purchase, property, coronavirus, private contract

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 purchase 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:

Purchase contracts in the state of alarm:

  • 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 contracts

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)

 

malaga, costa del sol, sewage, properties

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 wastewater purification

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)

 

 

less taxes when you buy a property in Spain

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

AJD tax
“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 AJD tax

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)

Inheritance tax Andalusian

NON-MARRIED LONGEST LIVING PAYS HIGH INHERITANCE TAX

NON-MARRIED LONGEST LIVING
NON-MARRIED LONGEST LIVING

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 for non-married longest living?

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.


NON-MARRIED LONGEST LIVING 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)

solicitor english speaking

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)

SUCCESSFUL DUTCH REAL ESTATE FAIR FOR C&D

SUCCESSFUL DUTCH REAL ESTATE FAIR FOR C&D

Seminar ´Buying a house in Spain
Seminar ´Buying a house in Spain

As we already informed you in our previous news letter, C&D has been present at the Dutch Second Home fair in Utrecht last month. Being the only Spanish law firm on the fair, our daily seminars about the Spanish purchase process turned out to be the best attended during these three days, which proves that Spain is still a very attractive country for the Dutch to invest in. Also more than half of all exhibitors (mainly real estate agencies and developers) were focussed on Spain, which according to the organisation already has been the case for many years now.

In our stand we were able to speak to a lot of people with serious plans on buying a property in Spain, in most cases on the Costa del Sol or even particularly the Axarquia. The main issue in our conversations was to explain the important role of the lawyer during the purchase of a property in Spain. This situation is different from the Netherlands as in this country the lawyer´s work is completely done by the notary. We also got a lot of questions regarding wills and tax issues, for example on the subject of renting out a new bought property.

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

Stand of C&D Solicitors on Dutch Second Home Fair in Utrecht
Stand of C&D Solicitors on Dutch Second Home Fair in Utrecht

Our daily seminar we held in both Dutch and English and we explained the different phases of the buying process with the various legal documents there are to sign (reservation contract, private purchase contract and the title deeds). Besides of this we gave some background information on the official investigation of the lawyer, by which the future owner can make sure he´ll buy his property with all possible guarantees and free of any risks. (The extended Dutch text of our seminar you can find on the home).

Looking back we can say that this fair exceeded our expectations and has been really successful for us. Not only in the perspective of attracting new clients but also as a learning experience of presenting our company on the Dutch market. Despite of the good weather this Second Home edition in Utrecht attracted around 5.000 visitors.

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

BUILDING PERMIT INVALIDITY AND CONSEQUENCES FOR THIRD PARTIES IN GOOD FAITH

BUILDING PERMIT INVALIDITY AND CONSEQUENCES FOR THIRD PARTIES IN GOOD FAITH

Invalid Andalucian building permit/licence
Invalid Andalucian building permit/licence

One of the legal problems affecting some owners of properties on non-developable land has originated in the last ten years with the invalidity of building permits, which protected these constructions on non-developable land. This invalidity has been obtained in most of the cases by means of the corresponding contentious-administrative court proceedings.

First of all, the invalidity of a building permit would imply the demolition of what has been built under this permission on specially protected non-developable land; in case of common non-developable lands (without special protection), this invalidity may imply the demolition if more than four years has not elapsed between the end of the construction and the beginning of contentious-administrative proceedings or the invalidity procedure ex-officio by the Town Council. After March 2012 six years should have elapsed.

From a legal point of view, the main problem lies in the third party in good faith, included in Article 34 of Spanish Mortgage Law, who purchases a property to the former owner who had a building permit to build, and later on, he finds out that this permit has been challenged by contentious-administrative jurisdictional courts and found null and void by final judgment before the sale execution; or he finds out that there is a contentious-administrative proceedings going on when he bought the property and has not been finished yet. Therefore, sooner or later a judgment may be received stating that the permit is invalid.

The third party in good faith is not able to know about these facts because until the 1st of July 2011 it is not compulsory to register in the Land Registry the invalidity of the building permit ordered by final judgment or resolution ex-officio by the Town Council. This modification was incorporated by the Spanish Royal Decree-Law 8/2011 approval modifying some articles of Spanish Land Law. For this reason, this third party purchaser is not able to know about this situation, becausethe Land Registry has not recorded in most of the cases the decisions taken on building permits which may affect their property rights.

The abovementioned Royal Decree-Law approval has set the compulsory registration in the Land Registry of the legal condition of the property, so that the Public Administration bodies will be responsible if this notification is not served to the Land Registry when contentious-administrative proceedings are affecting the building permit granted to the property. Articles 51 and 53 of Spanish Land Law (Royal Decree-Law 2/2008 of 20th of June) set forth this compulsory registration, so that the third party in good faith may be able to know about the legal situation of the property by looking up the Land Registry and then decide about buying or not this property knowingly and intelligently.

However, regarding the abovementioned information, a problem arises when considering the facts previous to the 1st of July 2011—whether the proceedings are finished at this date or they are not resolved yet, because the abovementioned compulsory registration in the Land Registry was not in force as to this date as former regulations were applied.

