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ENGLISH SPEAKING LAWYERS IN MALAGA (ANDALUCIA / COSTA DEL SOL) SPECIALIZED IN PROPERTY LAW & CONVEYANCING

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DAFO UPDATE: OBLIGATIONS, INSIDE REFORMS, MORTGAGES & RTA/VTAR RENTAL LICENSES

DAFO UPDATE: Obligation, interior renovation, mortgage & RTA/VTAR rental license.

In June 2017, we posted an extensive article on the legal situation and the legalisation of homes in non-urban land in Andalusia –DAFO/AFO–, outlining our opinion about positive and negative aspects of this legal precept. Almost a year and a half after this article, we would like to use this post to provide new information to owners and buyers of homes on non-urban land.

This information, which we believe may be useful, does not represent a fundamental change from what has already been stated, as there have been no legislative changes to the DAFO during this year and a half. This information, however, is based on our experience with different Councils in the province of Malaga and the approach they have been using for DAFO, as well as the questions we have seen among our clients.

Are Councils required to issue a DAFO/AFO?

Nowadays, we have found that a growing number of Councils, whenever there is any notification relating to a rural home, automatically open a file and start proceedings to start the DAFO process. This could be for example for the notification of:

  • Sale of a home
  • RTA (VTAR / Vivienda Rural) rental registration
  • Opening License Casa Rural / B&B
  • Registration of a property in the Land Registry
  • Applying for an urban certificate (for example for a purchase)
  • Change of account holder of the water supply

In other words, a growing number of Councils have been taking advantage of any information or request related to a property located on non-urban land to demand owners to start the DAFO process and legalise the rural homes built in the municipality. That said, if you wish to rent your property seasonally and you intend to register your home in the RTA -Andalusian Tourism Registry-, or you would like to register a pool or storage in the Property Registry, we recommend that you first analyse whether your home could obtain a DAFO.

As we have explained on many occasions, the DAFO is a procedure created to regularise homes on non-urban land that have been built illegally –most of them–, over which legal liability can no longer be claimed due to the passage of time. When the Council issues the first notification, it does not really require the owner directly to start the DAFO process. This first notification is about “telling” the owner to submit evidence whether the home complies with the legal requirements to be eligible for DAFO. This means that, if it does not comply with these, it is very likely that this is because there is some illegal situation in the building. This issue may still be subject to penalties from the Council and, in this case, the Council must open a sanctioning procedure against this unlawful situation, with the legal consequences you can imagine.

It is for these reasons that it is very important that, before you do anything or apply for anything at the Council that may entail the opening of a file against the property, you confirm that the home is eligible for DAFO and whether there is any building or work that may give rise to penalty proceedings. In this case, it is best to do nothing until enough time has passed. This in normal countryside is 6 years. Likewise, if you are thinking of buying a rural property, you must know that, when the Public Deed of Sale is executed and submitted to the Property Registry, the Council will receive a notification of this transfer and may later require you to legalise the home through a DAFO process.

Is it possible to carry out internal refurbishments and renewal works?

In accordance with Decree 2/2012, which governs DAFO, in this type of buildings “... only repair and preservation works required by the strict maintenance of the safety, habitability and sanitation of the building may be authorised”. Having said this, it is obvious that the works that may be carried out in properties of this type are limited and must be very clearly justified, always thinking about preservation and maintenance and never on improvements or additions, as renewal works as such are not possible. Since all rules are subject to interpretation, it is possible for some Councils to authorise certain types of refurbishment works that others do not. For this reason it is best to inquire at the Council to see if you could get planning permission before the work begins.

However, having said this, the desired internal refurbishments must always be justified from a point of view of habitability and necessity in terms of health and safety in the building, such as:

  • the opening of windows,
  • replacement of the roof,
  • replacement of floors,
  • substitution of sanitation equipment,
  • extension of the surface of a room that may be considered too small (without increasing building surface), etc.

The important thing is to evidence the need to carry out such works. Most likely, for the council to issue planning permission, it will be necessary to have completed or applied for the DAFO. Along with the technical project from an architect for the DAFO, the need to carry out such works should be justified due to the safety, habitability or sanitation of the home, applying for the corresponding licence. It will be very difficult to obtain permission without having completed the DAFO process.

