thing to do, but your client will find that some Spanish estate agents will discourage this. If that is the case, the client needs to follow his/her own instincts and still instruct his/her own surveyor.

7) Check the annual expenses of owning a property in Spain.

Be certain of the likely annual expenses your client will incur, including service charges, property tax (IBI), non-residents income tax, wealth tax if applicable, electricity, water, gas, etc.

8) Instruct an independent Spanish lawyer to collaborate with you.

All of the above-mentioned advice can became a terrible bureaucratic fight if yourclient does not engage the expertise and help of an independent Spanish lawyer.

A Spanish lawyer will guide you or your client through the entire process, avoiding extra costs and, what is more important, ensuring that the property your client is going to buy has all it needs to be transferred into his/her name: no charges, no development plans affecting it, etc.

You can instruct a Spanish Lawyer based in Spain or in the UK. Please note that there are several UK law firms with an in house Spanish lawyer able to provide legal advice without your client having to go to Spain.

 9) Warn your client not to declare a lower value than the actual purchase price.

In the past it was quite common to declare a low value for the property in order to minimize the transfer tax payable by the buyer and the CGT payable by the seller. Nowadays, the Spanish treasury will prosecute anyone who declares a price lower than the one effectively paid. The wrongdoer will be fined and additional interest will be applied. On the other hand, when your client decides to sell the property, he/she will be liable to pay Spanish capital gains tax on any profit made and he/she will be liable for CGT on a much larger (but not real) profit.

 10) Recommend your client to make a Spanish Will.

We would recommend your clients to sign a Spanish Will when acquiring a property in Spain. This in order to avoid potential problems in the future for their relatives and beneficiaries. It is not compulsory but in our own experience, really advisable.

Claudia Font & Antonio Guillen

Spanish Desk

Gunnercooke LLP

www.gunnercooke.com

 

London   Manchester

Do´s and don´t when buying property in Spain

dos-and-donts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do’s & don’ts when buying in Spain.

DO’S.

  • Make your budget.

Apart from the price of the property you should consider other costs related to the transaction such as follows:

  • Taxes, Notary and Land Registry: You should consider 10%-12%.
  • Spanish Lawyer fees*
  • Surveyor** although it is not mandatory to ask for a survey, we would recommend to have one in order to be 100% sure about what you are buying.
  • Real Estate Agency fees: if you are using a real estate agency for the search they will charge a percentage of the price, depending on the region although the norm is that this is paid by the seller.
  • * although it is not mandatory to instruct a lawyer when buying in Spain, because the Notary carry out the main checks (charges etc) we strongly recommend you to instruct one to ensure that your interests and investment are properly protected.
  • Ensure you have 30% for the mortgage deposit plus 10% for the Notary, taxes and Land Registry fees.

Nowadays, most of the banks are not offering mortgages which exceed 70% of the price, so you will need to ensure you are able to pay a deposit of 30%, as well as paying the costs.

  • Decide what and where you want to buy.

Spain has different regions with big differences between them in terms of weather, lifestyle, tourism, etc and most importantly, in terms of price. We would recommend that you visit in winter so that you can get an idea of the way of life outside tourist season.

Once you decide where you are going to buy, you should consider the different types of properties you can buy, i.e. brand new, old property, off-plan property, urban or rustic land, and obtain legal advice to ensure you are fully advised on all aspects of being a new owner.

  • Check different options of mortgages.

Make sure you fully understand the mortgage agreement you are going to sign. We would recommend to ask for the mortgage deed to be reviewed by a lawyer in order to ensure it does not contains abusive clauses.

Look for the mortgage which is most appropriate for your capabilities and needs. There are a range of mortgages on offer and you should pay special attention to the interest rate and repayment period, fees for setting up the mortgage as well as early repayment and cancellation fees.

  • Reserve the property and sign a “contrato de arras”.