In my opinion, the main problem of Spanish legislation in this field and its most frequent interpretation by Spanish case law, lies in the fact that the third party in good faith accessing the Land Registry is not protected by the Registry certification and the legal certainty that the Land Registry must provide, prevailing the planning legality support over the registry certification. We understand that is not abiding to law, because the third party in good faith, legal owner and unaware of the legal situation concerning the building permit, shall not be subject to the negligence of Public Administration.  In the interest of legal certainty, the rights of the third party in good faith should prevail over the planning law enforcement.

Apart from the abovementioned situation of the third party in good faith, the core problem lies in the fact that the property right in Spain does not enjoy a special protection. It is also worth mentioning that Spain is subject to comply with the Rome Convention, which considers the property right to be a fundamental right with a special protection. Concerning its interpretation of property right, The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) itself has demanded the following:

1) Those affected by administrative or court proceedings which may imply the loss of their assets shall have an effective and real opportunity to defend their situation.

2) Any deprivation of a property to his owner due to the general interest—as the enforcement of planning law, requires a previous compensation for this deprivation. In fact, a recent resolution of the ECHR of the 31st of January 2013 by cautionary measure has cancelled a demolition in Cañada Real (Madrid) until the Town Council provides an alternative accommodation to the family occupying the property and the outlined underlying matter is resolved. In this case, we refer to the demolition of a property in a shanty-town located in specially protected land and without building permit.

Therefore, the Spanish legal system should reconsider certain substantive decisions providing the property right with a fundamental nature and protecting it. As a result of this, the protection of the third party in good faith should be one of the cornerstones of this protection, because this third party must not bear the damage of the unlawful conduct of Public Administration when granting these building permits, both in these cases where the invalidity proceedings were not entered in the Land Registry and were not available and those cases where proceedings are initiated against the building permit once the third party in good faith is the new owner.

In addition, these owners, who built their properties with the corresponding building permits granted by Town Councils, should not be deprived of their property right by means of the property demolition without compensation to cover their loss, as this demolition is originated by the negligence of the Town Council and not by the owner.

Spain should ensure compliance with its obligations as an EU Member State, as the property right concept of the Rome Convention and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) case-law is obvious in this regard. Therefore, we understand that this Convention is being infringed by Spain, apart from the fact that the current situation contribute to legal uncertainty.

 

 

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

 

 

TAX EXEMPTION WHEN BUYING A PROPERTY BEFORE 31/12/2012

TAX EXEMPTION WHEN BUYING A PROPERTY BEFORE 31/12/2012

Tax exemption capital gain tax sale
Tax exemption capital gain tax sale

Regarding the current financial situation, which is reflected in the drop of property sales in Spain every three months, the Spanish Government has passed a new tax exemption. This exemption tries to promote the sale of properties and may become very interesting for both individuals and bodies corporate considering buying a real estate property in Spain in the short term, whether they purchase commercial premises, homes, offices, garages, plots, storage rooms, etc.

On the 12th of May 2012, the Central Government passed the Spanish Royal Decree-Law 18/2012 of 11th of May on the restructuring and sale of the property assets of the financial sector. This regulation included in its First, Second and Third Final Provisions the tax exemption for bodies corporate and individuals, whether resident or non-resident in Spain. This reform law allows all those buying a property from the 12th of May 2012 till the 31st of December 2012 to pay taxes only on the 50% of the capital gains tax when selling the property subsequently, whether in 1, 5, 10…etc years, while the remaining 50% is free of charges.

This exemption may save an important amount of money, because if a property is currently sold in Spain, capital gains are taxed at 21% for non-residents (19% from 2014), at 27% for resident taxpayers in Spain (21% from 2014) and at 30% for bodies corporate.

Here we present an example: imagine you are thinking about buying a property in Spain considering the current market opportunities; the price for this property may be EUR 200,000; the following eventual scenarios may occur according to the date of purchase when selling this property, for example, in 2017 for a sale price of EUR 270,000:

1) Non-resident taxpayers: EUR 70,000 of capital gains at 19% makes a total payment of EUR 13,000; if the purchase is performed before the 31/12/2012, the total payment would be EUR 6,650.

2) Resident taxpayers: EUR 70,000 of capital gains at 21% makes a total payment of EUR 14,700. If the purchase is performed before the 31/12/2012, the total payment would be EUR 7,350.

3) Corporate: EUR 70,000 of capital gains at 30% makes a total payment of EUR 21,000. If the purchase is performed before the 31/12/2012, the total payment would be EUR 10,500.

Obviously, this tax saving is not definitive in order to decide whether to buy a property or not in Spain, as it is not possible to know whether prices may go down much more nor the gains resulting from the eventual property sale. However, this fact may be a helpful factor to take a decision for those considering buying a property, especially for those non-speculative potential buyers whose main purpose is to enjoy this property for many years; thus, the longer they own the property, the greater the capital gains may be when selling it. Look at the figures and draw your own conclusions.

 

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

 

TAX EXEMPTION WHEN SELLING YOUR PROPERTY IN SPAIN

TAX EXEMPTION WHEN SELLING YOUR PROPERTY IN SPAIN

Spanish tax exemption CGT seller 65+
Spanish tax exemption CGT seller 65+

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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