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LAWYERS IN MALAGA FOR ENGLISH LEGAL ADVICE ON BUYING, SELLING OR INHERATING IN ANDALUSIA

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RTA FOR HOLIDAY RENTALS IN MALAGA: FINES, TAXES, FIRST OCCUPATION LICENCE AND RURAL PROPERTIES

RTA, andalusian, taxes, occupation licence

RTA registration property rentals

It's been two years since the entry into force of Decree 28/2016 regulating holiday rental properties in Andalusia.

Half of all holiday rental properties in Andalusia registered before the Tourism Registry of Andalusia are located in the province of Malaga, according to the information published by Diario Sur in February 2018. This means that, in Malaga, there are over 18,000 tourist apartments registered.

It is important to remember that property rentals are subject to taxation

RTA inspections and penalties

The same newspaper has published that, in Malaga alone, there have been 1,354 inspections and 250 properties have been fined.

One of the most important requirements to be met by these properties is that they must have an initial-occupation licence as well as cooling and heating equipment. Once an RTA / VTAR number has been obtained, the property owner is required to include the registration number in advertising as well as in the promotional page on AirBNB or similar platforms offering these properties as holiday rentals.

Initial-occupation licence requirement

If the property does not have an initial-occupation licence, it should not be registered before them. I use the word “should” because the registration form is an affidavit, for which reason the property owners submitting it declare, under their responsibility, that the property meets all the legal requirements and the Andalusia Council will register the property automatically, without performing any prior inspections. However, if an inspection later finds that the legal requirements are not met, the owners will be fined.

There are many properties without an initial-occupation licence, due to different reasons, such as the age of such buildings, problems with the housing development, etc. This has driven some municipal councils to implement a specific procedure to obtain an initial-occupation licence solely to register the property before the Tourism Registry of Andalusia. Some of these councils are Málaga, Mijas and Benalmádena.

Nerja Council

The situation of holiday rentals in Nerja deserves a special mention. Nerja Council has paralysed the granting of initial-occupation licences since the entry into force of the Tourism Decree.

A month and a half ago, the council also established a procedure to grant such initial-occupation licences only for the purposes of registering properties before the Registry of the Andalusia Council (RTA). The website of the municipal council now includes the form necessary to file this application.

Over one year ago, our firm requested a copy of the initial-occupation licences of different properties in Nerja and, two weeks ago, we started receiving responses from Nerja Council.

Fortunately, the situation of these holiday rentals in Nerja seems to be in the process of being brought in line. This is definitely good news for all interested property owners as well as potential property buyers who will have the ability to obtain the initial-occupation licence necessary for registration.

Properties located in towns with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants

Another significant change that took place recently in the regulations set down by the Andalusia Council is that affecting holiday rentals located in towns with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants. These are towns such as Torrox, Viñuela, Alcaucin, Frigiliana, Competa, as well as most towns in La Axarquía.

Properties in these municipalities are not eligible for the 2016 Decree due to the properties being located in towns with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants. However, since February of this year, it is possible for them to be eligible for the 2016 Decree as they will no longer be considered rural properties, which, until now, was the only way to register these properties as holiday rentals.

RTA list of holiday rentals registered in Malaga

Due to the boom in holiday rentals in certain cities, such as Malaga, the Council has published a list of the registered holiday rentals.

This tool seeks to inform tourists about accommodation possibilities in the city and is also a tool to control the tourism boom affecting the city.

It should be noted that Malaga city is currently experiencing a significant boom in tourism, especially around the historic city centre. This has led to the emergence of plenty of tourist accommodation options, which has resulted in price rises for long-term lettings due to the low property supply as owners opt to offer the properties to tourists instead.

Over the last year, the historic centre has lost residents to holidaymakers. The Malaga Council is already debating the measures that should be taken to limit or regulate holiday rentals and make residential and tourist use compatible, so that residents are not lost and it is possible for people in the community to access rental homes, taking into account the average income in Malaga.

You can see the case of Palma de Mallorca, a city that recently approved a norm prohibiting holiday rentals.

Tax payable on the profits obtained

It is important to remember that property rentals are subject to taxation, for which reason owners –whether resident or not (IRNR)– must declare the profits obtained from such rentals.

