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

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MORTGAGES IN SPAIN TO BUY PROPERTY

Mortgages in Spain to buy property

Mortgages in Spain to buy property

Fixed rate, variable rate interest & Euribor

If you want to buy a property with a Spanish mortgage you should know that the standard in Spain is the variable interest. The Euro Interbank Offered Rate, also called Euribor, is the reference rate for variable-rate mortgages and is currently at very low levels. Most mortgages in Spain are established according to the Euribor plus the interest rate offered by the bank.

Some banks offer fixed-rate mortgages but the number of fixed-rate mortgages obtained in Spain is very low compared to that of variable-rate mortgages.


A mortgage in Spain or another country?

If you are non-tax resident in Spain and you are thinking of getting a mortgage to buy a home in Spain, it is very likely that a bank in your tax-residence country can offer you a better interest rate than a Spanish bank. Therefore, you should try to find out which banks in your country give mortgages in Spain.


Ways to reduce the interest rate 

In Spanish mortgages with variable-interest usually offer a series of extra products are offered that may reduce the interest rate of your mortgage loan. Each of these financial products / conditions can reduce the interest rate between 0,25% - 0,50%, with a maximum of non residents of 0,75% en 1,00%.

Some of these products / conditions are:

  • Setting up a direct credit of your salary or pension
  • Keeping a minimum monthly balance in the account linked to the mortgage
  • Signing up online banking or a virtual mailbox
  • Direct debits of service companies (water, electricity, taxes, etc.)
  • Having a debit/credit card
  • Having a pension plan with a minimal yearly contribution
  • Taking a life insurance and a house insurance / contents insurance


Starting the procedure with the bank

If you already know the bank where you want to apply for your mortgage, we suggest that you apply for the financial approval of the mortgage.

At this stage you will provide the bank with a complete list of your income and loans as well as your employment status and the amount of the mortgage loan you need. The bank will enter all these details into the system and tell you if they would approve the mortgage at your income level.

Through this, you can save time and money since you can find out, right from the start, that the bank will not give you a mortgage and it will not be necessary for you to provide all the financial documentation at the beginning. Besides from this it´s not necessary yet to pay the taxation of the property by the bank. This documentation for the bank, by the way, needs to  include an extract (´nota simple´) of the Land Book Registry, the Registro de la Propiedad, of the property you are interested in buying. If the bank analyses your financial details and cannot grant you a mortgage, you always have the possibility to go to a different bank.


Extra costs of the Spanish mortgage

Updated information due to the sentence of the Supreme Court in October 2018 as well as the change in the Spanish law based on which the banks pay most of the initial costs of the mortgage. 

  • Legal expenses:

These are usually between 3% - 4% of the amount of the mortgage, but are since October 2018 paid for by the banks (and they can be claimed back for mortgages signed since October 2014). They refer to taxes, the notary´s invoice (the Mortgage Deeds are different from the Title Deeds and so they are charged separately), the invoice from the Land Book Registry and processing fees. These expenses are the same regardless of whether the mortgage is obtained from a Spanish or a foreign bank.

  • Solicitor fees:

Even though you can negotiate your mortgage directly with the bank, it is advisable for your solicitor to help you with this process as you will obtain professional advice. Besides of this his work with the bank will be more efficient because he knows the different conditions of the banks, the can check the Spanish general Terms & Conditions and he can negotiate on your behalf.

  • Extra bank expenses:

Opening fee (usually 0,5% - 1% of the mortgage), obliged home insurance (contents insurance) and life insurance for each mortgage account holder.

On this point, I would like to make a special mention about the life insurance policy that most banks usually require to obtain. This insurance policy is obtained for the mortgaged amount and guarantees that the bank can collect the amount due to the bank from the insurance company in the event that the account holders die.

Life insurance is an interesting product for mortgage holders but it may involve a high premium, especially if the insured people are elderly or have any health problems. This is because, in these cases, the premium will be higher as the risk that the mortgage holders die increases. It´s important to know that after the first year you can switch from insurance company to one that offers you better conditions on your life insurance.

