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

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FIRST OCCUPATION LICENCE (LPO) IN ANDALUSIA REPLACED BY RESPONSIBILITY DECLARATION

First Occupation License in Andalusia (LPO) and the RTA rental licenses

First Occupation Licence in Andalusia (LPO) and the RTA rental licences

Big news for Andalusian house owners that don´t have their First Occupation Licence (LPO) yet which is obliged to present when applying for the RTA rental licence of the Registro de Turismo de Andalucia. This was a problem because many houses don´t have this licence as it wasn´t a standard requirement for new build houses until the eighties.

On March 12, the Andalusian Government published in its Official bulletin (BOJA) a Law Decree which has as its main purpose to simplify the regulation of some procedures in Andalusia. This regulation has affected a multitude of procedures and among these the new article 169 bis of the Urban Planning Law of Andalusia (LOUA) of 2002 was approved, which affects the First Occupation Licence (Licencia de Primera Ocupacion or LPO in Spanish).

Likewise, article 169.3 of the LOUA has been modified with a second paragraph that establishes that those acts that are subject to a responsibility declaration do not require a licence. As a general statement, we can say that the new decree allows obtaining the right to occupy or use the majority of buildings located on consolidated urban land throughout Andalusia, by submitting the responsibility declaration together with the required legal documentation by the interested party.

In other words, it will no longer be necessary for these buildings to obtain the First Occupation Licence (LPO) from the city council since the new ´Declaration of occupation or use´ replaces the Occupation Licence. The responsibility declaration of occupation grants the owner the same rights that the First Occupation Licence granted from the day of its presentation.

What is a “responsibility declaration”? 

The responsibility declaration is a document signed by the interested party in which he declares that he meets a series of requirements according to specific regulations and therefore allows him to acquire a right. From the date of presentation (also by a certified architect) the right that is intended to the interested party is recognized, so from the legal point of view it is equal and replaces the earlier First Occupation Licence (LPO) granted by the City Council.

This type of procedure is becoming more common in the Spanish administration. This is because from the presentation of said responsibility declaration the right is recognized and, therefore, it is possible to avoid the waiting time and delay of the administration which in the case of the First Occupation Licence was months.

Which buildings can present a responsibility declaration for their right of occupation?

Article 169 bis commented above, establishes in its section c that it can be obtained by responsibility declaration “the occupation or use of the works of the previous section, provided that the buildings and facilities are finished and their destination is in accordance with the regulations of application". These works in section b) of article 169, whose occupancy rights would be obtained by means of a responsibility declaration, are: “Works in existing buildings and facilities, on consolidated urban land and in accordance with urban planning, that do not alter the occupation and height parameters, nor involve increases in buildability or the number of homes ”.

Therefore, in section c, existing buildings that have never had a First Occupation Licence are enabled so that they now can obtain their right of occupation, by filing a responsibility declaration. Section d includes the possibility of obtaining the first occupation or use, through a responsibility declaration for new buildings: “d) The first occupation and use of new buildings, provided they are finished and their destination is in accordance with the application regulations and with the works licence granted”.

It is important to say that this change does not affect dwellings on undeveloped land, rustic dwellings, since they cannot obtain the First Occupation Licence as they officially are not part of the urban planning.

What obligations does the responsibility declaration establish?

The interested party who signs a responsibility declaration to acquire the right to occupy a property is responsible for the fulfilment of the established requirements to be able to enjoy said right. Along with the aforementioned declaration, he must present the required technical and legal documentation that certifies compliance with the requirements. Likewise, it will undertake to maintain compliance with said requirements once the declaration is presented.

Therefore, it is evident that responsibility declarations for the occupation or use of a building should not be presented when the requirements demanded by the norm for their presentation are not complied with. It must previously be analysed whether the house in question can obtain this right. It should not be forgotten that the presentation of the responsible declaration supposes assuming a legal responsibility. Presenting said declaration with falsification of the data or documents provided or not attaching all the required legal documentation may suppose legal responsibility for the interested party by the administration.

How does this regulatory change affect tourist rental in Andalusia?

This regulatory change is evident that it will allow many homes, which up to this date do not have a First Occupation Licence for various reasons but still complied with the requirements. These can now obtain this legal recognition with the presentation of the responsibility declaration and required documentation. Since the Andalusian Government legislated tourist homes and forced their registration in the Andalusian Tourism Registry (RTA), requiring the First Occupation Licence, there are many homeowners in Andalusia: Malaga, Costa del Sol or Costa Tropical for example, who have applied for such a licence for their homes. Due to the slowness of the municipalities in granting the First Occupation Licences, many of the owners that have applied for said licence are still waiting for this to be resolved.

Many owners from towns such as Nerja, Málaga, Marbella, Vélez-Málaga, Benalmádena, Fuengirola, Almuñécar, Torrox ... etc, and many other municipalities on the Costa del Sol and Costa Tropical will now be able to obtain their right of occupation through a responsibility declaration and hence comply with the requirement of the LPO. This way they can carry out the registration of their home in the RTA for the tourist rental of the property.

There are more than a few foreign clients of our office who have spent months or years "fighting" with their City Council to obtain their First Occupation Licence and now they will be able to obtain said right with the responsibility declaration, easily and quickly. Of course, for these homes, this regulatory change has meant a very important and positive change since one of the main attractions for a foreigner who wants to buy a property in Andalusia is its profitability through tourist rental. With the current crisis of the coronavirus COVID-19, these types of changes help the economic activity.

How does this change affect the sale of second-hand properties?

Most of property purchases by foreigners in Andalusia are existing homes and some of these do not currently have an LPO. It is evident that the responsibility declaration will, from now on, facilitate the process of obtaining the right to occupy a property. This due to the fact that it is understood that the right of occupation or use has been acquired since the presentation of the responsible declaration. Well, from the buyer's point of view it is very important that, when buying on urban land, carefully check whether the property can obtain said right of occupation or not if the occupancy rights have been acquired by the seller through the presentation of the responsibility declaration.