Non-resident owners must declare such profits through form 210, which is submitted quarterly. Fortunately, since January of this year, the procedure has been simplified to make it possible to declare, in form 210, all the earnings obtained from renting the property as a holiday rental over the quarter, even if they come from different occupants.

If the non-resident property owner owns several properties, a separate form 210 must be submitted quarterly for each one, and 19% of the total earnings obtained will be paid as tax, with the ability to deduct certain expenses according to the period of rental during that quarter.

It is interesting to note that, if you are tax resident in Spain, holiday rentals are taxed at a higher rate than rentals of usual residences –residential rentals–. This is the case because the Tax Agency allows these residential rentals used as the tenant's usual residence to apply a reduction of 60% over the positive net return obtained from the rental. However, this deduction is not allowed for holiday rentals offered by tax residents.

Currently, there are still many property owners who do not declare rent but, if the Tax Agency devoted some attention to this matter, it could start inspection proceedings ex officio, by simply visiting a few websites and comparing them to the list of properties registered in the Tourism Registry of Andalusia.

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

ARE YOU THINKING OF BUYING A HOME IN SPAIN?

The purchase of a property in Spain

Buying a house in Spain or Andalucia?

When thinking about purchasing a property in a different country, there are many doubts and uncertainties that may arise.

We'll try to give you the basic information you must take into account as well as a few tips.

WHAT ARE THE EXPENSES?

The legal costs of a sale are usually around 10-12% of the purchase price for a secondhand home or 13-14% for a new home.

The highest cost is the tax on the purchase of properties: The property-transfer tax for secondhand homes –8% in Andalusia– or VAT at 10% plus document duties at 1.5% when purchasing a new home. Other costs to be taken into account are notarial fees and the Property Register.

The fees of the property agency are usually paid by the seller and included in the purchase price.

I ALREADY FOUND THE PROPERTY I WANT TO BUY. WHAT NOW?

Once you have selected a property, the agency will ask you to pay a deposit, usually around 5,000 euros, to remove the property from the market and provide enough time to sign a private sales contract where the seller will be paid 10% of the purchase price.

This holding document is usually a simple document that must include: the details of the sellers and buyers, the purchase price, the payment terms, the date of signing the private contract and the deed of sale.

For more information about the entire purchase process, click here or have a look at this video:

HIRING A LAWYER

If you're thinking about spending a significant part of your savings on buying a home, it seems logical to hire a lawyer to advise you and make the sales process less stressful.

Beware of people who advise against hiring a lawyer to save costs or those who seek to provide legal advice and are not lawyers. If what you're looking for is a lawyer, you can ask for a certificate accrediting his recognition and/or a professional liability insurance policy.

You should take into account that the average cost of a lawyer is around 1% of the purchase price plus VAT. Is it really worth saving 1% considering all the money you'll be spending?

The lawyer you find should be independent and be very familiar with property law, being able to demonstrate some experience in this sector is always important. It may be helpful to review the public information available on the lawyer's website as well as customers' reviews.

WHICH DOCUMENTS SHOULD I HAVE IN MY POSSESSION?

The most important ones are:

  • “Nota Simple”, this is a short information of the property from the Property Register
  • Copy of the IBI or property tax for the home
  • Utility bills

If they also provide a copy of the licence or deed of the property, even better.

REGISTRATION IN THE PROPERTY REGISTER AND CADASTRE

The short information from the register – nota simple- and the cadastral reference appearing on the property tax bill can be used to verify that the property is duly registered in the register and the cadastre, as well as that the persons selling it are its owners.

STRUCTURAL SURVEY?

It doesn't seem unreasonable to have an architect visit the property and carry out certain checks, such as measuring the built area –this way you'll know that the register and cadastre are accurate– and you'll also get a professional opinion about the state of repair of the property.

Obviously, the architect will only be able to see defects that are apparent but at least you'll be able to rule out certain flaws within the property.

URBAN PLANNING INFORMATION

If you're going to buy a home on urban land, it is important that you ask the council if it has a licence for construction and first occupation licence. The licence of first occupation is requested from the council once construction work on the home is completed.