It is also common for some banks to require you to pay a single premium for this life insurance policy, i.e., when the mortgage is granted, the bank already charges you for the total insurance premium for the entire mortgage period.

It is important for you to have a summary chart of ALL mortgage costs, so you can know the net amount of the mortgage (after deducting expenses) you will have available to pay for the property.


Legally binding mortgage offer

Once the bank confirms that your mortgage is approved, the legal document that guarantees this is the binding offer (´oferta vinculante´). This bank document functions as a contract and binds the bank to giving you the mortgage under the terms established in the document. The binding offer is usually valid for one month but it may not be valid for less than ten days.


Recommendations when buying a property with a mortgage 

Since the final approval of the mortgage by the bank will take 2 or 3 weeks. Therefore it´s wise to start the mortgage procedure as soon as possible, even if you haven´t selected a definitive property yet.

Have you already decided on the property you want to buy, but you do not yet know if you are going to obtain a mortgage? In this case you could try to negotiate with the seller that the reservation document and/or private purchase contract are ´subject to mortgage´. This clause avoids that you would lose your reservation fees and/or down payment if no bank in the end doesn´t grants you a mortgage loan. However, most (Spanish) sellers do not like to sign contracts that are subject to the mortgage so the best thing is to have everything prepared with the bank so that it takes as little as possible to receive a reply.

Also please keep in mind that not all banks are willing to grant mortgages for house in the countryside, or only for a limited percentage.


Saving money by subrogation of a mortgage

If you are a home owner with a Spanish mortgage than -after one year- you have the right to subrogate your mortgage to another band with a lower interest rate of better conditions. In this case the new bank will pay the rest of the loan plus the transfer commission (if this exists) to your current bank and you will pay your mortgage from that moment to the new bank according to the new conditions.

The subrogation cost is very low compared to the cost of signing a new mortgage. Therefore, if the interest rate that the bank offers you is lower, it is very likely for subrogation to be beneficial to you.

 

Read the extended information about this subject in our pdf-file: Mortgages in Spain to buy property.

 

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

TIME LIMITATION FOR RESPONSIBILITY: ILLEGAL SUBDIVISIONS RUSTIC LAND ANDALUSIA (DAFO)

illegal subdivision rustic land andalucia

illegal subdivision rustic land andalucia

On 6 August, the amendment of article 183.3 of the Urban Planning Law of Andalusia (LOUA) came into force.

The main objective of this amendment was to introduce a statute of limitations for subdivisions in non-developable land that contain buildings. Since 2003, the Administration was able initiate the administrative proceedings for the grouping of these plots divided illegally at any time, which entailed an order to demolish anything built illegally on such lands. There was no time limit, i.e. the legal responsibility never expired.

What this amendment has done is introduce a statute of limitations of six years for such subdivisions, provided that they contain buildings over six years old. This statute of limitations introduced for buildings constructed in non-developable land, results in the legal responsibility expiring after six years without the administration initiating proceedings against such subdivision.

It should be made clear that subdividing rural land means the segregation or division of a plot of land into several more plots, usually for the purpose of selling these plots independently and building there. These subdivisions are illegal unless they comply with the smallest unit for crops, which, in dry lands, is usually between 20,000 and 25,000 square metres. The general idea is to limit plots in rural land from being divided to form new independent properties as much as possible.

This is not a minor issue as, both before and after the passage of the LOUA in 2003, thousands of illegal subdivisions of rural land that did not comply with the smallest unit for crops took place in Andalusia. This situation was widespread until 2009, when the economic crisis put an end to frantic speculation in the property market.

The existence of thousands of such subdivisions led to the sale of many properties originating from illegal subdivisions, which were then transferred to other buyers, whom were also transferred the legal “problem” represented by the possibility of the Administration initiating procedures against them.

This was a situation that created a high level of legal uncertainty, as the offence of dividing such land illegally never expired. The sale of these plots led to the appearance of third parties acting in good faith.

