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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)

NEW REGISTRY HOLIDAY HOMES ANDALUSIA

Registration tourist homes in Andalusia

New registry holiday homes Andalusia

A new decree (28/2012, of 2nd of February) about homes for tourist purposes in Andalusia, will enter into force on 12 May 2016. The aim of this decree is to regulate the large market of homes belonging to individuals and let by them as a holiday accommodation at different periods throughout the year.

These lettings, by days or weeks, as well as the use and terms of the lease, were not regulated until now. Therefore, the purpose of this Decree is to ensure that these homes meet a series of minimum requirements to be let, establishing the rights and obligations of both owners and customers and requiring the registration of the homes.

Clearly, this Decree has a significant impact in Andalusia, especially in Costa del Sol and Axarquía, for touristic cities like Granada, Malaga, Seville, and municipalities such as Nerja, Malaga, Torrox, Fuengirola, Marbella, Mijas, etc., which have many homes used for rentals of this type.


What is a home for tourist purposes?

These are homes located on residential land, offered in exchange for a price for the accommodation of people on a regular basis and with tourist purposes. Homes are understood to be let on a regular basis for tourist purposes if they are marketed or promoted in a tourist marketing channel. E.g.: Airbnb, Tripadvisor, Windu, property agencies, etc.

If you are the owner of a home on residential land in Andalusia and, during the year, you offer it for letting for days or weeks, this home will have tourist purposes. Therefore you must comply with the regulations of this Decree if you wish to continue to engage in this activity legally.


Which homes are excluded from this regulation?

Rural homes (houses in the country side) offered for holiday letting are not regulated by this decree. However, they do have the obligation of registering as a tourist home in the rural environment (Vivienda de Turismo en el Medio Rural). Therefore the owners of these homes must also register them before the Government of Andalusia but under a different regulation.

Homes let by the same person for two consecutive months or longer are not considered holiday homes and, therefore, do not need to register. This refers to homes let under a lease agreement for a period exceeding 2 months.

If, during the year, you let your home for over 2 months but you also let it for days or weeks, you will have to register it. Lettings exceeding 2 months and lettings for days or weeks are compatible in the same home.

An exemption to the application of this Decree is established when a single person has 3 or more homes for holiday lettings, within a radius of approximately 1 km. In this case, this Decree will not be applicable and regulations on tourist apartments will apply.


What does this Decree entail?

The obligation to register any home on urban land that the owner whishes to use for holiday letting before the Registry of Tourism in Andalusia. Once the home is registered, a registration number will be issued that must be displayed when offered for letting. The home only needs to be registered once and the registration number can be used for subsequent letting. The owner is the one legally responsible for registering the home and this home can´t be used for holiday letting unless it is registered before the Government of Andalusia by 12 May this year.


What are the registration requirements?

  • The home must be on residential (urban) land.
  • It must have a Licence of First Occupation. If it does not have the initial occupation permit, a certificate from the City Hall showing the location and use of the home should be accepted, but we are waiting for the written confirmation of the Junta of Andalusia.
  • Depending on the season, all accomadations need to be equipped with cooling and heating. In this case, the period for the owner lacking these installations is extended until 12 May 2017 and the property may be let during that period.
  • The home must have the essential furniture and furnishings required for the total amount of persons it is rented out to.
  • first-aid kit is required.
  • It must have tourist information about the area, showing places to visit, restaurants, etc. A small tourist guide or advertisement from the corresponding tourist office can help you meet this requirement.
  • It must have complaint and claim forms available to customers in a visible place.
  • The home must be cleaned upon the check-in of new customers.
  • Linen and tableware appropriate for the number of people.
  • Contact telephone number to handle problems and emergencies.
  • Information and instructions about the appliances/equipment in the home must be available in a specific place.
  • Information must be provided about internal rules for the use of facilities, according to the regulations of the Residents' Association (community rules).
  • The maximum amount of people allowed in the property is 15.
  • In case you are renting out a room, instead of the entire house, the maximum amount of people allowed per room is 4.
  • All bedrooms must have external ventilation through windows.


What are the obligations for each customer?

A contract document must be signed by all parties, showing the details of the property, the owner, the number of days of stay and the price of accommodation, as well as the identification of people with a copy of their passports or residence cards. We are talking about a simple document of just 1 or 2 sheets, that the owner must keep for a period of 1 year.