If you find “the” property, you will have to reserve it while your lawyers are dealing with all the checks that the transaction needs to ensure that you are buying safely. You will need to pay a reservation fee of around 3000 Euro which will take the property out of the market. Then, once your lawyer is happy with the legal documentation, you will be asked to pay a deposit of around 10% with the signing of the purchase agreement (contrato de arras) and the rest will be due on completion.

Signing an “arras” contract means that both parties have the right to withdraw:

If you decide not to proceed with the transaction you will lose the deposit, but if it is the seller who withdraws, or if the property has been misrepresented, you will be entitled to claim for double of the deposit.

  • Consider engaging a surveyor.

You may consider that the property needs to be surveyed by a professional with appropriate experience and qualifications. That is very sensible, but you will find that some Spanish estate agents will discourage this.

  • Find out about the annual expenses of owning a property in Spain.

Be certain of the likely annual expenses you will incur, including service charges, property tax (IBI), non-residents income tax, wealth tax if applicable, electricity, water, gas, etc.

  • Hire a Spanish lawyer.

All of the above-mentioned advice can became a terrible bureaucratic fight if you do not engage the expertise and help of an independent Spanish lawyer.

A Spanish lawyer will guide you through the entire process, avoiding extra costs and which is more important, ensuring that the property you are going to buy, has all it needs to be transferred (no charges), no development plans affecting it, etc.

You can use a Spanish Lawyer based in Spain or in the UK. Please note that there are several UK law firms with an in house Spanish lawyer able to provide legal advice without you having to go to Spain.

  • Make a Spanish Will.

We would recommend to sign a Spanish Will when acquiring a property in Spain.

DON’TS.

  • Do not be forced by the bank to get their insurance or other bank products.
  • Do not sign any document if you do not understand them.
  • Do not pay more than what was agreed.
  • Do not sign any document without a Spanish lawyer.
  • Do not buy a property without taking legal advice.
  • Do not pay large amounts of money to developers who do not offer you the security of a Bank Guarantee for these payments.
  • Do not be tempted to declare a lower property value than the actual purchase price.

In the past it was quite common to declare a low value for the property in order to minimize the transfer tax. Nowadays, the Spanish treasury will prosecute anyone who declares a lower price. The wrongdoer will be punished and additional interest will be applied. On the other hand, when you decide to sell this property, you will be liable for Spanish capital gains tax on any profit made and, you will be liable for tax on a much larger profit when you sell later. The safest way is to ask at the payment office of the nearest tax agency and they will give you the exact value of a particular property.

By Claudia Font & Antonio Guillen

People walk over Westminster Bridge wrapped in Union flags, towards the Queen Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) and The Houses of Parliament in central London on June 26, 2016. Britain's opposition Labour party plunged into turmoil Sunday and the prospect of Scottish independence drew closer, ahead of a showdown with EU leaders over the country's seismic vote to leave the bloc. Two days after Prime Minister David Cameron resigned over his failure to keep Britain in the European Union, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn faced a revolt by his lawmakers who called for him, too, to quit. / AFP / Odd ANDERSEN (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

BREXIT AND SPAIN: TWO MONTHS LATER

WHAT WOULD AN EVENTUAL BREXIT MEAN FOR THOSE BRITISH THAT WANT TO BUY PROPERTY IN SPAIN?

How would it affect British people who own properties in Spain? And those who are in the process of buying them?

It is too early to know what is going to happen but the more immediate effect is the depreciation of the sterling pound. If you already own property in Spain then no need to panic and as the old saying states: Keep calm and carry on!