The potential buyer must request a copy of the technical documentation presented together with the declaration from the seller, so that his lawyer and / or architect can review it and confirm that said property meets the requirements to obtain the right of occupation or use. If the future buyer does not make this verification, there is a risk that the seller of the property, in order to make it appear that his home has the right of occupancy, presents or is going to present the responsibility declaration despite the fact that the property cannot obtain said right for not complying with the requirements.

In this scenario, the buyer and new owner of the property may encounter a problem. Obviously, the seller could be held responsible for this situation but in most cases of foreign sales, the sellers are non-resident, it would be expensive and complicated to initiate legal proceedings. Always check with your lawyer about the situation of the property you are going to buy.

What happens with new construction promotions?

As we have previously mentioned, also for this type of housing it is possible for the developer to obtain what was previously the First Occupation Licence (LPO), through the declaration of occupation or use. The Urban Planning Law of Andalusia (LOUA) with this regulatory change, establishes that an occupancy licence for new homes is not required in Andalusia, it is possible to present the responsibility declaration of occupation.

In other words, even if the developer wanted to he or she could no longer obtain the LPO from the City Council as a result of this regulatory change. This means that, even if it is stated in the signed private purchase contract that the developer is required to obtain the LPO it would now be sufficient for the developer with the responsibility declaration as it would prove that the new house has the right of first occupation. The promoter by means of the declaration fulfils the private contract of sale.

What happens if the developer has improperly filed the statement?

The City Councils have an obligation to review whether or not the responsible statement meets the requirements to obtain the right of occupation or use, and may declare the cessation of occupation in the event that the requirements are not met and may also demand legal responsibility from the promoter for said actions.

If within the first six months from the presentation of the declaration, the City Council has not adopted the necessary measures for the cessation of the act or use, in the event that the requirements for that occupation are not met, the City Council would be liable for damages caused to third parties in good faith. In other words, the City Councils would answer to the people who bought these homes with the conviction that the sale could be carried out, since these the day they signed the Deed of Sale, they had the declaration responsible for the promoter of occupation or use (former LPO) .

The foregoing gives leaves us to understand that if the Town Hall reviews said declaration in those first six months and understands that the cessation of the occupation must be decreed, the developer would be responsible for the damages to the buyers. However, I understand that in most cases there should be no damage to the buyers, since the optional management of the works (mainly architects and surveyors) will ensure that their final works certificate is in accordance with the law since they would be the main responsible along with the promoter if this was not the case. The final works certificate is the most important technical document to obtain the right of occupation in a new home.

Can the declaration of occupation or use be presented in all Town Halls?

It is true that to this date few municipalities have approved specific procedures for this process such as Malaga, Marbella, Seville or Córdoba. The Andalusian Government has published a practical guide to this decree, along with the models for the responsibility declaration and the necessary documentation, so that the Town Councils can use it. In our opinion, such models can also be used by citizens since the right of occupation can only be obtained through a responsibility declaration, and not through a licence granted by the City Councils as of March 13th 2020.

It is true that since most of the municipalities have not approved this new procedure through their municipal ordinance, it is likely that they do not agree with obtaining said right of occupation by presenting the responsibility declaration, unless that City Council has previously approved that specific procedure.

Notwithstanding this Decree in the tenth transitory provision, allows those interested who prior to March 13 have initiated a procedure to obtain a first occupation license, can request the application of this new procedure and therefore may obtain the right of occupation through the responsibility declaration.

If the new regulation provides for the possibility of changing the procedure already initiated, we understand that since it entered into force it allows obtaining the right of occupation by means of a responsibility declarations, even though the City Council has not published its municipal ordinance.

Can supplies be contracted with this responsibility statement instead of the LPO?

The answer is categorically YES. Although it is very likely that it will be necessary to explain and discuss, at least during these first months since probably several of the supply companies for electricity and water will not have obtained this information or guidelines of said legal modification and will continue to demand the LPO. As you can understand, the best thing to do if you are an owner is to consult with your lawyer or architect about the specific situation of your property.

Of course, if you are in the process of buying a home or thinking about it, it is very important to contact a specialized lawyer who can advise you in the process of buying and selling the property and who knows these urban issues well.

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors, (Málaga, Andalusia)

 

Purchase contracts in Spain and the COVID-19 Corona crisis

Purchase or sales contract during COVID / Corona crisis

Purchase or sales contract during COVID / Corona crisis

It is clear that the healthcare crisis caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has had a huge impact on all areas of our daily lives. The state of alarm decreed by the Spanish government, as well as many other governments in foreign countries, has caused movement restrictions and limitations, the closure of the airspace, the paralysis of the business fabric and government agencies, etc. People's everyday lives have been severely affected from a social and economic standpoint.

With this article, we would like to respond, as much as possible, to the doubts and uncertainties of foreign clients buying homes in Spain, as well as their sellers. We are referring to sales between individuals that were already underway with signed contracts but which were 'surprised' by the COVID-19 crisis and the measures adopted by the Spanish government decreeing the state of alarm.

At the end of the article, we will comment briefly on the legal situation of sales of new homes or off-plan sales from developers.

What does Spanish law say on the fulfilment of contracts?

The first thing that must be said emphatically is that, under Spanish law, the clauses agreed in a contract have the force of law and, therefore, the parties are required to fulfil them. In other words, the impossibility of fulfilling what has been agreed in a contract is an exception and is interpreted very restrictively.

The Spanish Supreme Court, when dealing with potential breaches of contract and to avoid the loss of the money paid, has established that the party in breach has to evidence and argue the reasons behind said breach, as well as prove that it did everything possible to perform the contract.

However, even after establishing the impossibility of complying with the contract, if it is possible to amend or adapt it so it can be fulfilled, the parties must seek to modify the contract in that way, to solve the problem arising from the situation caused by the state of alarm and the COVID-19 Corona crisis. In other words, when faced with the potential avoidance of the contract by one of the parties, they must always attempt to reach an agreement to fulfil it.

Which property sales could be affected by the state of alarm?