Likewise, the owner must notify the Guardia Civil (police) of the occupation of the home with each new customer. The owner must provide a copy of the contract and the passports/identity cards of occupants.


What happens if I don't register my home in this registry?

Inspection services may review the situation and begin penalty proceedings. Be careful, because the fine may range from 2,000  to 18,000 Euros.

Furthermore, you have the obligation to allow inspectors to enter the home when they visit it to verify that it meets the requirements for letting. If you do not allow inspectors to enter the home, you could be fined for very serious misconduct, with a large penalty.


What else does this Decree regulate?

Among other things, it regulates the rights of customers in cases where there is a conflict with the owner regarding the price of the letting, check-in and check-out times, advance payments or deposits for letting, etc. Ultimately, it regulates the terms for prices, booking, advance payments and cancellation, unless otherwise agreed in writing between the parties.


Taxes on income received

This registry is of an administrative nature, dependent on the Government of Andalusia and created to regulate the conditions of holiday lettings. It has nothing to do with the obligation to pay taxes on rental income. Likewise, if your home is registered in this Registry but you do not rent it out, it will have no cost to you.

The payment received for letting a home -either for holidays or long-term (longer than 2 months)- must be declared before the Tax Agency, which depends on the Central Government. The income tax you pay depends on the fact wheter you are a fiscal tax-resident in Spain (IRPF tax) of not (IRNR tax).


Legal advice

Even though the Decree will enter into force on 12 May, it is already possible to start the process to register homes in this Registry. If you have one or several properties being let as holiday homes you must register them before the Government of Andalusia. We can take care of processing the documents you need to register your home. We can also inform you about all the requirements that your home must meet and your obligations as its owner. Don't hesitate to contact us at 0034 - 952 532 582 or info@cdsolicitors.com

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

 

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)

 

PLUSVALIA TAX PAYMENT WHEN THE ACTUAL VALUE OF CONVEYED PROPERTIES HAS DECREASED

Spanish Plusvalia tax decreased value property

Spanish Plusvalia tax with decreased value property

Currently, as a result of the existing conditions of real estate market, the sale price of a real estate property may be below the purchase price or slightly above it.

As regards of these situations and in connection to taxes to be paid when selling a property in Spain, it is necessary to clarify that the increase in urban land values is the first element of the taxable event of the local tax on the increase in urban land values (Spanish acronym I.I.V.T.N.U.), commonly called PLUSVALÍA. Thus, in the event of no increase, no tax may be applied, despite the content of the objective rules for the calculation of the tax provided by Article 107 of Spanish law regulating local taxation (L.H.L.), since no tax liability may arise when an essential element of the taxable event is missing.

The legal liquidation system does not preclude that the taxpayer proves in the specific case that the application of the calculation methods by the Tax Administration leads to unrealistic results. On the other hand, regarding the formula of Article 107 L.H.L., the Supreme Court ruling dated 22nd of October 1994 was conclusive when maintaining that this article was subsidiary, defending and safeguarding taxpayers. According to this Judgment “legal regulations only provide a rebuttable presumption, which is subject to be distorted in each particular case by appropriate and sufficient evidence in the above terms for the taxpayers and in conformance with the provisions of Article 385 of the Spanish Civil Procedural Law. This reasoning, in regards of the actual increase in value(plusvalía) from property sales leading to non-taxation, was also highlighted by the Supreme Court in the Judgment dated 29th of April 1996 and the Judgment dated 22nd of September 2001.

However, a recent Judgment from the High Court of Justice of Catalonia dated 18th of July 2013 also pronounces undoubtedly the fact that town councils cannot charge the plusvalía tax in the event that it does not exist, since the Judge states that when an essential element of the taxable event is missing –as for example obtaining a profit from a property sale—no tax liability to pay plusvalía tax may arise.

Recently, it is being confirmed an increase of court rulings admitting taxpayers’ appeals against tax liability in the event of loss of assets. In the words of Pablo Chico de la Camara, Professor of Financial and Taxation Law: “the caselaw of the Constitutional Court confirms the impossibility to tax a nonexistent taxable wealth by the local authorities”. This situation may occur when the transferor may certify the loss of assets on the occasion of a land conveyance. It is clear for the Supreme Court that the nonexistence of increase in land values precludes the application of the Plusvalía tax.