It is important to keep in mind that older homes –built before 1977– did not have a first occupation licence as this did not exist. It is also true that some recently built properties do not have that licence either for different reasons. Even though, in theory, the property cannot be occupied and used without that licence, this is actually possible and this is not necessarily an obstacle to buying the property.

Verify that the development where the home is located is free of debts towards the council and has been completed, in order to avoid paying additional costs in the future.

COUNTRYSIDE HOMES

If you're going to buy a home on rural land, in this case the urban-planning situation is very different from the one explained for properties on urban land. The most important thing is to get information about when construction ended, whether the land has any type of special protection or if the council has started proceedings to re-establish lawfulness. In Andalusia, a regularization process has been created.

CHECK FOR POTENTIAL DEBTS

With the information from the Property Register, the one received from the Council and the community of owners, you can see whether there is a debt on the property that could affect you as its new owner. This refers to debts such as a mortgage, liens, property taxes, community fees, etc.

If there are any debts, the best thing to do is to have the seller pay them before signing the Deed of Sale or withhold the amount of the debt from the seller so that you can pay it yourself.

DEED OF SALE AND YOU'RE THE NEW OWNER

For you to become the new owner of the property, you'll have to sign a Public Deed of Sale before a Notary and pay the seller the rest of the price agreed, receiving the keys to the property.

Once you sign the deed, you need to start the process to record the home in your name in the register and cadastre, as well as pay all taxes.

After this, we hope you enjoy your new home.

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

NON-MARRIED LONGEST LIVING PAYS HIGH INHERITANCE TAX

Inheritance tax Andalusian

Inheritance tax in Andalusia

THE CURRENT SITUATION OF INHERITANCE TAX

On 1 January 2018, a new reform of Inheritance Tax entered into force in Andalusia, the main change of which was to raise the tax-exempt amount to one million euros. This new reform changes the reform introduced a year ago, which we explained in our post of November 2016.


Which heirs would be exempt from Inheritance Tax?

Heirs that meet each one of the following requirements would be exempt:

  • For the heir to be included in groups I and II as established in the regulation governing this tax, the heir needs to be the spouse, child, grandchild or parent of the deceased
  • For the value of the estate to be inherited per heir does not exceed one million euros
  • For the pre-existing assets of the heir to be less than one million euros
  • For the heir to be a citizen of a Member State of the European Union or, if they are citizen from outside the European Union, both the deceased and the heir must reside in Andalusia


What happens with other family members who inherit?

All other heirs, such as siblings, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts and cousins of the deceased are included in groups III and IV of the Inheritance Tax and will continue to pay the same amounts.

In other words, these heirs will pay inheritance tax from the first euro they inherit except for heirs in group III, who are able to deduct an amount of 7,993.46 euros. This means, for example, that if John leaves his nephew his Nerja property valued at 240,000 euros as inheritance, his nephew will have to pay about 63,000 euros in Inheritance Tax.


What happens if you inherit from your best friend?

You would be included in group IV of this regulation. This means that if John, instead of leaving the 240,000-euro property to his nephew leaves it to his best friend, he or she will have to pay about 80,000 euros in Inheritance Tax.

 

How are property values calculated for Inheritance Tax?

Every year, the Regional Government of Andalusia publishes a regulation that establishes certain coefficients to update the values of urban properties located in Andalusia. These coefficients are applied to the cadastral value of the property; this you can find in your Property Tax receipts. The result of applying these coefficients to the cadastral value is what we call the minimum taxable value.

The regulation explained above deals with the minimum taxable value of urban property but, in the case of rural property, this isn´t applicable. Therefore it is necessary to obtain a valuation from the technicians of the Regional Government of Andalusia to calculate the minimum taxable value. However, the Regional Government of Andalusia in the province of Malaga uses the coefficients published every year by the College of Architects of Malaga to calculate the value of rural properties.

Regarding the means used by the administration to calculate the minimum taxable value of properties in Andalusia –as well as other Autonomous Communities–, there is much controversy in general and there is the possibility to challenge those values in the event that the person liable to pay the tax deems them excessive or not adjusted to reality. This topic is complex enough to be covered in a whole new article.


UNMARRIED OR UNREGISTERED COUPLES IN ANDALUSIA

Who are we talking about?