If the home you intend to purchase already has a DAFO certificate, it is possible to apply for planning permission for the refurbishment works mentioned above but it is necessary to take into account the date the DAFO was obtained. It would not be very logical to apply for permission to refurbish a home for which the DAFO was approved only a few months prior, as the DAFO is supposed to certify that the home was in perfect conditions of habitability, without problems in terms of its safety or sanitation. Needless to say, if there has actually been some sort of unforeseen breakdown or accident in the property, permission may be requested for such repairs.

Can properties with a DAFO/AFO be mortgaged?

This question arises because a Spanish Royal Decree from 2009, regulating the mortgage market, contains an article that specifies that properties not meeting the legal requirements may not be mortgaged. Despite the existence of this rule, we must state that rural properties or homes on non-urban land have been, are and will continue to be able to obtain mortgages. There may be some banking institutions that do not provide mortgages for rural properties but there are many that do, which is logical as, in most cases, these properties are consolidated and are not subject to penalties, for which reason there is legal certainty over these.

We have submitted a query/test to one of the largest appraisers on the national market for mortgage valuations. In our query, we sent the land registry information – nota simple – of a rustic property with a DAFO certificate registered in the Property Registry and the response from the appraiser was unequivocal: homes with a DAFO are being appraised on the mortgage market. It should be taken into account that the appraisal value of a property for mortgages issues on non-urban land –a rural property– may be 20% to 40% lower than the purchase price, as the mortgage is given over the valuation price of the property. Nevertheless, a mortgage can be secured for these.

Can I have a RTA / VTAR rental licence for my rural property?

It is possible to rent and register a home on non-urban land in the Andalusian Tourism Registry -RTA- for short-term rentals (less than 2 months). This home would usually be registered as a tourist home for rural accommodation -VTAR-. As clarification, it should be said that it is possible to register rural accommodation or B&B as a country lodge or “casa rural” but this is designed for owners who are engaging in economic activities and operating such rental as a business, with at least one of them being required to register before the Treasury, pay VAT and register for Social Security.
The registration of a rural property in the RTA is subject to two approaches, depending on whether we talk to the Regional Government of Andalusia or the Council.

a. Regional Government of Andalusia

A few days ago, we had a talk with an inspector of the Regional Government in Malaga, who is in charge of inspecting homes of this type. Among other things, he told us that the Licence for First Occupation –Licencia de Primera Ocupación or LPO– is necessary to register homes on non-urban land in the RTA. As some people know, very few rural homes have an LPO. However, it is possible to obtain “legalisation” through the DAFO. The Inspectorate of Malaga have told us that a DAFO certificate would not be deemed to replace the Licence for Initial Occupation. In my legal opinion, I think that the Inspectorate are wrong and I clearly deem it arguable that, in the absence of a Licence for First Occupation, if a property has a DAFO certificate, this document should be accepted. Among other things, the DAFO certificate is the council recognition of the habitability of the property on non-urban land. In fact, Councils interpret this as a licence for the occupation of the property.

b. Councils

The Regional Government of Andalusia will notify the Town Hall when a home is registered in the RTA and this will lead some Councils to automatically call upon the owner to legalise the home through DAFO. It is also possible that a Council form will need to be completed before the home can be rented. Ultimately, at the municipal level, it is necessary to notify that you intend to rent your home and, if you lack an LPO, you will probably have to obtain a DAFO so that you can get this document, which recognises the habitability and occupation of the dwelling.

What should I do if I want to buy a rural home?

You can select the one you like best, without fears or concerns. Take the time you need and, once you have made a choice, you can start the buying process and negotiation. At the start of the process, do not hesitate to hire a lawyer specialising on this matter, who is familiar with this aspect of the law. As we have stated on many occasions, the cost of a lawyer is very small in comparison to all the money you will spend to buy a property in Spain. Saving money by failing to hire a lawyer during the process to buy your home in Spain may be one of the biggest mistakes you ever make. I know you may think what I want to do is to sell you my services –and this is true, this is why I work. But if you think about it carefully, you will understand the importance of having sound legal advice while buying a property in a country different from yours.

 

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo (C&D Solicitors / Lawyers, Torrox Málaga)

RENOVATING YOUR HOME? DO IT RIGHT AND PAY LESS TAX WHEN YOU SELL

Renovating house in Andalusia: tips & save on Capital Gain Tax

One of the first things many people do when buying a property is renovate it.

The expenses from the renovation and improvement of a property can reduce the tax on capital gains in the event that it is evidenced in the future sale of the property. It is important to clarify that repair or preservation costs for the property are not deductible. Deductions only apply to renovations or improvements that increase the value of the property compared to before they were made.