If you are planning to buy a property in Spain or have fallen in love with a specific villa and do not want to wait until there is more certainty about the future of the UK in the European Union, you can compensate the depreciation of the sterling pound with some measures. Below you will see some examples:

  1. You could offer to pay the purchase price in Sterling pound. This may prove interesting for the seller, especially if it is a British seller (something not that unusual these days). By doing this you will not be exposed to the depreciation of the pound and you will not pay a higher price for the property in Spain.
  2. If the above is not possible, you should then use a foreign currency broker who will be able to buy the Euro for a more favourable rate than the one offered by your High Street bank. Unless you are a High Net Worth Individual who has the privilege of having a bank account with a private bank, in which case you may get a similar rate to the one offered by a Foreign Currency broker.
  3. Finally, the economy in Spain and in the UK are not that stable. Use this point to negotiate a reduction in the price. In spite of an increase in property demand in certain areas of Spain, the property market is still far from recovered and the current economic and political uncertainty could help to get a substantial reduction in the price that could compensate the money that you may lose with the depreciation of the sterling pound.

These are just a few recommendations. Obviously, don´t forget to instruct an independent lawyer for your purchase. Whether is Antonio Guillen and Claudia Font at Gunnercooke LLP (or another lawyer) do not make the mistake of using a lawyer recommended by an estate agent or the seller because that could lead to a conflict of interest and eventually to a problem.

 

 

Holiday apartments in Spain. Do I need a licence?

Sombrilla

 

 

 

 

A few days ago I wrote a post in connection to the property market in Barcelona and the increase of holiday apartments in the city.  The Catalan Government has recently regulated the holiday rentals market and now allows holiday rentals as long as the owners comply with certain obligations. Unfortunately, the situation is different in other touristic places such as the Balearic Islands or the Canary Islands where there are several restrictions to holiday rentals. Take the case of Mallorca, for example. In Mallorca it is only possible to let out for short periods of time dettach and semidettached houses. This leaves apartments and terrace houses outside of the regulation and therefore unable to be let out on a short term basis. There are some exceptions with some apartments but these usually involve the whole building counting with a touristic licence.

When it comes to deattached and semidettached houses in Mallorca, these can be let out for holidays as long as a touristic licence has been obtained and the owner has complied with the following requirements:

– File the necessary declaration of commencement of activity (DRIAT)

– The property is let out for short periods of time that can never exceed the period of 2 months

– The property is let out in its entirety and not on a “per room” basis

– Cleaning and maintenance services are provided

Having said that, what happens if the owner of an apartment in Mallorca or Menorca wants to let it out for short periods of time to different occupiers and he does not have a licence? Well, in that case it would be better to let it on a long term basis. The income might be lower but at least there will be no fines or penalties for breaching the law.

The above applies to the Balearic Islands but each region in Spain has different rules and therefore not all regions face the same restrictions. As always, it is advisable to do some research before embarking on buying a holiday apartment, specially if the ulitmate intention is to let it for holidays.

 

 

 

Buying property in Barcelona

old medieval street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barcelona is probably one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Woody Allen tried to show it in his famous film “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” although he excesively focused on the usual landmarks and buildings, forgetting that there is beauty in many other places apart from the usual constructions from Gaudi. However, it still was a good marketing tool for the city.

Property wise, Barcelona has suffered like any other city in Spain. Property prices have fallen for the last 5 years although 2013 has brought some interesting news. According to the Real Estate website www.idealista.com , property prices in Barcelona fell by only 1%. This may look like bad news to most of you but the reality is that the forecast was for a fall of at least 7% to 8%. What has happneed then? La Vanguardia newspaper thinks that this reduction in the decline of prices is due to Foreign Buyers. In fact, the said newspaper estimates that 10% of those who buy in Barcelona are probably foreign, being Russians, Chinese and Indian the nationalities that are showing more interest in the city followed by the usual British, French and other Europeans.

One of the reasons for this increase in interest from non-European investors is the so called “Golden Visa” which grants immediate residency rights to any non-European investing more than 500,000 Euro in property in Spain. At the same time, many Foreigners look at Barcelona’s potential in the touristical rent market. The city is used for long weekend breaks, stag does, romantic breaks and many others and in most cases those travelling to Barcelona use touristical apartments rather than Hotels, being this type of accomodation an alternative with some relevant success.