In the event that a couple is not married –either in their country of origin or in Spain–, if one of them dies and leaves the other member of the couple as an heir, for the purposes of Inheritance Tax this person would be considered to be in group IV. In other words, in this case the partner is considered to be just a friend putting the person in the group with the highest rate of Inheritance Tax.


What happens to common-law partners registerd in Andalucia?

In Andalusia, couples registered in the Registry of Common-Law Partners of Andalusia are equivalent to married couples for the purposes of Inheritance Tax, for which reason they would benefit from the deductions for spouses explained above.


What happens to common-law partners registered in another Member State of the European Union?

In this case, the Regional Government of Andalusia does not recognise such registration for the purpose of Inheritance Tax, for which reason those couples would pay tax as though they had received inheritance from a friend, leaving them in the group taxed at the highest rate.

If John leaves his partner Mark 50% of the property they both purchased in Almuñecar in 2005 and if the fiscal value of that 50% is 120,000 euros, Mark, the heir, would have to pay about 30,000 euros in Inheritance Tax for inheriting 50% of that property.

If John and Mark had been married or registered in the registry of common-law partners of Andalusia, Mark would not pay a single euro for inheriting 50% of the property from John.


What should be done in this case?

If you have property in Spain with your partner and you would like him or her to inherit your part and you are unmarried, we advise that you get married (either in Spain or in your country of origin) so that you can benefit from Inheritance Tax reductions. Those who don´t want to get married, can register themselves in the Registry of Common-Law Partners of Andalusia (Registro de Pareja de Hecho) and then the status would be equivalent to that of a married couple.

Property owners who are not citizens of a Member State of the European Union

In this case, heirs may not benefit from reductions for spouses, children, grandchildren and parents of the deceased, so they would pay Inheritance Tax in the event that they inherit. They can only avoid this if both the deceased and the heir are resident in Andalusia.

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

RECLAMATION PLUSVALIA TAX FROM SALE PROPERTY AT A LOSS

plusvalia selling property

plusvalía, property, nerja

A few weeks ago, a seller was bitterly complaining to me about what they had paid for capital gains tax on the sale of their home in Capistrano, Nerja to a Swedish couple, even though no profit had actually been made.

I then remembered an article we published in June 2014 on this matter, where we spread the news about new case law defending the position of taxpayers who had sold a property at a loss and, furthermore, were forced by the city council to pay capital gains tax, even though no profit had been made from the sale of that property.

Many sales take place at a loss and there are many more to come as, in general, current prices are still below those in effect a few years ago.

In the two and a half years since the publication of that article, the position of taxpayers to be able to claim back what they had paid in municipal capital gains tax for the sale of their homes without having made any profit has improved and the government will probably be forced to amend the Law in order to prevent councils from continuing to demand payment in these situations.

First of all, if they want to cancel the capital gains tax bill received from the council, they must know that they need to pay it first and then file a claim, and they will then have no option but to resort to the courts to claim a refund.

However, according to a judgment of the Higher Court of Justice of the Community of Valencia in late 2016, it is not necessary to obtain an expert appraisal to prove the value of the property, as it is understood that the amounts shown in the purchase and sale deeds clearly determine the actual value of the property and, therefore, show whether a profit was made.

So far, taxpayers wishing to file a claim through the courts needed an appraisal to prove that the actual value of the property transfer was lower than the purchase price. However, through this judgment, the amount shown in the purchase and sale deeds can be enough to accredit the values of the property when, through examining the deeds, one can easily see that there has been no increase in the value of the land.

The strongest argument in favour of taxpayers is that the Constitutional Court, in its recent judgment of 16th February, established that making citizens pay taxes for non-existing enrichment in the sale of their homes contradicts the principle of financial capacity set down in art. 31.1 of the Spanish Constitution. The Constitutional Court clarified that capital gains taxes are legal but it is unconstitutional to pay this tax when no actual gains have been made in the sale of the property.

The Constitutional Court also clarified that legislators will be the ones who will have to amend the legal framework of this tax in order to prevent taxation in these situations where no capital gains are made from the sale of a property.

Until the Law is amended, we assume that councils will continue to demand payment of capital gains taxes even when properties are sold at a loss but, after the pronouncement of the Constitutional Court and with the arguments set down in the other judgments mentioned, taxpayers will be able to claim back what they have unduly paid to the council in these circumstances. However, it is true that, for smaller amounts of capital gains tax, it may not be interesting to file a claim, taking into account the costs involved in hiring a solicitor and a barrister.