In practice, the Administration in general and City Councils in particular did not have –and do not have– any interesting in pursuing proceedings against these subdivisions to re-establish legality in urban planning. In fact, the enforcement of the resolutions of these proceedings, by grouping all segregated plots into a single property in the Land Registry and in the cadastre, with the demolition of anything built illegally on such plots, seems a complicated task, not to say an impossible one.

In addition to this, the fact that there was no statute of limitations caused a situation of comparative tort, as the offence of having built on non-developable land, on a plot that did not come from a subdivision, would expire after six years. However, if the building was located on a plot divided illegally, the building could be “attacked” with no temporal limit as the offence of subdivision did not expire, i.e. despite the building being over six years old.

I think this amendment is sensible, as it equalises the statute of limitations for plots with buildings and that of buildings constructed on non-developable land. This will lead to greater legal certainty, with the ability to determine the legal regime applicable to these properties clearly.

The logical consequence of this amendment is that buildings that are over six years old and that are built on land subdivided illegally will able to apply for the Assimilated-Outside-of-Planning Procedure (DAFO).

This procedure does not entail the legalisation of the building as the situation of illegality is always maintained but it can lead to greater legal certainty, as the City Council will certify the situation of the property on which legal liability has expired, without the possibility of being “attacked” again by the Administration itself, provided that, of course, no new buildings, renovations or improvements are made on said building.

This recognition, in addition to being a relatively significant financial outlay for the owner, will also entail the certification of a series of limitations for buildings on rural land, despite the fact that, with or without DAFO status, these limitations still exist. It will be up to each owner or new buyer to decide whether he or she is interested in requesting that recognition for the property in question, without forgetting that the City Council can require the owner to initiate it ex officio.

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

FLOOR CLAUSES MORTGAGES: NEGATIVE REPORT FROM CJEU

nerja, lawyer, hipotecasIn our last article in May, related to floor clauses, we explained that judicial proceedings before the CJEU (Court of Justice of the European Union) are currently taking place.

The purpose of these proceedings is to decide whether Spanish banking entities have to return all the money unduly charged through floor clauses or, on the contrary, they only have to return the amounts unduly charged after 9 May 2013.

The preliminary opinion of the advocate general taking part in these proceedings establishes that banks should only have to return the amounts unduly charged after 9 May 2013.

The Judgement in these proceedings is expected for late this year and, even though the opinion of the advocate general is not binding, it is usual for the Court's Judgement to follow the same reasoning.

Regardless of the surprise that this opinion has caused among many lawyers and judges, we must remember that Spanish banks will have to return the amounts unduly charged after 9 May 2013 through floor clauses, and this will not change, regardless of the Judgment of the CJEU, as these proceedings will only decide whether banks will have to return the amounts unduly charged before 9 May 2013 or only those amounts unduly charged after this date.

It is very important for everyone affected by floor clauses in a mortgage to file a judicial claim to recover the amount the bank has charged unduly, as well as to prevent the bank from continuing to charge them more money than the agreed interest rate for their remaining mortgage periods.  The success rate in these proceedings is quite high and banks would be ordered to cover court costs caused by these proceedings.

Currently many banks are trying to prevent customers from initiating judicial proceedings by offering false solutions such as agreeing on a fixed interest rate for mortgages. Don't sign or agree to anything without talking to a specialised lawyer as most of these solutions only seek to keep the bank from having to pay you everything it owes you and make you waive your right to file a judicial claim.

Thanks to our agreement with the Gallego & Rivas law firm, which specialises in banking law, we can study your case at no cost, completing an initial assessment of your documentation and giving you an estimate of the total amount of money you could claim, as well as the money you would save in the future by eliminating the floor clause from your mortgage. This is all with no commitment to hire our legal services.

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)

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)

RECENT CONTROVERSIAL DEMOLITION OF TWO PROPERTIES

Controvercial demolition properties Andalucia

Controvercial demolition properties Andalucia

Last Monday October 14th, the Regional Andalusia Government Junta de Andalucia carried out the demolition of two houses which  were built without construction permit on non-developable land in the rural area of Las Terreras, in the municipality of Las Canteras, Almeria.