In my opinion, the conveyance contracts that may be affected are those that required either of the parties to fulfil a requirement or condition agreed in the contract before the execution of the public deed of sale and that condition is affected by these months of paralysis.

Due to the paralysation of activities and movement limitations, it is very possible that some of the requirements established in a conveyance contract cannot be fulfilled, as the estimated time to process or manage these were calculated based on a normal situation, which has not existed since 13 March. As an example, we can mention the following:

  • For the conveyance contract to establish the condition of being granted a building permit or the record for legalisation of a home, such as DAFO in rural homes in Andalusia. As city halls are paralysed or working at minimum levels, it is very possible for these applications not to be processed until the state of alarm is brought to an end.
  • For the condition to be obtaining a Spanish mortgage. If the appraiser cannot travel to visit the property or the bank's risk department is not operating, this process will be paralysed, making the average resolution time much longer than initially expected.
  • For the date of signing the conveyance contract and recording it as a public deed to coincide with the period of the state of alarm and/or the restrictions on commercial flights, making it impossible for either of the parties to attend the notary office.
  • The impossibility to obtain an NIE (foreigner's identification number.), which is necessary to sign a conveyance contract before a notary and pay the corresponding taxes. The processing of these documents is currently suspended. The national police stations in Malaga that we asked don't know when they'll be able to open to accept new NIE applications.
  • Either of the parties being admitted into hospital or in quarantine.

What should the seller and buyer do in this situation?

Well, the first thing is to see if the private contract contains any clause that governs these situations since, as I've mentioned, the sales or purchase contract has the force of law and binds the parties. However, in conveyance processes where the deed cannot be signed for reasons arising from the coronavirus crisis, what both parties should do would be to amend the contract and extend it, to give time to the party that needs it in order to complete the sale. In most situations, it is only a matter of time for that circumstance or condition that is currently impossible to fulfil to be fulfilled later on.

Likewise, in the event of inflexibility and the refusal of either of the parties to grant such an extension to the conveyance contract, in most cases there would be no legal grounds to terminate the contract and/or claim damages. As mentioned above, the parties must always attempt to reach an agreement to comply with the contract.

Is it possible for the buyer to terminate the contract due to the COVID-19 crisis?

Withdrawing from a conveyance contract due to a sudden drop in house prices and in the face of an economic crisis is a complex issue. In this case, we are referring to the buyer having to accredit meeting one of the requirements established in case law for terminating purchase contracts, this being that there has been an extraordinary change in the circumstances leading to the execution of said contract.

In other words, the buyer would have to evidence that the current economic crisis, resulting in a deep and prolonged economic recession, could be openly considered an economic phenomenon able to generate a severe disruption or change in the circumstances leading to the execution of said contract.

In Spain, the courts have been rejecting the possibility to terminate a sales or purchase contract based on this circumstance. However, this possibility should not be ruled out and individual factors should be analysed, such as whether the home will be a primary home or a holiday home, if the buyer was in need of mortgage financing, if the financial situation of the buyer has changed significantly, etc.

What is the buyer's situation in the sales process?

With this question, what we want to address is the situation of a buyer who made a decision to purchase a home at a specific price a few months ago, based on an economic situation that is in no way similar to the current one.

Let's imagine Dutch, Belgian, English, Swedish or other foreign people who wanted to invest in property in Malaga or the Costa del Sol, either to obtain a profit or to let it. Clearly, the sales price they agreed was based on the value of that property under the earlier economic situation. For instance, let's imagine a home in the historic centre of Málaga or Nerja, highly sought-after areas with tourist attractions before COVID-19, with great possibilities for letting in the tourist market, which is currently suspended.

Well, as a buyer, in the event that continuing with the purchase of the property would lead to incurring significant levels of debt, the first thing to do would be to analyse two things:

  • The amount of money paid to the seller (usually 10% of the purchase price). Whether the buyer is willing to lose that money, essentially due to thinking that it is better to lose the money and not buy the property.
  • The content of the purchase contract clauses agreed in terms of what happens when the buyer breaches the purchase contract. This is an important issue because a breach of contract could lead to different legal situations. The usual process is to execute an earnest money contract, which entails losing the money paid to the seller, leading to the termination of the contract, this being the clause that our firm usually agrees in conveyance contracts. However, if this is not properly drafted in the contract, it is possible for the seller to be entitled to require the buyer to comply with the purchase contract and sign the public deed, even if the buyer agreed to lose the earlier money paid. Obviously, this claim from the buyer would have to be addressed in judicial proceedings, which would take years before the parties get a resolution and usually sellers settle for keeping the money paid as a deposit.

What is the seller's situation in the selling process?

For sellers, they are most likely the most interested in completing the sale of the home as, certainly, the price set in the sales / purchase contract signed before COVID-19 will be higher than what they can obtain in the short or medium term. Without a doubt, the current situation will lead to a general drop in house prices, even though no one knows how long this will last.

That said, it is possible for sellers who already have a signed contract and who see that buyers are hesitating to complete the conveyance to be interested in making it easier for buyers to complete the purchase. In other words, in this context, negotiating a lower price so that the seller can sell doesn't seem far-fetched. In the end, the price drop would depend on whether it is very important for the seller to sell right now or they can wait, or whether the money already paid by the buyer is enough compensation for the seller to agree to keep that amount as a penalty instead of negotiating.

What is the situation when purchasing new builds or off-plan homes?

In sales of this type, in terms of the performance of the contract by the buyer, the situation is the same as explained above, in terms of both compliance with the contract and its termination clauses. In my opinion, the buyer's potential doubts would be determined by the progress of the works and the expected completion date of the development, also thinking about the financial solvency of the developer.

If the buyer signed the sales contract over one year ago, when the market was experiencing a good time and prices were rising, it is very likely for the price agreed at that time to be lower than what they could find at the beginning of this year, for instance. On the other hand, if the works are close to completion, there would be little doubt as to whether the developer will complete them, as they would be almost completely sold and few buyers would be thinking about terminating the purchase contract, since they would have already made significant payments on account for their homes. In this case, the scenario for the buyer is safe.