The cost of improvements would be added to the price paid in the sale, resulting in lower capital gains due to the difference between the price to transfer the property and the purchase price, which means less tax would be paid to the Tax Agency. This will be so provided that such renovation and improvement works can be evidenced so that the Tax Agency can accept them. Below, you will find what I consider to be the most important aspects to be able to prove the works carried out for tax purposes.

TECHNICAL PROJECT

Having an architect draft a project and oversee the execution of the works is not a minor issue. If the works to be carried out are of a certain scale, it is always best to have a professional perform follow-up and control since he or she would be liable if something goes wrong. Likewise, having carried out the works with a technical project and a final works certificate can be used to evidence the improvements made in be property before the Tax Agency.

BUILDING PERMIT

If you are going to renovate a property, it is always necessary to get a building permit for both major and minor works. It is true that this is often not requested to save money, for instance when renovating the inside of a home or a room, as there are less chance you will be found out.

Having a building permit will help you on three important aspects:

  • To evidence the lawfulness of the works –provided that it complies with the permit granted–. Likewise, it is important for you to know that, if there is an accident at the building site, not having a permit may entail consequences of criminal liability for the owner.
  • When it comes to works where the distribution of the property will change, the constructed area will be enlarged or a new home will be built, the building permit –among other documents, such as the final works certificate and the permit for initial occupation– will be necessary to register this new construction in the Property Register.
  • When selling a home with profit, the building permit will serve to prove to the Tax Agency that improvements were made so as to request that these are taken into account as part of the purchase price of the home.

Having a building permit is more important in terms of urban-planning and criminal law than in terms of taxes.

CONSTRUCTION CONTRACT

It is very important to sign a contract for the works to be carried out with the builder. The construction contract will mainly evidence which is the construction company that performs the works, the type of works to be carried out, their estimated cost and the location where they will take place.

INVOICES AND PROOF OF PAYMENT

Without a doubt, in terms of taxation, this is the most important requirement for the Treasury to recognise this improvement or renovation.

We often find homeowners who have spent a lot of money on improving their properties but who have no invoices issued by the builder or proof of payment for these works. It is essential to prove to the Tax Agency that these amounts have been paid by bank transfer or personal cheques made out to the construction company. If you have no way to prove these payments, it will be impossible for you to include these improvements in the purchase price of the property. You must always request an invoice and keep proof of payment.

The costs of the improvements will be added to the purchase price because of which you will pay less Capital Gain tax. The Capital Gain tax of this moment is 19% over the profit between the purchase and sales price minus the deductions.

WORKS WITHOUT A PERMIT THAT CANNOT BE LEGALIZED

It is possible that, for the works you intend to carry out in your home, it is not possible to obtain a building permit, for instance in works to enlarge a home in non-urban land –rural land–, increasing the surface area beyond the development potential –such as when enclosing a balcony– or building to a height higher than that allowed. The first thing you should take into account is that, as the owner, you will assume the legal liability that may arise if legal proceedings are brought in connection with these works without a permit.

If you will be carrying out such works, it is important for you to sign a construction contract with the builder, for you to obtain an invoice for each payment and for payments to be made by bank transfer or cheque. Even if you do not have a permit, it would be possible for these improvements to be taken into account when selling the property.

The Tax Agency cannot reject improvement works for not having a building permit –inspecting urban planning law is outside their jurisdiction–, for which reason it is important for you to be able to evidence the works that were effectively carried out, what their cost was and submit payment documents.

In these cases, it would not be a bad idea to have a technician draw up some type of report –not a project– explaining how the property was before and the works that have been performed, providing photographs and documentation from the owner. This is an additional document that can be used to prove improvement works.

NEW CONSTRUCTION DEED

The New Construction Deed is a document signed before a Notary Public to register a building in the Property Register in Spain. Even when the construction does not have a building permit, it is possible for it to access the Property Register in Spain –which does not mean it is legal– provided that a series of requirements are met.

If you have built a pool, garage, storeroom, etc. in Andalusia without a licence, it is possible for you to get an architect to issue a certificate of age six years after completion, to evidence the new construction and its age. This certificate can be used to sign a Deed of Declaration of New Construction before a Notary Public and register the construction in the Property Register. In some cases, it would not be possible to register it in the Register, such as when the land is especially protected.

VALUE OF THE CONSTRUCTION DECLARED IN THE DEED

The value of New Construction assigned in the Deed cannot in itself be used to prove to the Treasury how much was spent on the property at the moment of selling.

