BUYING PROPERTY IN SPAIN GUIDANCE
The British Government issues practical and useful advice on buying property in Spain. Here is an extract of their recommendations and you can read the full text on their website www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-buy-property-in-spain.
Please note that this guide is for information purposes only.
It is strongly recommended that you choose an independent lawyer who is specialised in Spanish land law (urbanismo). Independent means that they work on your behalf only and are not also looking after the interests of the agent or developer. The Spanish property conveyancing system is different to the UK system so you should ensure that those involved in the transaction are qualified and experienced in Spain.
Exercise extreme caution if an estate agent, promoter or lawyer urges you to cut corners to save money or time.
A Spanish notary public will be involved in preparing the contract of sale and issuing the public deeds. As the purchaser, you have the right to choose which notary you use. The notary is a public servant who has a duty to provide you with free and impartial legal advice on all aspects of the contract before you sign. It is a good idea to seek advice from the notary early on. When a date is set for signing the contract, you have three days beforehand to visit the notary and ask any questions you may have about any aspect of the contract.
The Spanish tax authority is called the Agencia Tributaria. It provides some information on its website in English.
RENTING OUT YOUR PROPERTY
Renting out your property
As from 1st June 2013, all homes for sale or to let in Spain are required by law to have an energy efficiency certificate. If you are offering your property for rent after this date, you will need to obtain an energy certificate first.
If you want to let your property to tourists on a short-term basis, you must ensure that you are doing so in accordance with Spanish law. The regulations on letting tourist apartments (apartamentos turisticos) and holiday homes (viviendas vacacionales) to tourists will vary depending on the region where the property is located.
If you are planning on making a return by renting out your property on a short-term basis, it is best to seek independent legal advice and check what the rules are at the local town hall or the tourist department of the regional government before you buy. Be aware that the marketing of private residential property to tourists is strictly regulated in many regions of Spain.
Owners who are caught illegally advertising or letting out their properties without complying with local legislation can be liable for significant fines, in some cases reaching as much as €30,000. If you are planning to buy an apartment which is part of a residential block, you should also check whether there are any rules set by the committee of owners that prohibit or restrict short-term letting. You may want to consider hiring a Spanish letting agent to assist with finding tenants, drawing up rental contracts and managing the property on your behalf. In some regions, such as Murcia, it is obligatory to use a specialist tourist apartment management company for short-term rentals to tourists.
Owners who let their properties on a long-term basis are free to do so within the terms set out by the national rental law. However, it is worth seeking professional advice to make sure that you are complying with Spanish legislation and that you are using the correct rental contract.
In Spain, there are different types of contracts depending on how long the property is due to be let. You can get copies of these contracts from tobacconists.
You must ensure that you declare your rental income to the Spanish tax authorities (Agencia Tributaria) whether you are resident in Spain or not. Taxation is a complex issue, and it is advisable to seek the advice of an accountant or professional tax adviser with comprehensive and up to date knowledge of both the UK and Spanish tax regulations.
Do your homework: you should analyse and compare a range of different products and services offered by different lending companies. If you have any doubts about the terms and conditions, ask the lender to clarify. You should also check that the lender is listed as authorised to operate in Spain with the Bank of Spain.
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.
If you cannot keep up the mortgage repayments, the Spanish bank could repossess your property in Spain. If the value of the property is less than the total debt outstanding (you are in negative equity), the bank may pursue your UK assets to recover the mortgage shortfall using a European Enforcement Order.
Make sure you fully understand the mortgage agreement you sign. If you have any doubts check with the branch during the 10 working-day period after the binding offer has been provided. If for any reason you cannot keep up the mortgage repayments, you should speak to your bank immediately (before defaulting on repayments) to discuss the options available.
PURCHASER'S CHECK LIST
Before you complete your property purchase you should make sure that:
You have seen the Land Registry extract (nota simple), available from the Colegio de Registradores (translations into English for an additional fee), and checked the following details
The property and land for sale match the details registered and the sellers are the registered owner(s)
There are no debts or charges, such as a mortgage, on the property
There are no legal proceedings initiated against the property for contravention of land planning law
You have checked that planning permissions are in order and the property is a legal build. This is particularly relevant when buying off-plan or direct from a developer. The town hall can inform you whether the building has all licences and permissions and provide details of the type of land. If the property is built on rural land or land that is not classified for construction, additional confirmation should be sought from the regional government as to whether they have authorised the construction
If you are buying an off-plan property, confirm that the property has been certified as finished by a registered architect and registered as a new build in the property register. The registration should also provide details of the developer’s insurance against structural and other defects in the construction. In the case of a private build (the previous owner built their own house and decided to sell before ten years had lapsed) you will need to request these details separately
You have checked the latest town plan to see whether or not the plot you wish to buy has any building restrictions, is in a green zone or includes a public pathway or similar. This can be viewed at to the town planning (urbanismo) department of the local town hall
You have carried out a property survey. Whilst this is not obligatory, it is wise to get a chartered surveyor to check the property
You know the cadastral value of the property and how much purchase tax will be due. Be aware that tax is charged on the council’s valuation of the property as opposed to the amount of the sale. You can check this at the regional government’s online tax agency site using the cadastal reference number
Make sure you have seen the following documents:
A paid-up receipt for the previous owner’s annual property tax (IBI). It is also wise to get a certificate from the town hall proving that there are no unpaid rates from previous years
The Catastral certificate giving the exact boundaries and square metres of your land. The Cadastral record will be linked to the Land Register record by a cadastral reference which will be included in both. You should ensure that the property and land description contained in both records matches
the licence of first occupancy or habitation certificate issued by the town hall. You will need this document to connect to electricity and water companies. Developers cannot force you to complete without this licence.
Receipt to prove all utility bills have been paid by the previous owner
If applicable, a certificate signed by the President of the Community of Property Owners stating that there are no outstanding debts. You should be aware that if you later find that there are such debts outstanding, as the new owner, you assume the debts for the current and previous year (two years in total)
As from 1st June 2013, all homes for sale or to let in Spain are required by law to have an energy efficiency certificate. If you are considering buying a property, the seller is obliged to show you this certificate
On completion, the public deed should reflect an accurate description of the property. It is advisable that you register the property in your name with the Land Registry as soon as possible to ensure full protection of your rights. The notary can even send advance notification to the Land Registry electronically once the public deed is signed.