So, what should you do if you are interested in buying a property in Barcelona? The first thing you should do is take a holiday in Barcelona and explore the city. Your budget and motives shoud vary depending on whether you are looking to buy a first home, a second home or an investment. Many Estate agents speak English and they should be able to point you in the right direction. Once you find a property that you like, the agent will probably ask you to pay a reservation of a few thousand euro or perhaps even a deposit. This is where the lawyer work starts and where you need to tell the agent that you will instruct your own lawyer for the transaction.  You will be told that there is no obligation to instruct a lawyer in Spain and that there is a professional called “Notary Public” who can prepare all the documentation. Yes, that is correct in a way but it is still very advisable to instruct your own lawyer in the same way that you would do in the UK.

The lawyer (abogado in Spanish and advocat in Catalan) will check all the documentation and advise you before you enter into any contracts. He will also carry out searches to check the planning situation and whether the property can be let out as a touristical apartment. You can find Spanish lawyers in Barcelona, of course, but also in the UK. It is up to you to decide which lawyer you want to use. Some investors prefer to use a Spanish lawyer based in the UK because they are regulated by the UK Law Society, others prefer to use someone local. The important thing is to instruct an independent Spanish lawyer and not to proceed with the purchase without independent advice.

Enjoy the city!!

Antonio Guillen is a dual qualified Spanish lawyer- English Solicitor from Barcelona who is currently practising in the UK.

 

Spanish Honorary Consulate office in Manchester

Office Map

 

 

 

 

 

The Spanish Consulate in Manchester closed more than 2 years ago. Since then, all consular matters for the North West were transferred to the Spanish General Consulate in Edinburgh. Very recently an Honorary Consular office has been opened in Manchester and located in our Manchester office. The Honorary Consul is Antonio Guillen, writer of this blog, a dual qualified Spanish lawyer and English Solicitor at DWF LLP in Manchester. Antonio will cover the regions of Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire.

The functions of an Honorary Consul vary depending on the Country. When it comes to Spain and the Honorary Consulate in Manchester, the functions are restricted to giving support to both Spanish and UK nationals in those matters where the Spanish Consulate in Edinburgh requires assistance. Some of those functions are the following:

– Dealing with passport applications for Spanish nationals who are less than 12 years old

– Eventual support to Spanish nationals that require urgent assistance in this area of the country (subject to permission from the General Consulate in Edinburgh)

– NIE application forms for those cases where the applicant cannot travel to Edinburgh

– And in very specific cases, certificates and consular documents

The Spanish Honorary Consulate in Manchester cannot prepare Spanish powers of attorneys, wills or deeds but the firm where the Consulate is based can provide this service. Alternatively, those who need one of the 3 things quoted above can travel to the Spanish Consulate in Edinburgh where this service can be provided or fly to Spain and get the said documents done by a Notary Public.

For further information on Consular matters please contact Spanishconsul@dwf.co.uk

For further information on Spanish legal matters please contact antonio.guillen@dwf.co.uk

First use license and habitation certificate. Tomatoe, tomato. Are they the same thing?

stock-photo-17808460-happy-couple-holding-for-sale-and-sold-signs-kissing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are two documents which are essential before moving into a house in Spain. They are called first use license (“licencia de primera ocupación”) and habitation certificate (“cédula de habitabilidad”). These two documents sometimes have their own validity and in other occasions complement each other. It is difficult to summarize the requirements for these two documents because each region has its own legislation and also because they are very similar.

The First use license aims to check whether a property has been built according to the technical design and to the building permit. Once granted, it confirms that the construction has been built in accordance to the licence granted and the designs submitted at the Town Hall planning office. This licence is therefore vital for new properties or for properties that have been totally converted or with relevant major works. The person obliged to request this document is the holder of the planning and construction permit, generally the owner or the property developer.   It is an essential document required to apply for the provision of utility services, such as electricity and water and some regions in Spain demand this document prior to selling or letting a property.

In the most extreme cases, the absence of the said license could even imply a cause for the termination of a rental contract.  The lack of a first use licence can also prove a problem for an Estate Agent as he could be held liable for not checking this point and he could lose the right to receive his commission.