In the case of developments where construction has not yet started but which were already being marketed, with expected completion likely coming in a year or two, the scenario is different. In this case, buyers who are in doubt and recently signed the private contract must assess the price of the property and its completion date, as well as find out the number of homes with signed contracts sold by the developer, in order to make a decision. However, if the private contract has not yet been signed and only a reservation had been agreed with the developer, they can withdraw from it and recover the amount paid. They can also wait longer, as developers are likely to lower prices, depending on how long the crisis lasts.

In terms of the solvency of developers, due to the obligation to guarantee all the amounts paid during construction once the private contract has been signed, the buyer would have complete legal certainty in the event that the developer is unable to complete construction. This situation is in no way similar to the 2008 crisis, where many buyers lost their payments on account.

Individual review situation purchase contract

However, these sales processes starting prior to the COVID-19 crisis can lead to complex situations that should be analysed individually and always with the advice of a lawyer. This is not the time to make decisions without the appropriate legal knowledge, taking into account that a private conveyance contract has already been singed. Rushing is never a good idea.

 

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors, (Málaga, Andalusia)

 

TAX DEADLINES WITHIN THE STATE OF ALARM IN SPAIN

Coronavirus, taxes deadlines, spainDue to the actual crisis that has been declared in the whole world by the World Health Organization because of the Coronavirus (also known as Covid-19), almost every country has put into force different measures.

*This document has been written according to the law and Decrees in force until 4th April 2020.

In Spain, the 14th March 2020, the government declared the “state of alarm” (regulated in Art. 116.1 of the Spanish constitution and the organic law 4/1981), for 15 days, (until the 29th March), through the Real Decree 463/2020, closing museums, monuments, restaurants and almost every business open to the public. Nevertheless, concerning the increase of the infections, the state of alarm has been extended for another 15 days until the 12th April 2020, after the approval of the Parliament ( Congreso de los Diputados, Decree 11/2020), and pending for another extension until the 26th April.    

The main goal of these decrees is to prohibit free movement of people in order to prevent further increase of infection among the Spanish population. Nevertheless, all these measures have economical, fiscal and, of course, social consequences.

Extension of the payment dates for self-employed and small entrepreneurs (PYME) (Deferral and split payments).

  1. Self-employed and small entrepreneurs with a turnover of less than € 6.010.121,04, are allowed to defer payment of the tax debt (less than 30,000 euros) without the need to provide a guarantee for a 6-month term. The first three of these months will not accrue default interest, with the consequent. Said deferral only refers to settlements or self-assessments  that had to be presented or entered from March 13th to May 20th of 2020 (article 14 Decree 7/2020).
  2. A postponement of tax debts that previously could not be postponed is now allowed (article 65 LGT):
  • Those that the person is required to make payments on account for (art. 65.2 b), such as the quarterly model 111 or the 3% model Modell 211.
  • Those derived from taxes that must be passed on by law having been collected (art. 65.2 f), such as model 303 of VAT
  • Fractional payments of Corporation Tax. (art. 65.2 g), such as IS model 202

Suspension of legal terms not concluded before March 14 (Decree 8/2020 and 11/2020)

Article 33 of Royal Decree-Law 8/2020 and its clarification with Decree 11/2020 applies to all taxpayers, extending the deadlines not concluded before March 14, 2020, until April 30 2020 for:

  • The payments of tax debt for liquidations in the voluntary period and those that, in the executive period, have been notified of the enforcement order.  For example: if you have been notified of a settlement for the payment of a tax debt on March 12 you would have to pay it no later than April 20 (according to the General Tax Law in its article 65.2), however, with this decree the payment can be postponed until April 30.
  • Deadlines and fractions of deferrals already granted (prior to March 14, 2020 without prejudice to the deadlines reflected in art. 14 of the previous Decree 7/2020), as well as the deadlines on auctions and adjudication of goods made by the Treasury state.
  • Deadline to meet the state agency requirements, embargo proceedings, requests for information or to make allegations in tax procedures (regarding nullity, rectification of errors, requesting returns).
  • If there was doubt as to whether or not these tax procedures initiated by the corresponding autonomous and local Administration, the new Decree 11/2020, in its article 53, establishes that the suspension of the aforementioned period also applies to local and autonomous administration (in the art.33 of decree 8/2020).
  • Deadlines to meet requirements and requests of the cadastre.
  • No proceedings to execute the guarantees already seized which fall on real estate in the administrative procedures of constraint

 

What happens with the procedures communicated as of March 14?

For all the aforementioned procedures communicated as of that date, they are extended until May 20 of 2020 (unless the one granted by another tax rule is higher).

For example: if a settlement for the payment of a tax debt was notified on March 19, in normal cases you would have to pay it no later than May 5, however, with this decree, payment can be deferred until May 20.

However, in any of the above assumptions, if the taxpayer complied with the requirement, paid the tax debt or presented allegations despite the deferment granted, they will be understood to have been carried out for all purposes, procedure completed.

 

What happens with self-assessments such as the payment of Property Transfer Tax in the sale of a home?

When a person buys a home in Andalusia, they have 30 days to pay the Property Transfer Tax, which is currently 8% of the purchase price. The payment of the same is done through a self-assessment. In other words, the buyer or his/her representative prepares this tax model and presents it voluntarily for payment within that period.

The decree regarding the state of Alarm does not include self-assessments as deferrable, according to Royal Decree 465/2020, of 17 March, amending Royal Decree 463/2020 of 14 March, declaring a state of alarm, so for example, neither the quarterly settlements of VAT nor personal income tax (models 130 and 303) are postponed and maintains their deadline for April 20 for the third quarter.

 

What happens during the state of alarm with the legal term of actions that tax authorities can exercise against someone and the deadlines for filing appeals?

Royal Decree 11/2020 establishes that the period from March 14 to April 30, will not count for the purposes of prescription in the actions that the tax administration may exercise against the administered.

Let's take an example, if the administration had a maximum period until March 19 to demand payment of a tax, and it has not been demanded by March 13 the administration automatically has until April 30 to request payment.

There would neither be a deadline for the expiration of the procedures initiated by the administration.

