Category Archives: Legal

eBook Review: Spanish Legal Property Information by Perez Legal Group

The current financial crisis in Spain, dwindling property values, and the desperation felt by many as they try to sell their homes before they are repossessed has created a buyers market for those with cash or approved funding. It seems prudent therefore to be aware of the legalities of buying or selling Spanish property, and thankfully Perez Legal Group in Marbella have created a freely downloadable ebook that runs through almost everything you should know.

Raquel Perez created Perez Legal Group with the objective of being different from other legal offices in Spain, and with her offices in Marbella, she and her team are very accessible to expat residents in Malaga province. Her group is the first to offer a weekly free legal clinic, and has created a book entitled “Spanish Legal Property Information” that can be downloaded free from the firm’s website.

“Spanish Legal Property Information” is a mini format ebook, that if printed on paper would be about the size of a typical language phrase book, and is 55 pages of legal advice that aims to give English speaking people a solid introduction to the basics of buying and selling property, property taxes, resident status, Spanish wills and inheritance taxes, and bank accounts.

The first thing to realise is that any transaction of property needs to be completed correctly in accordance with Spanish law, and the laws here in Spain are not the same as the UK, Ireland, or the USA. As well, Spanish law when followed correctly offers all of the protections expats expect back home, but in Spain many have lost a lot of money through incorrect application of the law. In many cases this has been due to unscrupulous sales agents, but the majority of cases might have been avoided if local laws had been better understood.

This is where “Spanish Legal Property Information” steps in. The guide briefly and succinctly explains how property ownership is registered, who has to pay the taxes, what your lawyer (abogado) has to check to make sure your rights are protected, and defines the various values that can be attached to property.

Specific vocabulary that is mentioned and explained includes plusvalia, IBI, escritura publica, catastro, hacienda, fiscal representative, NIE, incremento de patrimonio, padrón, usufruct. Whilst the guide is short (only 55 pages), this type of vocabulary is essential if you wish to understand the jargon used in property transactions, and without which you may misunderstand something important.

As an expat writer in Spain I find the majority of property owners will quickly learn about the legalities of owning property, but often never take the time to understand wills and inheritance, and as a consequence blindly ignore what Spaniards know in the mistaken belief that their foreign will protects them, or that they can register a foreign company to own their assets in Spain and never worry about inheritance tax.

This is dangerous thinking and has led to many dependants losing far more of their inheritance than they needed to, simply because the relative was too bloody minded to research their options for leaving assets to spouses and children before they passed away. In fact a family trust in the form of a Spanish company is possible, but only with foresight and the writing of a Spanish will. Chapters 7 and 8 of “Spanish Legal Property Information” should be considered a mandatory read.

Furthermore, the authors explain that it is possible under existing Spanish law to mitigate upto 95% of the inheritance tax payable upto the 120,000 euros if you were resident in Spain prior to dying. Given today’s depressed property values this amounts to a significant saving.

Whilst “Spanish Legal Property Information” should not be considered an exhaustive guide to property ownership, it is a worthwhile read for anyone considering or already owning property in Spain. It as also small enough that most readers will take on board the essentials in a very short time.

The ebook can be downloaded free from the Perez Legal Group website.

Licensed Real Estate Agents – Buying Property in Andalucia

In many English speaking countries an agent who sells real estate must be a licensed professional who has attended a course and passed an exam, and in some jurisdictions is required to pay into a consolidated fund to protect buyers. In Spain the situation is different, with many believing there is no requirement to be licensed.

In fact the situation isn’t all that different, certified real estate agents do exist, but so too does a lesser qualification that also entitles a person to act as agent for real estate. The two bodies that regulate agents are the Colegio de Agentes de la Propiedad Inmobiliaria (COAPI) for real estate agents, and the Asociacion Profesional de Gestores Intermediarios en promociones de Edificaciones for people who are intermediaries between the public and the government. See SpainExpat for a better definition of a Gestor.

Both are considered professional organisations, and members of both groups are legally allowed to act as agents for the sale, purchase, and rent of buildings, but only the COAPI members are considered to licensed real estate agents in the sense that English native speakers would understand. For the benefit of real estate buyers and sellers in Andalucia, API members are real estate agents, and gestors are administrative intermediaries. We advise only dealing with an API or Gestor as agent for property.

Colegio de Agentes de la Propiedad Inmobiliaria (COAPI)

Nationally in Spain real estate agents are generally expected to be “Agentes de la Propiedad Inmobiliaria”, quickly translated this means real estate agent, though in Spain this implies that a license has been granted and that the agent is a member of one of the colleges of real estate agents.

The API is the highest level of certification that can be applied for to become a real estate agent.

Agents who have API certification are expected to have completed a course of study, passed an examination, and been accepted as members of their local COAPI. The training and certificate is reconised by the Ministry of Development, and agents who are found guilty of misconduct can have their license revoked as well as face fines imposed by the college. This is in addition to any other civil or criminal penalties that might apply.

Moreover, the fees that an API can charge are strictly regulated by their college, ensuring buyers and sellers know up front what additional fees will be levied to pay agents commissions. Theoretically this should mean every API dealt with for the same property will offer their services for the same fee, typically 3-5% depending on type of property.

There isn’t a single umbrella organisation for real estate agents in Andalucia, each province has their own college for the licensing of agents, though they all adhere to community level laws relating to customer and seller protection and insist their members do so as well.