For instance, if you declare, in the Deed, that you have spent 50,000 euros on the pool and garage you built, unless you have proof of payment and invoices from the construction company, the Treasury will reject this expense. This is so because what you do before the notary is nothing more than a statement, which means that the Notary does not check if you really spent that amount or if it was more or less –and isn't required to do so–.

In my opinion, if you are going to do a Declaration of New Construction for works without a licence, you should include a copy of the invoices and/or proof of payment to the constructor in the Deed, as this would evidence the value you declared and make it easier for the Treasury to accept it when selling the property.

Lastly, if you are thinking about doing any work on your property, I wish you all the luck in the world and, most of all, lots of patience; I almost ran out of it myself when I renovated mine...

 

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo (C&D Solicitors / Lawyers, Torrox Málaga)

OWNING A BED & BREAKFAST (B&B) IN ANDALUSIA: DREAM OR REALITY?

Bed & Breakfast B&B Andalusia

Owning a Bed & Breakfast (B&B) in Andalusia

Starting a new life with your own B&B in Spain

In recent years, during the course of our work, we have met many foreign customers interested in living in Andalusia Spain, preferably in coastal areas and having their own rural hotel, hostel or Bed & Breakfast (B&B). Many of these customers consider this option due to their attraction to Andalusian climate and culture, with the dream of changing their lives and enjoying life in an extremely charming country.

Taking over a business or starting up yourself?

The main option that customers interested in opening a B&B in Andalusia contemplate is to buy a business already in operation, with fewer people seeking to buy property to build the business from the ground up.

If you look on the Internet, there are quite a few ads for the sale of rural hotels and B&B´s. Many of these ads offer the method of transferring a business that is already operating, along with the rental or sale of the property where the activity takes place.

During the transfer of the business, its assets, such as customer portfolio, fixed assets, provisions, etc. are valued. This serves the purpose of establishing a transfer price for the business, which must be paid by the new owner interested in continuing the operations.

What is a reasonable ´traspaso´ price for buying an existing B&B?

The valuation of the business (traspaso) is usually based on its income during recent years and on net profit, as well as the value of its fixed assets, i.e., all remodelling, improvements and provisions acquired for said business. Obviously, licences and legal permits required for engaging in such an activity are a key part of the transfer value.

In the transfer method, the rental of the property is usually established, most often with a lease option, or the property may be sold directly to the new owner. It seems more reasonable to choose rental with a lease option for the property during the first years of the business as if, for any reason, the business is not what was expected and the profits or workload are not worth the effort, we would lose the amount paid for the transfer but would not have to remain the owners of a property we acquired for a business we no longer wish to operate.

As you may infer, the operational cost of a B&B may be high enough to justify carrying out, prior to its purchase, a due diligence process about it for the purpose of determining whether the asking price (traspaso) is reasonable. I consider three lines of action very important in this regard:

VALUE OF THE BUSINESS.

You should hire an economist, expert, or tax consultant to study the accounting of the business during recent years, including all tax documentation, as well as the accounts submitted at the Commercial Register. With this report, an objective professional, knowledgeable on the matter, will take a snapshot of the financial situation of the business.

BUSINESS LICENCES.

In order to check whether the B&B you are seeking to purchase has all the necessary business licences, it is important for an architect to visit city hall and check whether the business is in order and complies with all the legal requirements for its operation. The architect will visit the property to verify that the infrastructure and installations are those legally required for this business and will issue a report of his or her findings.

PURCHASE OF THE BUSINESS.

Once you have decided to acquire the business, when preparing all the documentation for the transfer and rental/purchase of the property, it is important for an attorney to intervene so as to guarantee all the obligations of the parties, establish the payment method and protect the buyer from potential problems during its execution. If the property where the business will operate is located in a rural area, as is the case for many of these hotels, the intervention of an attorney is even more important, as these areas are subject to a series of legal limitations that must be reviewed.

Professional advice for your investment will pay back

It is obvious that this complete due diligence process for the B&B makes buying the business more expensive as you may spend a significant amount of money on these professionals and you may end up not buying the business. However, you must consider that spending thousands and thousands of euros, often from your savings or a bank loan, on something, before verifying its value, can lead to a very difficult financial and personal situation.

It is also a good idea to get informed about tourism in that area and expectations for the future. There are statistical data about the occupancy rates for rural accommodation that may help you. For instance, the Institute of National Statistics (INE) periodically publishes detailed occupancy surveys for rural tourism and any other type of accommodation and all this information, in detail and broken down by regions, can be accessed from its website.