Many cities in this area: Nerja, Frigiliana, Torrox, Vélez Málaga, etc., issue bills for capital gains tax once the sale is recorded in a Public Deed, for which reason, in order to obtain a cancellation of this bill from the council, it would be necessary to challenge it before the deadline established by law.

If the claim is not filed before the deadline and, therefore, the administrative action becomes unappealable, it will become more difficult to file a successful claim.

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

 

INHERITANCE TAX IN ANDALUSIA: CHANGES AHEAD

inheritance tax paid by the heirs

inheritance tax paid by the heirs

On 1 August, the Regional Government of Andalusia approved the first of two reforms of inheritance tax in Andalusia. This reform and the upcoming one aim to improve taxation for heirs.

The first reform affected the acquisition of a person's usual residence by heirs and a series of reductions were approved, ranging from 100% to 95% when the value of the home exceeds €242,000. The reduction in inheritance tax in this sense is very significant.

However, it should be noted that only in estates inherited from parents by children (whether biological or adopted), spouses, relatives in the ascending line and persons related collaterally (siblings, cousins or grandparents) over the age of 65 can an heir in Andalusia opt for the reduction for the acquisition of the usual residence. Likewise, the following requirements must be met:

  1. Having lived with the deceased person in the usual residence during the two years preceding death.
  2. Maintaining ownership of this residence for 3 years.

Furthermore, the Regional Government of Andalusia has announced that it would complete a second reform of Inheritance Tax, which will enter into force on 1 January 2017.

In this case, the minimum exempt from Inheritance Tax in Andalusia will be of €250,000 per heir. I.e. heirs inheriting assets valued at an amount equal to or smaller than €250,000 will not have to pay Inheritance Tax in Andalusia.

As explained in a previous article, this exemption only applies to descendants or adopted children of the deceased person, as well as their relatives in the ascending line or adoptive parents and spouses, provided the pre-existing assets of the heir are equal to or less than €402,678.11.

Lastly, another substantial change should be noted as, for estates with a value of between €250,000 and €350,000, a minimum value of €200,000 is established. I.e. if the inheritance received by a child or widowed spouse is valued at more than €250,000, the first €200,000 would be exempt from inheritance tax and only the remaining amount would be paid, provided that the total value of the estate does not exceed €350,000. If this amount is exceeded, inheritance tax would be payable on the entire value of the estate, without the possibility to apply any exemption.

Lastly, I would like to remind you that the best way to plan your inheritance begins with your will, for which reason it is always best to go to an appropriate professional who can examine your situation and give you personal advice.

 

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors, Malaga, Andalusia.

 

 

FREE CHECK SPANISH MORTGAGE WITH FLOOR CLAUSES

floor clause mortgage spain

CLOSER TO A DEFINITIVE SOLUTION FOR THOSE AFFECTED

The first thing I would like to do is inform you that C&D Solicitors has signed a collaboration agreement with the Sevillian law firm Gallego & Rivas, which specialises in financial and banking law.

On the basis of this agreement, Gallego & Rivas have offered to study the documentation of homeowners who may be affected by a “floor clause” (cláusula suelo) in their mortgages, free of charge. At the end of this article, we will explain how those affected can get access to this service.

First of all: What is a “floor clause”? A mortgage is said to have a “floor clause” when, in a variable-interest mortgages, there is a clause in the Deed of the Mortgage Loan establishing that the interest for this mortgage cannot be lower than a certain threshold.

In other words, in this case, the mortgage cannot benefit from a low interest rate and from the successive drops that may occur, as the minimum interest rate is “shielded” and any interest rate set below the one established in the “floor clause” cannot be applied. For several years, the Euribor rate has been very low and these clauses have represented considerable losses for many customers.

For the last few years, there have been many legal proceedings in Spain brought by people affected by “floor clauses” in their mortgages. In fact, almost five years ago, we published our first article about this matter, echoing the first judgments. We should keep in mind that mortgages with “floor clauses” were common until 2009 or 2010.

Most judgments have sided with the complainants. Likewise, the Supreme Court pronounced itself in May 2010, declaring these clauses null.