On the other hand, the deadlines for the filing of administrative economic appeals against tax acts or in the economic-administrative procedures not notified before March 14, 2020, do not start until after April 30, 2020.

 

What happens with the income declaration from rentals or the annual IRNR declaration for non-residents?

These deadlines do not vary, meaning that all non-residents in Spain receiving an income from rentals of a property here in Spain must declare said profit quarterly within the corresponding period.

 

Author: Guillermo Arenere Ruiz, lawyer at C&D Solicitors, Torrox (Málaga, Andalusia)

MALAGA AND COSTA DEL SOL: GREAT TOURIST AREA, WORRYING WASTEWATER PURIFICATION

malaga, costa del sol, sewage, properties

The wastewater purification in Malaga, financial and environmental consequences

With this article, I am detracting from the usual ones of a more legal nature, aimed at foreigners, resident or non-resident, who own a home in Malaga. In this post, I attempt to analyse the situation of wastewater purification in terms of the most significant tourist municipalities in Costa del Sol, as well as the financial and environmental consequences that lack of purification entails for municipalities like Nerja and Coín. I also focus on properties on rural land and the purification required for homes wishing to obtain a DAFO.

Introduction

With environmental sustainability or the environmental impact of our lifestyles being such an important issue in our times, I would like to speak my mind about the great problem of faecal water purification in the province of Malaga in general, even through it is sadly extensible to most regions in Spain, in population centres both large and small. However, Malaga, as a top tourist destination and due to its population density, especially along the coastline, should have an infrastructure that mitigates the environmental impact caused by all of us who live on the shore.

Many of our clients, both resident and non-resident, who are thinking about purchasing a home in Andalusia and that we provide advice to, are attracted by the Mediterranean Sea that bathes our shores but on which we indiscriminately dump millions of litres of unpurified wastewater. A recent article in La Opinión de Málaga on 5 January stated that Malaga dumps 123 million cubic metres of wastewater into the sea every year, a real atrocity.

National problem, million-euro fine 

On 15 February, El País national newspaper published an article informing that, until that date, Spain had paid about 32.70 million euros in fines due to not complying with the wastewater treatment directive in municipalities with over 15,000 inhabitants. This has been the highest fine paid by Spain to the EU in history.

This breach of the directive led to a conviction from the European Court of Justice and the resulting fine being imposed by the European Commission. This fine continues to grow for as long as those 17 municipalities fail to treat their wastewater, an obligation that came into force in 2001, which means almost 19 years have passed since that directive was enacted.

Nerja, beautiful beaches with faecal waters

One of the many municipalities that have been fined and do not have a sewage treatment plant is Nerja. It is striking that this municipality, which such beauty  and such great beaches and cliffs, in 2020, is still dumping the sewage it generates directly into the ocean, through a collector located 1,200 metres from the coast.

Nerja has spent over 20 years on the project for its sewage treatment plant and even though it seems that this year may finally mark the end of the works, according to an article in Diario Sur on 6 January (fingers crossed), this does not detract from the sloppiness and lack of interest of the local and regional government have displayed about this project.

The situation is so obvious from an environmental standpoint that, following several complaints, the prosecutor's office brought judicial proceedings against senior officials of the Nerja City Council for the illegal dumping of this untreated wastewater. One of the toxicology reports certified that all samples taken from five beaches in Nerja contained faecal organisms according to their tests.

Construction of the Nerja treatment plant was declared to be of public interest by the Government in 1996 but, 23 years later, it has not yet been completed. If you visited Nerja and the surrounding areas in 1996, you could see the large number of works that did get started and completed because there were many years with large capital movements but the faecal water purification plant was not so lucky. Other municipalities on the eastern coast, such as Torrox, Vélez Málaga and Rincón de la Victoria, do have a sewage treatment plant in operation.

Mouth of the Guadalhorce, a natural site with a “faecal” river

Another area that also presents a high degree of pollution due to illegal dumping is the mouth of the Guadalhorce river in the city of Malaga. This enclave is the last unspoiled beach in the city of Malaga and is home to a very significant ecosystem of flora and fauna, with a network of trails to move through it. However, in this river, municipalities as large as Alhaurín el Grande and Coín dump their untreated faecal waters, which also led to a fine being paid by the government of Spain.

The city of Malaga has reinvented itself as a multicultural European city, currently highly appreciated by foreign tourists due to its many urban development projects, mostly in real estate. But Malaga is unable to commit to a project in the mouth of the Guadalhorce, which could affect this unique space –as it is the last unspoiled one– to preserve its environmental value.

It is non-profit associations that are reforesting and trying to preserve this space altruistically, as our firm was able to witness during the conference we held with some of them last November.

The municipality of Coín, a peculiar case

For the town of Coín to be able to connect to the treatment plant in the lower Guadalhorce, it is necessary to build the 3 kilometres of collectors that were destroyed by the torrential rains in autumn 2018 but the Andalusia Council, along with the contracting company, continue to fight to decide who will pay for these repairs. Coín is also immersed in legal proceedings due to its failure to treat its wastewater. While the administrations argue, this collector continues broken and the faecal water from Coín is dumped directly into the Guadalhorce river.

Isolated homes and their regularisation through DAFO, a bad focus of faecal waters

Even though compared to large population centres, the impact of these homes is lower, it should be noted that there are many isolated homes existing in Malaga. In La Axarquía, municipalities such as Alcaucín, Viñuela, Competa, Periana and Torrox have thousands of rural homes, as well as towns in the Guadalhorce valley, such as Coín, Alhaurín el Grande and Alhaurín de la Torre. Likewise, municipalities such as Mijas or Ronda also have many houses on non-urban land.

Among the positive aspects of the DAFO these homes are required to have an individual and autonomous treatment system. It should be noted that this procedure is important for foreigners who buy and sell homes in the province.

What is the problem?

I see that one of the negative aspects is the requirement from the Andalusia Council for properties subject to DAFO to have a watertight septic tank, forbidding septic tanks with a biological filter. This guideline is a serious mistake and its effect is contrary to what is intended, which is to prevent these homes from polluting the land on which they are located.