New business changes after recession in Andalusia

For instance, on the 1 September, www.escapadarural.com published that rural tourism in Andalusia reached an occupancy rate of 36% in July and August. At the provincial level, 49% of businesses in Malaga were fully booked.

 

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)
Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)

 

HOMEOWNERS ACTING IN GOOD FAITH, MORE PROTECTION IN THE ADMINISTRATIVE FIELD

Compensation Andalucian home owners in good faith

Compensation demolition Andalucian home owners in good faith

Last 24 June, the Senate approved an amendment that provides greater protection to third-party homeowners acting in good faith in administrative proceedings. This amendment was approved with the favourable votes of the main political groups and introduces a third paragraph in article 108 of Law 29/1998, of 13 July, which regulates contentious-administrative proceedings in Spain.

This new third paragraph provides that: “The Judge or Court, in the cases where, in addition to declaring the construction of a property to violate regulations, it issues a reasoned order to demolish the works and restore the physical reality altered, shall require, as a condition prior to demolition and unless a situation of imminent danger prevents it, the provision of sufficient guarantees to respond to payment of compensation due to third parties acting in good faith.”

In other words, with this paragraph, it is guaranteed that the judge ordering the demolition of a building in administrative proceedings must ensure, prior to the demolition, that third parties acting in good faith that will be damaged by the demolition of their homes will receive compensation. This means that, what this new subsection regulates is that a home may not be demolished if the homeowner cannot be compensated in advance, as it is understood that the homeowner has no reason to suffer these damages when the party responsible for the unlawful act committed by building the home was someone else.

The approval of this new subsection equates the handling of the enforcement of judgments on buildings, which entail their demolition, in administrative and criminal proceedings since, as we explained in our article from March, the criminal code has also been amended in this sense.

The amendment in the administrative field, which gives greater protection to third parties acting in good faith, is even more logical, from a legal standpoint, than the one in the criminal field and, needless to say, represents the correction of a regulatory mistake that resulted in great injustice.

It should be noted that, in contentious-administrative proceedings, courts examine building licences granted by the City and which have been unlawfully granted due to being contrary to the plan of the municipality.

Before this amendment, when a judgment nullifying a licence of this type was handed down, usually, one of the consequences of this nullification was the obligation to demolish the works completed under the licence declared null, without compensating homeowners acting in good faith at the time of demolition in these proceedings. The only option for these homeowners was to start different judicial proceedings either against the City or against the seller of the property, which could take years to be solved and provided no certainty of recovering the investment made. We can thus prevent cases as regrettable as that of Mr and Mrs Prior.

We can affirm that, in judicial proceedings related to buildings, both in the administrative and criminal fields, thanks to these legislative amendments, homeowners who purchase or will purchase a property in good faith, not being responsible for any unlawful act, will enjoy greater protection of their assets and property rights.

Part of what we denounced and explained in an article published in 2013 has been addressed by these changes, even though there is still some way to go and more legislative changes are expected.

This legislative amendment, as the one introduced in the criminal code in March, has been made possible thanks to the work of several associations of people affected from many different areas in Spain, including: AUAN, AMA and SOHA. The continued and persistent work of these associations, their representatives and the lawyers involved have made it possible for all homeowners in Spain who are third parties acting in good faith to enjoy greater legal certainty.

 

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors, (Lawyers)

Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)

CADASTRAL REGISTER: TO BE REGISTERED, THE QUESTION IS CLEAR

Cadastre registration Spanish properties

Cadastre registration Spanish properties

The cadastre is a compulsory administrative register which depends on the Ministry of Finance. It keeps the description of rural and urban properties as well as properties with special features. This register has nothing to do with the Land Register, where registrations are voluntary and legally prevails over the Cadastre.

Cadastral registration by property owners is compulsory, as provided by Article 11 of Spanish cadastral law Ley del Catastro Inmobiliario; that is, title holders to the properties shall declare before the Cadastre Office any variation or modification as for example: conveyance, new constructions, land partitions and additions and any other necessary information so that cadastral descriptions of properties are in accordance with the facts.

Consequently, owners’ obligation to adapting the physical reality of the property to the cadastral facts is clear.

Articles 70 and 71 of the Spanish law Ley del Catastro set out the rules on infringements and penalties, so that “failing to submit declarations, submit them after deadlines or submitting false, incomplete or incorrect declarations” may be considered an infringement punishable by a fine from 60 to 6,000 Euros. To date, we have no evidence that the Cadastral Register is penalizing owners for failing to submit the necessary declarations, although these are not submitted.