Agentes de la Propiedad Inmobiliaria Andalucia

Malaga
Address: Calle Marques de Larios 4, 29005 Málaga
Tel: 952 218 814

Cadiz
Address: Calle Columela, 33 – 1º, 11004 Cádiz
Tel: 956 211 981

Sevilla
Address: C/ Perez Galdós nº 3 cp. 41004 Sevilla
Tel: 954 212 620

Córdoba
Address: Plaza de Ramón y Cajal, 1, 14003 Córdoba
Tel: 957 47 13 27

Granada
Address: C/ Recogidas, 8, 18002 Granada
Tel: 958 52 34 89

Jaen
Address: Avenida de Granada 1, 2º C, 23003 Jaen
Tel: 953 222 241

Almeria
Address: C/ Zaragoza, 13, 04001 Almería
Tel: 950 23 37 99

Huelva
Address: Calle Miguel Redondo, 29 – Entr., 21003 Huelva
Tel: 959 245 102

Asociacion Profesional de Gestores Intermediarios en promociones de Edificaciones (GIPE)

Whilst not technically a real estate agent, given the broad range of services a gestor (or gestoría) can undertake, in reality many GIPEs in Andalucia have actually undertaken specialist training by the association to give them the knowledge required to act as property agent.

Determining which gestor has actually undertaken this extra training isn’t easy, some will proudly show off a certificate on their office walls, many won’t. This shouldn’t necessarily preclude you from accepting them as agent, the first step is to make sure that the gestor you approach is actually a member of the association, and secondly, ask around town to make sure they are highly regarded.

Whilst it is unfair, the fact is that many ‘gestors’ are not actually members of the association, they may indeed simply be people with connections. Opening an office as a gestor without proper accreditation has happened in the past, and will no doubt happen again, so due diligence should be considered mandatory.

Many larger towns have their own chamber of commerce, and asking for a list of their members who are gestors should priovide you with some peace of mind.

The Asociacion Profesional de Gestores Intermediarios en promociones de Edificaciones is based in Málaga, Andalucía
Address: c/ Salinas 6 – 1°, 29015, Málaga
Tel: 952 060 095

Carrying ID when Living in Spain

This is a question that is asked all the time amongst EU nationals living in Spain, every state seems to have its own rules, and of course there is overriding EU law that needs to be considered as well.

So, what exactly is the problem? Most British people do not have an ID card, and refuse to carry their passports every time they leave home. People from Germany and other European states have an ID card, but in some states you only need to have an ID card, you don’t need to show it on demand.

Spanish citizens all have an identity card known as a Documento Nacional de Identidad (DNI), and the overwhelming majority carry it on them at all times. The card is most often used when making credit card purchases, but almost any activity that requires proof of identity will see them present their DNI.

This leaves foreigners (especially British citizens) in the curious position of not understanding Spanish and EU law. If the Policia National or Guardia Civil stop you and demand identity many of us become frustrated when the authorities will not accept our excuse that it is not compulsory to carry our passport or Id card.

In fact under Spanish law we are wrong. Everyone in Spain must carry government issued ID at all times, regardless of whether we are Spanish, an EU national, or a foreigner living or holidaying in the country. The specific law is Article 4 of Organic Law 4/2000 which states in unambiguous terms that foreign nationals in Spain must carry identity documents issued by the country of citizenship. The operative word is ‘carry’ – not to be confused with keep at home.

Thus, if you live in Spain, and you don’t have Spanish government issued photo ID, you must carry at all times your own nation’s photo ID, in the case of British citizens this means our passport.

There is no obligation on the part of authorities in Spain to give you 72 hours or some other reasonable amount of time to present your document. Quite simply, if you do not produce an identity document on demand when asked by law enforcement officers (Policia Nacional, Guardia Civil, Policia Local etc) then you could be detained and fined.

Most officers of the law will let you off with a stern verbal warning if you don’t have your ID on you, but this is not a requirement on their part.

Of course most of us will wonder what European Union law says about carrying ID, and I’m afraid to report the news doesn’t get better. The issue of foreign residents in Spain has never been tested in the European Court of Justice so we need to look at EU directives to find an answer, and directive 2004/38/EC, Official Journal L 158, 30 April 2004 which covers citizenship.

Specifically, the directive grants all EU citizens the right to move freely within the EU, and without a visa for any purpose. This includes people choosing to reside in Spain. The right of each nation to retain the ability to carry out identity checks on demand is reserved to each state, so if you live in Spain, Spanish law WILL apply.

To conclude, if you are in Spain, you must carry a valid ID card or passport at all times, and failure to do so could see the police detain you temporarily whilst they ascertain your identity, and furthermore, it is within their rights to issue a fine. You’ve been warned.

Why buy property in Ronda

The Serranía de Ronda is located in the North-West of Málaga province, about an hours drive from Málaga city and the international airport, or about an hour from Marbella and Puerto Banus, the Costa del Sol’s major lifestyle hotspot.

Generally, owning a home in the Serranía is considered more peaceful and secluded than life on the Costa del Sol, and this is the main attraction for home-owners, yet Ronda, the main city in the Serranía caters to most resident needs, whilst still being small enough to be considered a market town.

Continue reading Why buy property in Ronda