Properties with a watertight tank habitually require (monthly or more frequently, depending on their use) a tanker to visit the property and empty the contents of the tank, which are then transferred to an authorised waste facility.

What is the alternative?

Allowing the use of septic tanks with a biological filter as a treatment system, as it would not be necessary to empty the tank and water would come out clean and purified. It may be necessary to request authorisation for the discharge point of this clean, filtered water, which could even be used for irrigation but, with this treatment system, a company would only need to clean the tanks once a year, which represents significant savings for owners.

What is happening?

The problem that we find with watertight septic tanks is the economic cost of each emptying, which leads many homeowners to resort to other illegal methods, to avoid inconveniences and economic costs. In many cases, they choose to install a watertight septic tank and, once the technician certifies it, a small hole is drilled at the bottom, through which faecal water is poured into groundwater, thereby dispending with the need to have a truck empty it and making it very difficult for this to be sanctioned.

It is appalling that, in some cities, it has been accepted or assumed that owners will not empty their watertight septic tanks and will drill a small hole in them. I would even dare to say that owners are given such a “solution” to prevent the inconvenience of emptying, as the DAFO only requires having a technician certify the installation of the watertight septic tank and, if a hole is drilled later, no one will notice.

However, with thousands of homes in the countryside, thinking that a truck would need to go empty the septic tank in each of them on a frequent basis, requires being naive or means that the Andalusia Council cares little about these discharges (I lean more towards the latter). I am also not very sure of where these trucks discharge the faecal waters they do collect.

Do not pollute the environment if you process the DAFO for your property

To prevent the situation above, which is absolutely filthy, in some of the DAFO we have processed, we have found this problem and, to prevent faecal waters from being discharged directly into the ground, we have advised owners that, once the watertight tank is installed and certified to process the DAFO, they install one with a biological filter next to it. This way, at least, the water they dump will be clean and not pollute the ground, while the owner will avoid all the financial cost and disruption entailed by emptying the tank periodically.

At least, with the second option, despite not being accepted officially by the Junta of Andalusian and many municipalities, faecal discharge is prevented, which is the main goal when it comes to the environment.

Conclusion

As you probably understand, this issue goes a long way but I believe that, with these few brushstrokes, you can see the general lack of environmental awareness in the administration as well as among many citizens. This is the sad reality.

Tourism in Malaga and the entire Mediterranean area is also not viewed with a perspective for the future, as we live in the short term and do not care for essential things for investors and tourists to continue to come to Malaga, as well as foreigners wishing to purchase a home to enjoy a high quality of life or just spend their holidays in Span.

Meanwhile, those of us who reside and live here most of the time are unaware of the large amount of pollution we generate and the damage we cause to the sea, rivers and streams (which are increasingly polluted). I do not see many complaints or movements among citizens protesting this situation.

Some of the damage is already irreparable but there is some that can be fixed.

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors Torrox (Málaga, Andalusia)

 

 

TAX PAYMENT FOR RENTING OUT YOUR SPANISH HOME

Tax payment for renting out your Spanish home

Tax payment for renting out your Spanish home

The number of foreigners interested in buying a property in Spain as an investment or just to be able to enjoy their holiday periods is constantly increasing. Over the last few years, the rental market, in particular tourist rentals, has grown enormously in Andalusia, especially cities on the Costa del Sol and the Costa Tropical, such as Málaga, Nerja, Almuñécar, Marbella, Benalmádena, etc.

More than a few home buyers in Spain are attracted by investment prospects through the earnings obtained by renting out their property. As expected, earnings obtained from renting such properties -either through a permanent contract or through holiday rentals- must be declared in Spain by both fiscal residents (yearly IRPF tax) and non-fiscal residents (quarterly IRNR tax).

 

What taxes are currently paid by non-Spanish residents?

Since 2016 citizens resident in the European Union, Iceland or Norway have to pay 19% of the profit obtained from rentals. Non-EU citizens must pay 24% of the earnings obtained from renting out their properties. This difference in taxation has resulted in a complaint to the European Commission for discrimination of non-EU citizens, which is pending resolution on the date of publication of this article. This of course is an important matter for British home owners after the Brexit, because when Great Britain leaves the EU under the current ruling they would be considered Non-EU citizens and would therefor pay more taxes.

 

Can non-residents deduct expenses?

Citizens non-resident in Spain but resident in any country of the European Union, Iceland or Norway can deduct the same expenses as citizens resident in Spain for short-term rentals. The only exception would be for properties rented as permanent homes of the renter as residents in Spain can deduct 60% of what is paid by the tenant while non-residents cannot apply this deduction. Official costs can only be deducted proportionally depending of the total amount of days that the property was rented out. For example, if you rent out 90 days a year, you can only deduct 25% of the yearly costs. Citizens not resident in the European Union, Iceland or Norway cannot apply any type of tax deduction, for which reason they would pay IRNR-taxes on the gross profit received from renting the property.

tax obligations spain renting out property

What expenses can be deducted?

Citizens resident in the European Union, Iceland or Norway can such as property taxes, waste removal or fees for the homeowners' association. They can also deduct other expenses, provided that they can show that they are financially linked to the rental activity, such as interest on loans, repair and maintenance expenses, electricity, insurances, water or gas expenses, etc.

 

When do you have to declare this IRNR tax?

Payment for income obtained by citizens non-resident in Spain from the rental of their homes takes place quarterly through submitting form 210. If you own more than one property, one form must be submitted for each. This form must be submitted within the first 20 days of April, July, October and January, i.e. it is necessary to submit four forms per year, declaring the rental income for the 12 months of the year. Homeowners who rent out their properties as holiday rentals can submit, in the same form 210, all income received from rent for the three months declared, even if it comes from different tenants.

 

What can happen if I fail to declare rental income?