The problem that we have noted is that the Cadastral Government Office in Malaga refuses to accept modifications on properties built on non-developable lands and requested by owners or their legal representatives, despite it is deemed that the documents legally required has been submitted for these proceedings. We reiterate that the Cadastre is a compulsory register and as a result it is important to be taken into account.

As far as we understand, the Cadastre systematically refuses some variations and modification on non-developable lands; consequently, it is requested additional documentation which we consider to be unnecessary and should not be demanded according to Spanish law. In view of this situation, which we understand that is not applicable to law, our law firm has filed complaint actions against different administrative proceedings, which are pending to be resolved by the Economic Administrative Court of Malaga.

If owners are obliged to declare their property modifications or variations before the Cadastral Register Office and their legal documents are provided, what is their responsibility if the Cadastre denies their request or asks for further documentation that owners do not have?

From our point of view, the fact of requesting the cadastral variation or modification providing the necessary documentation should exempt owners from any infringement imposed by the Cadastral Register, since they did their best to adapt the physical reality of their property to the cadastral facts.

On the other hand, the Minister of Finance approved last year the cadastral regularization procedure 2013-2016, by which the Real Estate Cadastre intents to incorporate ex-officio urban and rural properties with constructions, as well as any variations of their features, so that these properties are recorded in the Cadastral Register and the Spanish property tax IBI may be collected.

In Malaga, just a few municipalities has acceded to this procedure, by which owners are requested the payment of a 60 Euros fee to carry out this regularization, although it is probable that other municipalities also accede to this procedure in the following years.

To sum up, and despite the existing difficulties to register in the Cadastre some modifications or variations, we advise owners to check if their property is correctly registered in the Cadastre, so that they may request before this register office the necessary modifications and variations to adapt the physical reality of their property to the cadastral facts. As a result of this action, they will avert potential problems.

 

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors (Torrox-Málaga)

INCREASE OF THE VAT AND OTHER TAX MEASURES REGARDING THE PROPERTY IN SPAIN

Spanish IVA (VAT) up for new build: 10%

Spanish IVA (VAT) up for new build: 10%

The Spanish Government, particularly Mr Cristobal Montoro, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has announced last Friday 13th of July that, from the 1st of January 2013, will apply a VAT of 10% (of the declared value of the property) to new properties, with regard to the current 4%.

 

During the press conference after the Council of Ministers, the Chancellor has recalled that the application of the reduced VAT (4%) for the purchase of a property had an “expiry date”, that the Government has stated today for the beginning of 2013.

Mr Montoro has also indicated that, according to the recommendation of the EU, from the 1st of January 2013, “the tax deduction on the purchase of a property in Spain will be abolished”.

So, if you are thinking of purchasing a new property, it will definitely be crucial, from a financial and economic point of view, that you do it before the 31st of December 2012.  To see it more clearly, the difference in a direct taxation regarding a property valued at 200 000,00€ is 12 000,00€.

If you are planning to purchase a property here in Spain, do not hesitate to contact a professional lawyer for a deeper tax planning.

 

Author: Francisco Delgado Montilla, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)
Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)

 

 

 

TAX EXEMPTION WHEN SELLING YOUR PROPERTY IN SPAIN

Spanish tax exemption CGT seller 65+

Spanish tax exemption CGT seller 65+

The Spanish Constitution and the regulations (tax and social) developed thereof, regarding the protection of the elderly, guarantee that the elderly will receive a comprehensive system of care and protection that promotes and enhances the wellbeing of this section of the population, within which this article highlights the area of economic protection.

The purpose of this type of protection is to formulate a system of regulations that provide the elderly with the necessary economic resources, which will contribute towards their independence and improve their quality of life.

As principle provisions or benefits within this economic protection of the elderly, we can highlight, among other things: retirement pensions (contributory and non-contributory), supplementary economic provisions, various subsidies and aid, which is granted within the scope of Social Services, as well as certain tax benefits.

In relation to this matter, this article will focus on the exemption from capital gains, which, for those over 65, occurs at the time that their habitual residence is sold.

Gains derived from the transfer of immovable property are taxed, for non-residents, at a fixed rate of 19%. For residents, the first €6,000 is taxed at 19% and the rest is taxed at 21%.