So far, the legal arguments are clear so people with a “floor clause” in their mortgages have a very good chance of obtaining a favourable ruling. Such ruling would order the bank to eliminate the “floor clause” of the mortgage, as well as to return the money that customers have overpaid in their mortgages, in addition to the legal costs of the proceedings.

In its judgment of May 2013, the Supreme Court, in its legal reasoning, only ordered the banks to return the money unduly charged to customers from 9 May 2013 and not since the clause started to be applied to the customer. I.e. what was unduly charged before that date was not eligible for a refund.

The Supreme Court appealed to the economic turmoil that it could represent for banks to return the total amounts unduly charged to customers before 9 May 2013 as, considering that there are thousands of mortgages affected by a “floor clause”, banks would be forced to refund billions of euros to their customers.

Due to the controversial nature of this legal reasoning, a Commercial Court in Granada raised a prejudicial question to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) so that it would pronounce itself on whether banks should refund the amounts overcharged to their customers from moment that the “floor clause” in their mortgages was applied instead of from 9 May 2013.

On 26 April, the CJEU held the public hearing on these proceedings and, on 12 July, the advocate general of the CJEU will present his findings. At the end of the year, we will know whether Spanish banks will have to return everything unduly charged or just the amount overcharged after 9 May 2013.

It seems that there are good chances that the CJEU considers that everything unduly charged to every customer with a “floor clause” must be refunded. The decision is transcendental since –according to some sources– we are talking about 7 thousands millions of euros.

These 7 thousands millions of euros would be added, to the 5 billion euros that banks are estimated to be required to refund to customers, for everything unduly charged from 2013 to the present day.

Regardless of the date set by the CJEU, “floor clauses” are abusive and those affected have the right to file a complaint to get their money back. This is why we have signed an agreement with the law firm Gallego & Rivas, which has offered to study the documentation of homeowners who may be affected by a “floor clause” (cláusula suelo) in their mortgages and provide them with a short report on their situation.

The study of this documentation would be free of charge and legal advice would also be provided to recover the money lost and the cost of the proceedings. Customers can then decide whether they want to initiate legal proceedings.

Later, according to the number of persons interested in taking legal action against their banking institution, we could set up a day at our office in Torrox-Costa (Malaga) so that those affected by a floor clause in their Mortgage Deeds can get first-hand contact with Gallego & Rivas.

Ultimately, the affected person will get a specialist lawyer to study his case at no cost and advise him of the potential actions he may take to recover the money, as well as the cost of the proceedings.

If you are interested in getting this consultation free of charge, the way to proceed is to contact us at info@cdsolicitors.com, giving us your contact details and sending us a copy of your Mortgage Deed as well as the latest invoice for your mortgage loans. We will be happy to help you and clarify your legal status.

 

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

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

 

JUDGEMENT: Bank responsible for bank guarantee developer

Bank responsible for guarantee developer

Bank responsible for guarantee developer

In September 2013 I published an article where I mentioned a judgment rendered by a Court in Albacete on the 8th of June 2012 and that was confirmed by the Provincial Court in the same year. In these proceedings forty-six homebuyers who purchased off-plan houses that were never built -but for which they had made several payments on account- sued the developer and the bank jointly, despite not having bank guarantees for the amounts paid.

As I mentioned in that article this judgment (a first at the time) ordered the bank to refund all the amounts paid by the buyers. It thereby established joint and several liability with the developer of the homes through an interpretation of articles 1 and 2 of Law 57/1968, of 27 July 1968 on the collection of advance payments in the construction and sale of homes.

This however was just an isolated judgment, which did not set precedent. In fact, in the two years since, there have been judgments both in favour and against banks.

These different interpretations have come to an end as, on 21 December 2015, due to the many contradictory judgments the Supreme Court rendered an appeal judgment on this matter. This judgment of the Spanish High Court unifies the criteria to prevent different interpretations by other courts. The Supreme Court is certain about the interpretation of these regulations and ruled in favour of individual homebuyers.

The High Court understands that the credit institutions where homebuyers deposit advance payments to purchase a home under construction, must respond to homebuyers. This refers to cases where the homes are not completed by the developer and the latter has no money or is insolvent, making it impossible for homebuyers to recover any money paid.