To sum up, the objective absence of increase of land value may lead to non-taxation, as a result of the nonexistence of the taxable event, since the legal contradiction cannot and should not be resolved in favour of the “calculation method” and to the detriment of the economic reality. Consequently, it would mean the ignorance of the principles of equity, justice and economic capacity.

These same conclusions shall be applied when an increase of the value occurs and the amount of this increase is proved to be lower than the result of applying this calculation method, being the same principles infringed.

These conclusions, which are already supported by several doctrinal criteria and caselaw, shall be considered as unquestionable at present, in view of the aforementioned economic reality.

In SHORT: when it is certified and proved in a specific case that there has not been an economic and actual capital gain from a property sale, the payment of the Plusvalia tax (I.I.V.T.N.U.) shall NOT be required by town councils.

But the reality is that Town Councils are still requiring the payment of this tax despite properties are sold at a loss, so that the judicial procedure is the only chance in this case for taxpayers to “tackle” the payment of this tax. However, when the resulting plusvalía tax payment is relatively low, it is not worth taking legal actions, due to legal costs.

For those who decide to claim, we understand that there are sufficient legal and solid arguments to obtain a favourable judgment.

 

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

SPANISH INHERITANCE TAX: POSSIBLE CONDEMNATION AND CHANGES

Did you pay too much Spanish inheritance tax?

Have you paid too much Spanish inheritance tax?

Last 27th of March 2012, the European Commission pursued an action against Spain for the breach of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Agreement on the European Economic Area, as a result of the discrimination in respect of the Spanish inheritance and gift tax, since non-residents pay more taxes than residents under the same personal conditions.

Spanish inheritance tax is managed by Spanish autonomous regions, so there are significant differences from one region to another in respect of this taxation. Each regional administration has regulated this tax in a different way. However, if the taxpayer is a non-resident, the Central State Tax Administration Office is the competent body to collect this tax payment instead of the regional government tax office. Regional government regulations are much more favourable for taxpayers than central government tax rules, since regional administrations have established tax exemptions and reductions for the inheritance and gift tax.

However, these discriminatory situations between residents and non-residents in Spain also arise between residents of the different autonomous region. In fact, last 8th of May 2013, a court order from the Spanish Supreme Court established the illegality of the inheritance regulations of the Valencian autonomous region, because these regulations allow heirs residing in this region to benefit from tax reductions against those residing in other Spanish regions who do not enjoy from this benefit.

It is expected that in the future the Spanish Constitutional Court itself rules in this respect. Furthermore, upon consideration of this inequality legal situation, it is likely that the inheritance tax may be reformed in the medium and long term in order to balance differences among the different Spanish autonomous regions.

Regarding the action against Spain, last 8th of January the hearing for this proceedings was held before the Court of Justice of the European Union. It is very likely that a judgment may be pronounced in a few months in regards of this case. If this court order condemns Spain because of this discrimination, it may give rise to a right for reimbursement of undue taxes paid to all those non-residents in Spain who paid in the last 4 years the Spanish inheritance and gift tax, provided that this payment had been higher than the tax payment corresponding to residents belonging to this Spanish region under the same circumstances.

Taxpayers may claim within 4 years. This period starts to run from the date of tax payment. For this reason, in the event of a possible ruling condemning Spain in this regard in the following months, it is very important that all those non-residents in Spain, who paid inheritance and gift tax in the last 4 years,  check if their payment was higher than the one made by a resident in the same Spanish region. If that were the case, they should claim for the refunding before the end of this 4 years period. Once this period expires, they will not be entitled to it. The submission of this tax refund claim shall stop the 4 years expiry date while it is decided if Spain is condemned for this issue.

Our law firm is at your disposal to assist you in this matter. We would offer you our service on the basis of a “no win-no fee agreement” for the submission of the aforementioned tax refund claim before the Tax Authorities, that is, you would pay nothing to us if the public administration declines this first claim.