Moreover, in the case of the transfer of property by a non-resident, the purchaser shall be obliged to withhold and pay 3% of the sale price as payment on account of taxes which should meet the requirements of capital gains for non-residents and that should be paid directly to the Tax Authorities. Said retention from the sale price is not incurred if the seller has the right to tax reduction for the transfer of property that is their habitual residence, for those over the age of 65.

Article 31.4 b) of Law 40/1998, which regulates personal income tax, establishes that  those over the age of 65 shall be exempt from capital gains in the event that the property transferred is their habitual residence.

The only two requirements for eligibility for this tax exemption are the following:

  • The taxpayer must be over 65 at the time that the transfer takes place.
  • The transferred property must be their habitual residence. In order that the property be considered a place of habitual residence for the purpose of this tax, two temporal limits are established: 1) it must be effectively occupied by the taxpayer within a period of 12 months from the date of acquisition or from the termination of any building work; 2) it must constitute their place of habitual residence for an on-going period of at least three years prior to the date of sale.

 

 

Author: Francisco Delgado Montilla, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)
Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)

 

 

OBTAINING THE LICENCE OF FIRST OCCUPATION

Importance Licence First Ocupation LFO

Importance Licence First Ocupation LFO

We have recently known, through our clients’ consultations, of the situation that most of the owners of La Axarquía area suffer, which comes from the lack of a License of First Occupation on their properties, particularly, regarding those problems with contract the supplies, such as the electricity supply for their first time or for its restoration, after being cut off by the electricity company (i.e. end of construction site temporary power).

The License of First Occupation is a certificate issued by the town hall that confirms that a newly-built property fully complies with all planning and building regulations, and is ready to be used as a dwelling. It also confirms the compliance with all Health, Safety, Planning and Construction laws, and that the property has been fully completed, with no outstanding works. Each newly built dwelling will have an individual License of First Occupation. License of First Occupation only applies to newly-built properties as the L.F.O. is the original authorization to use them as a dwelling.

Granting a License of First Occupation certifies that the developer has built the dwelling fully complying with the original Town Hall’s Building License, as well as complying with all Planning laws.

The first occupation licence wasn’t required before 1978, this means all the properties with more than 37 years won’t have it.

The License of First Occupation is required to have access to the official supplies (water, electricity, gas,…).

The Spanish law requires the granting of the License of First Occupation to set up any utility contract for the property. Nevertheless, the most of the properties  without the first occupation licence have electricity supply and water supply. Many of these properties haven’t a first occupation licence due to the works in the urbanization aren’t finished yet but the owners are living there. We can say that in many cases the real situation of these properties haven’t anything to do with the content of the law.

It is always advisable to complete the purchase with a valid License of First Occupation (LFO) in place, even if it is not illegal to complete at the Notary office without a License of First Occupation. In other words, the property purchase completion before a Spanish Notary public without a LFO is legal in Spain, and the property can be lodged under your name at the Land Registry records. However, it is not legal to “live” in a property without the License of First Occupation. This is the reason because not having it in the new homes will prevent you from having access to water and electricity supplies for the property in order to get them connected.

Properties without LFO can be bought, sold and registered at the Land Registry. So it is not illegal to sell a property without LFO. If you own a newly-built property that was not issued with the License of First Occupation you might have trouble selling it as the potential buyers may seek for a steep discount because of this matter.

The information concerning the LFO given in this post may have to be understood as a benchmark to all those new built properties according to a building license previously obtained and complying with all Planning laws. If this building license was not given, if it was not according with Planning laws, or, in the event that the works carried out did not adhere to the building plan, we will be in another different situation, and the way to get access to these supplies would be different as well. But this is an issue which will be analyzed in a further post, taking into consideration the new measures introduced by the called new “Decree of legalization”, approved by the Andalusian Parliament last 10th of January, in this sense, which is not in force yet.

 

Author: Francisco Delgado Montilla, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)
Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)

 

NEW URBAN SCENE IN LA AXARQUIA

Complex urban planning in Andalucia: PGOU, LOUA & POT

Complex urban planning in Andalucia: PGOU, LOUA & POT

Due to the urban complexity that most of the municipalities of La Axarquía are immersed because of the Spanish local elections held in May, the changes in the local governments could mean changes in the way of managing each municipality and in the solutions that such local governments could propose in view of the complex urban development in this area.

We have to take into account that, nowadays, most of the municipalities are working in the production and approval of their new General Plans for Urban Zoning (PGOU) to adapt them to the Urban Zoning Code of La Axarquía (LOUA) and to the Plan for Town Planning in La Axarquía (POT), and so as to offer a final solution to all those housing developments built upon non-urban areas as well as to the thousands of isolated buildings within each municipality.