If the Spanish treasury detects you are renting your home without declaring anything, it will initiate proceedings to send you a settlement proposal, which will entail late interest due to declaring your income after the due date. Likewise, the treasury is sure to initiate a penalty procedure where you could end up paying a fine of 50% to 100% of what you failed to declare. Currently, thanks to the internet and digital home rental platforms, such as Airbnb, HomeAway, SpainHoliday and Tripadvisor, the Treasury has carried out several inspection campaigns over the last few years, requiring thousands of homeowners to regularise their rental situation.

 

What about the RTA rental license and the Guardia Civil?

To be able to publish your property on online rental platforms you need to have a RTA rental license of the Registro de Turismo de Andalucia, both for urban and rustic properties. If you don´t have this license yet, we could apply for it on your behalf and inform you about all official requirements that secure a safe and qualitative home to the renter for which you could get an inspection. Urban properties also need their Firsts Occupation License and if you don´t have this yet, we recommend that you contract an architect to apply for it at your Town Hall. Standard licenses for rustic properties (“alojamiento turistico”) have a limit of 90 days a year and you can´t offer extra services like breakfast.

The last thing that you need to know if you rent out your property to tourists, is that you are obliged to report all arrival within 24 hours to the Guardia Civil (Police) through their online platform.

 

What do I need to arrange?

Well, even if you don't like paying taxes, just as most of us don't, we advise that, if you are renting your home in Spain, you regularise the situation and submit form 210 so you can pay the treasury for the profit obtained from renting the home.

 

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors Torrox (Málaga, Andalusia)

 

LOWER TAXES ON GIFTS IN ANDALUSIA

Lower taxes on gifts in andalusia

Lower taxes on gifts in Andalusia

On 9 April, the Andalusia Council approved, through a Decree Law, an amendment of the tax on inheritance and gifts, which, in particular, entails great tax savings in terms of the tax on gifts. This legislative amendment introduced a bonus of 99% of the tax liability due in inheritance and gift tax, that is to say only 1% of what was previously paid would be due.

Needless to say, the Tax on inheritance and gifts is devolved to the different Autonomous Communities that make up Spain so this bonus is the one in force in Andalusia. But, depending on the location of the property or residence of the recipient (for movable assets) –the person receiving the asset–, legislation will be different on the matter of inheritance and gifts.

Example: A father gifts his son 200,000 euros

With the previous legislation, the tax liability on this gift would have been 31,621.21 euros, which meant that the son would have had to pay 31,621.21 euros in taxes after receiving this money from this father. With the new regulation, this tax liability of 31,621.21 euros can benefit from a bonus of 99%, which means that, now, the son would pay a tax of 316.21 euros. Without a doubt, it represents huge tax savings. When money or other moveable property is donated, the applicable regulation for this purpose will be that of the residence of the recipient.

Who can benefit from this bonus on the gift tax?

Those people included in groups I and II established in the regulation governing this tax can benefit. This means that the recipient must be the spouse, child, grandchild or parent of the grantor; the person who gives away the asset.

What other requirements need to be met?

Besides being included in groups I and II mentioned above, it will be necessary for the donation to be made effective in a Public Deed before a Notary and, if money is gifted, its source must be justified. In case of donating a property, this Deed will be used to inscribe the property in the new name of the new owner in the Land Registry.

What happens with the Capital Gain Tax and Plusvalia?

From the perspective of the tax on gifts, there is no problem with a parent donating a property in Andalusia for the child to apply the 99% bonus and pay a very small amount for the tax on gifts. The problem in the case of properties affects the grantor because, even if the property is gifted, the Tax Agency equates that transfer to the sale of the property –for the Treasury, there is no difference between donating and selling–. For this reason, the grantor must pay Capital Gains Tax calculated on the difference between the original value paid in the purchase of the property and the value of the property when gifted.

It is important to note that if the grantor is a tax resident in Spain, over the age of 65 and gifting their habitual residence, no capital gains tax would be paid for gifting or selling the property.

Lastly, as the city where the property is located also interprets a gift as a sale, it will ask for its piece of the pie in the form of capital gains tax – Plusvalia in Spanish-. This local tax is calculated according to the number of years that the grantor has owned the property, with a maximum of 20 years, and is paid on the increase in value experienced by the plot/land of the property.

What if I value the property at a low price to pay less tax?

You may be tempted to set a very low value for the property gifted and thus pay less Capital Gains tax when it is gifted. This is perfectly understandable but it is very important for this value not to be below the minimum taxable value, which is the taxable value that the Treasury deems properties in Spain to have. That is to say, the value of the property being gifted should not fall below the minimum taxable value to prevent an inspection by the Tax Agency. The minimum tax value in urban properties is based on the cadastre value of the property multiplied by a factor that varies from town to town.

Does this bonus apply to everyone, regardless of whether they are resident in Spain?

As explained in several previous articles, the most recent from March, different judgments have ruled that both residents of the European Union and residents of third countries must be treated the same as residents in Spain for the purposes of the Tax on Inheritance and Gifts. Based on this, anyone who meets the requirements explained in this article can benefit from the 99% bonus in Inheritance and Gift Tax introduced in Andalusia or any other regulation of the relevant Autonomous Community.

Example of a property being gifted

Let's imagine a Swedish homeowner who bought a property in Almuñécar (Granada) for 200,000 euros and decides to gift it to his son who lives in China, with the current minimum taxable value being 300,000 euros. Since the home is in Andalusia, the son-recipient can benefit from the 99% bonus in the tax due and would only have to pay 554.68 euros for the tax on gifts, of the total tax amount of 55,466.81 euros.

Since the father-grantor obtained capital gains of 100,000 euros from the gift, he will have to pay capital gains tax on this 100,000-euro “profit”, which currently stands at 19% of net profit (after certain possible deductions). However, as the owner is 64 years old, resident in Spain and is gifting his habitual residence, we recommend that he waits until he turns 65 to avoid paying capital gains tax. The son will surely understand the reasons.

What happens to taxes where the recipient resides?