 

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

SPANISH PUBLIC TAX ADMINISTRATION REVIEWS PROPERTY TRANSFER VALUES

Spanish Tax Administration reviews property value

Spanish Tax Administration reviews property value

In the last few years, property market prices have dropped in Spain and the cases in which the National or Regional Tax Administration has reviewed declared values for property transfers have increased, whether for conveyance, inheritance or gifts; that is, you may sell your property for a certain and determined price, but the Regional or National Tax Administration may review that value after the sale and for tax purposes; then, it may consider that the real value of this sold property is higher than the one declared on the deed of sale, and therefore, the buyer shall pay the Transfer tax (ITP) on property transfer on the basis of the new value, which has been reviewed by the Regional Tax Administration, although the buyer had bought it for a lower price. In addition, the seller may have to declare capital gains higher than those actually obtained as a result of the review carried out by the National Tax Administration.

The abovementioned situation is legal and possible pursuant to Article 57 of Spanish general taxation law, in which it is provided that the Public Administration may check the property values by using different means.

Regarding urban properties, the Regional Tax Administraions and the Andalusian Regional Government are often supported on the grounds of an Order that is yearly approved to calculate the taxable minimum value of urban properties in this regard. As a result of this, it is possible to calculate this taxable minimum value from applying a rate provided by this Order to the details contained in the real estate tax IBI receipt (council tax). Then, you can know in advance whether the Tax Administration may claim more taxes or not when transferring your property.

Regarding rural real estate or properties with special characteristics, the matter becomes increasingly complicated, since Public Administrations may not always proceed by applying the aforementioned values and sometimes they are supported on the grounds of an expert report drawn up by technical personnel of the Tax Administration, which justifies the proven value of this rural or special property; for example, currently it is very common that the reviewed value for this type of properties is determined according to the estimated average values of construction, which are yearly publish by the Professional Association of Architects of Malaga. These values are indexed in a table containing the construction value per built square metre pursuant to the construction type and its features.

In the last year, as a result of this significant increase of value reviews by the Andalusian Tax Administration and, to a lesser degree, the National Government, our law firm always carries out an estimation of the taxable minimum value for tax purposes when advising our clients about property conveyance issues. Thus, they are warned of the possibility that their property value may be reviewed and the possible extra cost which may arise from this review. This is aimed at preparing our clients for this unpleasant surprise.

In general terms, the Andalusian Regional Tax Administration currently collects every single Euro from value reviews of property conveyances, so that if the taxable minimum value is higher than the conveyance actual value, it is quite normal that the Regional Government notifies you after a few months claiming the payment of the ITP tax on property transfer, stamp duty tax or gift and inheritance tax for the excess value reviewed.

The National Tax Administration, which is the competent body for capital gains collection of property sales, is not as determined as the Regional Tax Administration is when reviewing values. However, in those cases that the seller is not a tax resident and no capital gains has been obtained for the sale, when the 3 % withheld by the buyer is requested to be returned, the National Tax Administration does not hesitate to review the taxable minimum value of that property, so that the 3 % withheld is not returned in full to the seller. Furthermore, as a result of the reviewed taxable value, the seller may also have to pay the Tax Administration for capital gains, although no real gains had been obtained from the sale.

Obviously, there are grounds to challenge the property revaluations before the Public Tax Administration; however, in order to know if it is worthy to challenge it, it is important to examine and analyze each particular case in detail and determine if the reviewed value is properly justified before going ahead with the recourse.

Finally, it is also worth mentioning the possibility to file with the Tax Administration, prior to the property transfer, a binding report to obtain from the Tax Office the taxable value of this property. In some cases, it may be advisable to request this report, which commits the Tax Administration to respect it, although the value on this report will also oblige us for tax purposes.

 

 

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

 

THE “SUMMER HOLIDAY RENTALS” ISSUE

Spain, summer, holiday, rentals, tax, law

New rules Spanish holiday rentals tax

On the 5th of June 2013, Spanish Law 4/2013 dated 4th of June was published in the Spanish Official Gazette B.O.E. This recent Law states the procedures to relax and promote the rental housing market. By means of this Law, the Spanish Government tries to regulate summer holiday rentals, which are not controlled by the Spanish Tax Administration Office.

These regulations aim at two basic objectives: on the one hand, to change people’s habit in respect of meeting their housing needs—up to now, people were inclined to purchase their usual home and obtain a mortgage. Now, it is a question to be more inclined to live in a rental home. And on the other hand, these regulations aim at combating underground economy of summer holiday rentals.