Apart from the several actions carried out by the town halls, it is worth mentioning the announcement made by the Junta de Andalucía about the approval of a Decree to legalize the large number of houses in La Axarquía. Besides, the Junta de Andalucía has made an inventory about houses built upon non-urban areas and which is being sent to each of the town halls so that they could know the situation of all those mentioned houses.

The PGOU is the main instrument in the planning of each municipality and it provides the characteristics and nature of the area that comprises such municipal district. So, it is very important that those owners with properties built upon non-urban areas, whether it is an isolated house or a house within a development, appear before the municipal offices as soon as possible, preferably with a specialized lawyer, in order to study the situation of the houses and the possibilities of legalizing them or declaring them houses out of regulation.

It is worth mentioning all those housing developments partly or totally built upon non-urban areas, but with different situations in their basic infrastructures (lighting, roads, sewer systems, water, etc). In those cases, it is necessary that each Community of Owners or, if it is not established, one of their representatives, enquires in the town hall about the situation of the housing development and its possible inclusion in the new PGOU.

If we take into account that it seems that possible mid-term solutions and measures may arrive, it is important that owners ask and take part in such “regularization” process that will be born within each town hall, so as their property or housing development could be part of this new plan, or in order to find a solution for each conflict or situation.

Obviously, regularizing each house will have a charge for the owners, depending on their situation, but we think it is a “minor wrong” if this situation of legal insecurity upon many rustic properties comes to an end.

Nowadays, our legal firm, which represents some clients that have houses or are part of a housing development built upon non-urban areas, has already started to deal with several town halls about the situation and regularization proposals of their properties. It is important that the owners are the ones who look for solutions with the town halls.

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)

Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)

 

CURB ON “FLOOR CLAUSES” IN MORTGAGE LOANS

Nullity floor clauses mortgages Spain

Nullity floor clauses mortgages Spain

On the 30 September 2010, Court no. 2 of Seville gave judgment declaring the "floor clause” introduced by the respondent entities Spanish bank BBVA, Saving Banks Cajamar and Caja de Ahorros de Galicia in the mortgage loan deeds formalised with them abusive and therefore null and void, for considering that the minimum threshold interest rates set by them are abusive and detrimental for the consumer.

Although the judgment has been appealed by the three financial entities mentioned, the Court has ordered the provisional application of the resolution. Therefore, as from 27 January 2011, they will not be able to include the said clause in their mortgage loans, and from 11 April, they will not be allowed to charge the clients with the difference between the minimum interest rate as per Euribor plus the interest rate agreed with the client, and the minimum threshold interest rate or  “floor rate” set by the said bank entities in their mortgage loans.

The so called “floor clause” means that in times of low mortgage interest rates, such as the ones we have lived through and are living through at present, the client is committed to pay a set minimum interest rate, which means that even if interests go down, their mortgages cannot benefit from lower interest rates

According to ADICAE (Association of Banks, Saving Banks and Insurance Companies of Spain), in Spain, there are currently 3.8 million clients who have this “floor clause” included in their mortgage loans and have not been able to take advantage of lower mortgage interest rates over the last years. The said association considers that in 2010, Banks and Saving Banks obtained a revenue of 7,000 million euros thanks to these clauses. These results show the importance and relevance of this judgment.

Therefore, as from 11 April, the entities BBVA, Saving Banks Cajamar and Caja de Ahorros de Galicia are obliged to recalculate repayments in all loan agreements taking into account a variable interest rate according to the Euribor benchmark rate, plus the interest rate negotiated with the client, and not according to the minimum threshold interest rate or “floor rate” established in their mortgage loans. This means that, since the interest rates applicable will be lower, the monthly repayments of those clients who have a mortgage loan with any of these entities will decrease.

Commercial Court no. 11 of Madrid has currently admitted the biggest joint action filed in Spain against 45 bank entities for the application of these “floor clauses”. It is likely, that before the end of the year, we know if such a number of saving banks and banks have to follow the path of the other three mentioned, which will be the most logical and coherent outcome.

However, whichever the result, it is likely that this issue of "floor clauses” reaches the High Court, who will then be in charge of taking the definitive decision about these provisions being abusive or not.

In the meanwhile, I would advise you to check your mortgage loan deeds , so that you may see if you have benefited from this judgement and if from 11 March, your bank is applying the resolution.

We will keep you informed on new updates.

 

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)
Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)

 

 

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