In the Fifth Legal Grounds, the last paragraph of the judgment, the Court states that the credit institution has the legal responsibility of a special duty of oversight over the developer to which it issues a loan for the construction of those homes, so that the deposits of homebuyers, especially individuals, are transferred to the special account that developers must open and the bank must require the developer to guarantee all the amounts it collects.

Credit institutions that grant loans to developers to build homes, have the legal obligation of opening a special and separate account, duly guaranteed, so that the amounts that buyers pay for the homes are deposited in that account. If the credit institution does not guarantee that buyers' money is deposited in a special account, it will be held liable for the total amounts deposited by buyers in any type of account held by the developer at the entity.

In other words, if the bank has not ensured the protection of the buyers' money, with this Judgment, there is no longer any legal doubt that the bank will be sentenced to refund, from its own “pocket”, the money paid by homebuyers in cases where the developer does not complete homes and it has no money or becomes insolvent.

In my humble opinion, it seems logical and consistent for the Supreme Court to have settled this matter in favour of homebuyers.

In banking practice, most developers building homes off-plan create a company aimed exclusively at building that development, with these companies usually being devoid of any assets.

From now own, I believe that these loans issued to developers will only be granted after reviewing the solvency and guarantees of the developers thoroughly and that branks will monitor the money that buyers pay for their homes.

In these situations, with this judgment by the Spanish High Court, buyers of homes that are not completed will have the necessary legal certainty to get, through a Judgment, banks to be ordered to refund their money, thereby having more options available to recover the money they lost.

It is very likely that, if this situation arises, now, with this judgment, the bank will choose to avoid legal proceedings and reach a settlement with buyers.

 

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

 

ENERGY CERTIFICATE AND IBI PROPERTY TAX REDUCTION

energy performance certificate, IBI, propertyIn September, the Government of Spain, through a legislative amendment, opened the door for city governments to be able to offer a discount (reduction) in Property Taxes (IBI) from 1 January 2016.

This legislative amendment introduces the possibility of offering a reduction of 20%, 16%, 12%, 8% or 4% of the IBI of a property if its energy performance certificate shows a rating of A, B, C, D, or E, respectively.

Now that the central government has allowed for this modification of the IBI, it will now be up to each city government to decide whether they want to apply this discount.

This is so because Property Taxes are of a local nature. City governments are responsible for their management, as long as collection of this tax is carried out pursuant to the Law on Local Treasuries, which is the one amended by the central government to allow for this IBI discount.

That said, if you own a home in Spain and you want to know whether you can save on property taxes, I advise you to do the following:

  • Ask your city government whether it plans to apply this IBI discount from 1 January 2016. If the answer is NO, this settles the matter.
  • If your city government says YES to the previous question, look at the energy performance certificate of your home to find out its rating.

If you have purchased a home in Spain within the last 2 years, be aware that this certificate will be part of your deed of sale.

If you do not have an energy performance certificate, you may be interested in ordering one, so you can know the energy rating of your home and find out whether you can get an IBI discount to pay less every year.

Regarding the energy performance certificate, most properties “fail”, i.e. they have a very low rating. Without a doubt, it can be said that homes in Spain are not energy efficient.

If the rating in the energy performance certificate of your home is very low, do not panic since, unfortunately, this is normal. According to the information published by the idealista website at the beginning of this year, 95% of homes fail in energy efficiency.

In my opinion, this measure, introduced by the central government, is positive, as it is always good to “reward” homes that are better insulated and require lower energy use to be habitable. When they use less energy, they pollute less.

From a seller's point of view, this certificate is seen as yet another expense and another bureaucratic hindrance to sell a property. But, if the certificate is completed well, it provides very valuable information to buyers, as they will know the energy efficiency of the home before buying it and will be able to make improvements in this sense.

Regarding the energy performance certificate, it should be said that it must be available when a home is on sale or up for rental (leases longer than 4 months) so that, from a buyer's point of view, one can know the energy efficiency of a home from the moment one becomes interested in it.

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

 

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

Compensation Andalucian home owners in good faith

Compensation demolition Andalucian home owners in good faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

Paula Ludewig
ludewig@cdsolicitors.com
T: +34 - 952 532 582

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