Nevertheless, these regulations leave summer holiday rentals without legal protection, because they provide that “rentals intended for non-residential use” are not regulated by the Urban Rental Law (Spanish acronym LAU), but by the regulations of Regional Governments according to their own criteria.

Particularly, Andalusian legislation on this respect is very strict and tough if compared with other Spanish regions. For example, owners with less than three rental properties in the same building or residential complex are not included within Andalusian regulations. As a result of that conditioning, a high percentage of owners are prevented from renting their second homes. This is aimed at combating “encroachment” upon the tourist professional field and unfair competition for traditional tour operators.

Alternatively, the new Law imposes strict and controlling measures for this type of summer rentals—the Spanish Tax Administration Office obliges electric companies to submit annually a report including household consumption. This is intended to gather the necessary data to detect those housing rentals that are not declared.

The new Law literally provides the following: “… it is not included within the scope of this law: … the temporary assignment for use of the entire furnished and equipped home to be immediately occupied, marketed and promoted through tourist offer channels for economic purposes, when this property is subject to a specific regime as a result of its sectorial regulations.    

Upon consideration of this statement, these regulations may be discussed and interpreted in respect of renting a home for holidays from a private landlord. We consider that this rental is possible, but it is necessary to tell the difference between two types of scenarios: on the one hand, the rental per days with a tourist purpose; and on the other hand, the seasonal rental.

In the former case, it implies a regular commercial use of the rental by a professional, offering other additional services apart from the accommodation. In fact, this kind of tourist apartment rentals was also excluded from Spanish Urban Rental Law (LAU) up to now. They were regulated by the legislation of the competent public bodies.

In the later scenario, we are not dealing with a tourist business activity, but a temporary assignment without additional obligation. Accordingly, this new Law does not seem to affect people under these conditions. In case it does, it may certainly imply a clear restriction of owners’ rights. They may be able to rent their homes per season, whether for a long term or a short term, including per days. In addition, these housing rentals are regulated under the protection of Spanish Urban Rental Law of 1994 (LAU).

 

 

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

 

 

PREFERRED SHARES: THE GREAT SCANDAL

Preferred shares of Spanish banks

Preferred shares of Spanish banks

By the end of 2008, Spanish saving banks and banks already had clear reports stating that current high interest rates may drop and the property bubble was about to burst. In addition, they also knew that the lucrative business of saving banks in the construction sector by means of credits for developers and mortgages for individuals, was about to go to ruin.

Regarding that their core business in the housing sector was about to finish and that saving banks could not issue shares as banks could, they “invented” the sale of a product to obtain funds known as participaciones preferentes (preferred shares). This financial term may be defined as debt securities issuances for an undetermined period of time, in which saving banks pay returns depending on their profits. But they may not even pay anything at all—although this product offered up to 7% returns—, because the payment of these returns depended on the financial entity profits. Thus, as a result of the housing sector slump and saving banks loss, there was no profit. Furthermore, these preferred shares have no voting rights and are not guaranteed by the Deposit Guarantee Fund—which covers people’s savings up to 100,000 Euros—and has no maturity, that is, they are perpetual.

Most of the investors who purchased these preferred shares were retail clients of these financial entities. Most of them thought that this product was similar to fixed income deposits. In most cases, these clients did not have any knowledge about financial risks neither any intention to risk their savings—their money was invested in fixed term deposits and one day they received a telephone call from the bank convincing them of the “advantages” of purchasing preferred shares; however, most of the disadvantages were not explained to them, because the bank employees did not probably even know what they were offering. They just followed the financial entity instructions.

Result: 300,000 people affected by the purchase of these preferred shares which may amount to 30,000 million Euros, although this sum may be higher.

Financial entities are allowed to sell this type of products if they carry out the following: study of the investor’s profile and performance of the private investor test for suitability. In most cases, it is obvious that financial entities should have not sold the aforementioned preferred shares to most of their retail clients, because they did not match the suitable profile to purchase this type of products and had limited savings to be invested only in conservative products, such as fixed income deposits.

Holders of the aforementioned preferred shares have the following options:

A) Secondary market offering, although they may be sold at a loss considering current circumstances.

B) Conversion into shares of the entity—this is the solution offered by saving banks. However, this exchange is also at a loss, as Bankia has already done two weeks ago—in this case, its clients have lost up to 70% of their investment when the preferred shares were converted.