Before accepting a gift, it is important for the recipient to get information, from his or her country of residence, regarding which tax will have to be paid on this, if any. Lastly, it should be said that this amendment of the Tax on Gifts in Andalusia means that the construct of gifts may be attractive in situations where a couple wants one of the spouses to own 100% of the property –only for married couples under separation of assets– or if they want to leave the property to their children or grandchildren during their lifetimes. Previously, from the standpoint of tax savings in Andalusia, the only options were to terminate co-ownership or sell the property but now, with this new amendment, in many cases it will be better to gift it as more taxes will be saved on the transfer of the property.

Read more about the subject of selling your house in Andalusia in the video below:

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors Torrox (Málaga, Andalusia)

Less AJD-tax in co-ownership termination property and potential claims for Spanish Tax Office

"Can I claim back AJD tax from my earlier Extincion de Condominio?"

It's usual when couples break up and they own a property at 50% -or in properties belonging to several heirs- that for various reasons one of the joint owners would want to sell his or her share and the other one would want keep the entire property. Said sale or purchase can be made effective through executing a Deed of co-ownership termination (Extincion de Condominio).

Over these deeds 1.5% AJD Tax (Actos Juridicos Documentados / Stamp Duty) is paid instead of the normal 8% ITP / Transfer Tax. There now is an important change that even lowers this AJD-tax and makes it possible to claim back money from the Spanish Tax Office.

 

What is the Extincion of Condominio and what are its benefits?

It's usual when couples break up and they own a property at 50% -or in properties belonging to several heirs- that for various reasons one of the joint owners would want to sell his or her share and the other one would want keep the entire property. Said sale or purchase can be made effective through executing a Deed of co-ownership termination (Extincion de Condominio)Co-ownership termination consists in transferring something that belongs to several owners, who agree to award it/sell it to one of them, with the other joint owner/buyer paying a price for acquiring the share that belonged to the others.Termination entails the end of joint ownership and this asset becomes the property of a single individual but it's only applicable to properties belonging to several owners, if they decide to sell everything to one of them. It wouldn't apply if the sale of this share goes to more than one owner, e.g. if there are three joint owners and two of them keep the other one's share.

Termination of co-ownership offers one main advantage over a sale: the tax paid by the buyer to acquire this share of the property is significantly lower. While in Andalusia the tax on asset transfers for the purchase of a home is 8%, the tax paid for termination of co-ownership is 1.5%, as Stamp Duty (AJD Actos Juridicos Documentados). In other words, to benefit from the tax rate for co-ownership termination, there can only be one owner of the property in the end as, otherwise, this would be considered a normal sale and be taxed at 8% ITP Transfer Tax.

 

Examples

% ITP tax

  • 3 Couples have a joint property. 1 Couple sells their 33,33% on a 50-50 base to the other 2 couples. Both remaining couples pay 8% over their bought share because the property stays in co-ownership.
  • 2 Couples have a property and 1 couple sells to the other couple that is married in separation of goods. They pay 8% ITP tax because the tax office sees this married couple as 2 parties.
  • 3 Brothers inherit a property and 1 sells his part to 1 brother that then owns 66,66%. The buyer pays 8% ITP because there still is a co-ownership of the property.

1.5% AJD tax

  • A married couple gets divorced or 2 non-registered partners end their relationship. One sells to the other, so there is no co-ownership anymore and the remaining owner pays 1.5% AJD over the bought 50% of the property.
  • 2 Couples have a property and 1 couple sells to the other couple that is married in joint assets. They pay 1,5% AJD tax because the tax office sees them as 1  party.
  • 3 Brothers inherit a property and 2 sell their part to 1 brother that then owns 100%. The buyer pays 1.5% AJD over the bought share of 66,66% because there still is no co-ownership anymore.

The owner/buyer now pays less tax

Since 9 October 2018, thanks to a Judgment of the Spanish Supreme Court, the tax cost assessed for termination of co-ownership has been significantly reduced. Up to that date –incomprehensibly– the tax of 1.5% was paid on the entire value of the property, even if, for instance, the share transferred was just 50% of the property. However, with this judgment, a new approach is established, in which tax will only be paid according to the value of the share effectively being transferred, i.e. only on the price to be paid to the seller, thereby avoiding the extra cost that this type of transfer entailed when tax was paid for 100% of the property value, even if the share acquired was just 30%.

 

Possibility to claim previous payments

Likewise, this change in taxation through the aforementioned judgment can have positive consequences on Deeds of Co-Ownership Termination executed within the last four years. Owners who were already joint owners of a property and acquired the rest by paying the price and paying 1.5% tax on the total property value can file a refund claim for undue payments before the corresponding Tax Office. The tax office of the Andalusia Council is the oficina liquidadora.

They can claim a refund of the 1.5% paid for the share of the property they did not acquire, as they already owned that share. If they purchased 30% of the property two years ago and had to pay 1.5% of the total property value, they can claim a refund of the 1.5% paid for the 70% of the property they already owned when they purchased the remaining 30%.

Important: You can only claim back any tax paid within the four years prior to the date of filing the claim for undue payments, as this is the maximum time period to file a claim in accordance with Spanish tax law. I.e. the submission date of the claim cannot be later than four years after the due date of this tax, which is 30 days after the execution of the Deed of Co-Ownership Termination.

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors Torrox (Málaga, Andalusia)

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, lawyer at C&D Solicitors Torrox (Málaga, Andalusia)

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, lawyer at C&D Solicitors Torrox (Málaga, Andalusia)

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)

 

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Contact

C&D SOLICITORS S.L.P.
Calle La Noria, oo Edif. Recreo II, 1-15
29793 Torróx-Costa (Málaga), Spain
(Entrance at backside of building)
Our law firm is located 40 km East from Malaga capital and 10 km West from Nerja.

Ariane Wijk
wijk@cdsolicitors.com
T: +34 - 952 532 582

Gustavo Calero Monereo
calero@cdsolicitors.com
M: +34 - 677 875 078

Francisco Delgado Montilla
delgado@cdsolicitors.com
M: +34 - 659 218 470

Guillermo Arenere Ruiz
arenere@cdsolicitors.com
T: +34 - 952 532 582

Cecilia Adolfsson
adolfsson@cdsolicitors.com
T: +34 - 952 532 582

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