On the other hand, the Habitation Certificate is a document that certifies the minimum safety, health and occupation levels in a property in order to be dwelled. Furthermore it controls the minimum living surface and equipment in the property.

In certain areas like Cataluña, this document is compulsory and a property cannot be sold or let without it. In other areas, the first occupation licence covers the functions of the habitation certificate and therefore there is no need to obtain both. Depending on the kind of property and the place it is located, the expiration time will be different and will range from 6 months to 15 years. These are the reasons why it is advisable to verify this point before signing any contract or committing to the purchase of a specific property.

Obtaining this document is not complicated. If the seller does not have the document you must ask the seller to supply it before completion. If this is not possible and you are prepared to take the risk of completing without the habitation certificate in place, you must sort it after completion. The best way to do it is by contacting an Architect and requesting him or her for a certificate which will have to be endorsed by the Professional College of Architects. The Architect will inspect the property and verify that the property meets the regulations. It may be the case that someone appointed by the Town Hall also inspects the property prior to issuing the certificate of habitation, although this is not necessarily the case.  Once you have the Architect’s certificate, you have to present it before the corresponding public administration, together with the documentation required. Then, eventually, a certificate of habitation will be issued.

As indicated, these are vital documents that need to be requested prior to buying a property in Spain. Each region has its own intricacies but in general terms most of the regions in Spain request the existence of a document certifying the habitability of a property. These could mean both the First use licence and the habitation certificate or just one of them. When in doubt, the best thing is to seek independent legal advice as the lack of such a document could imply that the property is illegal and non-habitable.

Buying property in Spain from a bank- Initial tips

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These days, as a result of the economic situation and the increase of people who do not pay their mortgagees, the banks have gathered a huge housing stock and, sometimes, these kinds of properties, which have been acquired by way of foreclosing procedures, are offered for sale at very low prices.

Some people can think that these are good opportunities to acquire a property without spending a lot of money but…sometimes the `opportunities´ can be costly. To make sure there will not be any surprises later on, precautions should be taken to be protected and to ensure that we are carrying out a sound transaction.

These precautions are referred basically to the property situation and to the possibility of the existence of debts linked to the same because if an indebted property is sold, the new owner will become responsible for some of these debts.

Firstly, we need to ensure that the property complies with the construction regulations. ¿How can we do that? There are some documents which can bring important information with regards to the planning situation of the property. For example, the first occupation licence or the certificate of occupancy. Asking for these documents could be a good first step towards a safe conclusion.

Another relevant document is the 10 year building insurance guarantee. This is an insurance policy that covers constructive defects during ten years. If you are going to buy a property which is less than 10 years old, check the existence of this policy.

Once we have this information, we can go to the next step: the debts. Most times these kinds of properties sold by banks come from owners who have several debts such as debts with the supplies companies or the community of owners. Some of these debts are real liabilities, like the debt with the Community of owners, and they are attached to the property and the seller/bank needs to pay them before completion. In some occasions, the bank is going to cover some of these debts, but, in other occasions they are not going to pay anything and the buyer will be liable for them. As the price in these sales is attractive, you may accept taking over some reasonable debts BUT first you need to know exactly the nature of the debt and the amount involved, otherwise you could end up being liable for thousands of euros.

After bearing in mind all this information, the six-million-dollar question is: How can I obtain all the documents and information before completing the purchase? The seller, in our case, the bank (or a company connected to the bank) must provide you with this information, as they are the current owners. They have all the documents and you are entitled to analyse them in order to avoid risks. Sometimes, gathering all the information can be more complicated than initially expected because the bank will put pressure on the buyer to sign promptly. Instructing your own lawyer will certainly help as he will be able to check the documentation and provide you with his professional opinion as to how safe is to proceed with the purchase.

This article has been written in collaboration with Laura Perez Gil de Gómez from DWF LLP.

Photograph by www.istockphoto.com