C) Going to the arbitration offered by the Government—we sincerely have misgivings about its results and clients may also have to assume significant losses.

D) Going to court through civil proceedings to claim for the invalidity of the contract which served as a basis for purchasing preferred shares.  This is the most recommended procedure for all people affected, as court orders which have been already known are pronounced in favour of these people. Although this action may imply a longer procedure to recover the invested money, the result is much more advantageous.

We finally recommend you to consult an expert before taking any decision if you are a person affected by this matter, so that all possible options are explored particularly.

 

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

 

 

PROPERTIES ON NON-DEVELOPABLE LAND AFFECTED BY RECENT FIRE IN COSTA DEL SOL

Legal risks rural house Spain fire

Legal risks rural house Spain fire

As a result of the terrible fire initiated last Thursday 30th in Coin, an estimate of 100 to 200 properties built on non-developable land within the municipal area of Coín, Mijas, Marbella, Ojén and Alhaurín el Grande were severely damaged and some of them completely ruined.

In this year 2012 the Decree 2/2012 for the regulation of buildings and scattered rural settlements on non-developable land in Andalusia was passed by the Andalusian Regional Government in January to put a stop to the problem of thousand of properties on non-developable land. However, this Decree does not currently apply nor does it mean the legalization of these properties, as it was already discussed on once of our previous article

According to the above mentioned Decree, most of these fire-affected properties are considered assimilated to out of ordination housing, as they were built without construction permits or infringing their condition and the municipal General Plan for Urban Planning PGOU. Therefore, no measures can be adopted to recover their legality, which has been disrupted over time and they cannot either be legalized. The only permission authorized by this Decree is “…works for the repair and maintenance which may require the strict maintenance of the security, occupation and health standards of the property” (Article 8.3 of the Decree).

In the event of some fire-affected properties considered out of ordination—properties built in accordance with the municipal PGOU, but considered “out of its ordination” after the PGOU modification, the permitted construction works shall be provided by the municipal PGOU, which is currently under development in most of the municipalities. The Andalusian Town Planning Act L.O.U.A. shall be also considered as it provides that “…only repair works for the strict maintenance of property occupation or usage…” as well as “…exceptionally partial and circumstantial works may be permitted for the property consolidation…”. It is worth mentioning that only a few of these properties may be under the “out of ordination” condition.

This restriction or limitation to alter or renovate properties on non-developable land is provided by the definition on the Decree for “scattered rural properties”, which are included within the “out or ordination” concept and its variant “assimilated”. In accordance with the case law, this concept has been defined as “constructions to disappear once their useful life possibilities finishes—the “out of ordination” condition aims the usage of property until it finishes over time, ends up as a ruin and naturally disappears. For this reason, the Andalusian regulation always provides the granting of permits for this type of constructions for the strict maintenance and under exceptional circumstances.

The Decree does not provide the legalization of these properties. In fact, part of the status for these “assimilated to out of ordination” properties considered as illegal, makes them to be given a definition and their use limited, since no measures can be taken to protect their legality, so that they are “attacked”, as too much time has elapsed since the were built.

In the event of a disaster as fire, flood, earthquake, landslides, etc…, in which a property is in ruins or very damaged and cannot be used again for the purposes to be occupied as a residence, if we abide by the current regulations on these events, it would be very complicated to grant a construction o repair permit for these properties, since it is against the concept of “out of ordination” and “assimilated to out of ordination” provided by the Decree.

The problem lies in a Decree which does not give any solution to the current legal condition of these properties, which have been tolerated by the Andalusian Regional Government and Town Councils for many years. During all these years, nobody has done anything at all on this matter and for that reason no legal measures can be legally adopted to restore their legality.

According to the first political reactions read on the papers about the burned properties, it seems that each particular case may be studied. In some cases, a forced and exceptional interpretation out of the legal framework would be adopted, so that those families with just one house would be allowed to rebuild and live on their non-developable lands as they did before the fire. The problem of this “shortcuts” to implement what the legal regulations do not provide is that a precedent is set, so that in the future event that any of the owners of the more than 100,000 properties built in non-developable land in Andalusia had a disaster of this kind, aren’t they also entitled to receive a similar treatment from the Public Administration? For this reason, the problem lies in a Decree for appearance’s sake, which does not solve the problem and is currently open to doubt in this type of situations.

 

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

 

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