In this case, the developer did not have construction permits to build both properties. This is a different situation from that explained in our blog post in March, but there are also involved third parties in good faith, who bought the aforementioned properties to the developer/seller. The demolition of these properties means the infringement of a fundamental property right according to the interpretation of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which has demanded that:

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

-          Property loss due to general interest—for example, the compliance of planning legality over ownership of assets—shall be previously compensated to the owner.

Therefore, upon consideration of this European case law, it is not sufficient that in these two cases the judgment has assessed civil liability and the seller-developer is sentenced to compensate owners who bought these properties, but this compensation should be made effective prior to demolitions to avoid the risk that the seller fails to pay or is not able to pay and, as a result of this, third parties in good faith are not compensated. It should be noted that subsidiary liability of public administrations is not observed, as no construction permit was granted.

In order to guarantee the payment of compensations, appropriate actions should be taken prior to execute demolitions in the same proceedings for the enforcement of judgments. If this were possible, this situation should be determined as a reason to stop the judgment enforcement until compensations are paid to the affected owners. Obviously, each case should be analysed in order to determine whether the owner knew about the absence of construction permits and even though he was aware of the risk involved, he bought the property. In these cases, protection for these owners should be different.

Regarding certain information compiled by different means, there is a chronological perspective to be pointed out in respect of these two demolitions, which reveal the inefficiency of inspection and penalty procedures in regards of town-planning regulations, as well as the belligerent approach of public administrations participating:

-          In 2004, the Andalusian Regional Government initiated a proceeding against the developer and he was fined because of the earthmovings in this area. Then, he was obliged to restore it to its original state. Obviously, the developer failed to comply with this order to restore it to its former state. In addition, the Town Council or Andalusia Regional Government should have acted in this moment, as well as they have done now, when carrying out the demolitions.

-          In 2007, the Andalusia Regional Government officially ordered to the Town Council the demolition of the properties, as they have been built on non-developable land without construction permits. From 2004 to 2007, 3 years have elapsed. During this period of time the 4 properties were built and no competent public administrations did paralyze the works before they were completed. As a result of this, the completed houses were entered into legal transactions and then new owners arised. Why were construction works not paralyzed within these years?

-          Once that the 4 properties were completed, the Town Council authorized water and electricity supply for them; this illegal authorization granted by the Town Council implied that these homes were appropriate to be occupied, as these supplies were essential for their sales.

-          In 2012, The Andalusia Regional Government seemed to request the Town Council to execute the demolitions.

-          In October 2013, the demolition of two properties was carried out by the Andalusia Regional Government, because the Town Council did not do so. The other two properties are also pending to be demolished.

Nine years have elapsed since the construction activities without permits are known until their demolitions were indeed executed. During this period of time, third parties in good faith have appeared and been affected by this situation. Have public administrations really done their utmost? Could have they acted earlier and with greater accuracy since 2004?

It would be a rather difficult task to think that the Andalusia Regional Government and Town Councils are not liable for a large number of homes built without permits on non-developable land in Andalusia—liability becomes obvious for those properties built with construction permits—since they had aerial images of each area, cadastral information and documents from the Payments Offices for transfer tax collection, which may have allowed them to protect non-developable land and enforce Andalusia town planning Act (LOUA). But they did not want to do so. Accordingly, as town planning duties have not been complied in respect of inspection and penalty procedures, the liability of Andalusia Regional Government and Town Council is joint and shared.

It is also worth mentioning the existence of certain arbitrariness on the part of public administrations when judgments were enforced, since older proceedings are still pending to be enforced and no actions are being taken on them.

Foreign residential tourism is a key factor for local economies in many areas; different national newspapers have been looked up and all of them echoed the new demolitions, which is a very harmful publicizing. They stressed the absence of economic compensations before demolitions were carried out, rather than demolitions itself.

It is not a question of implementing a general amnesty for all irregular acts executed on non-developable land without permits, since this may lead to a negative message for people who meet regulations. However, the fundamental property right should not be further infringed in conformance with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) case law and property right should be protected in Spain as a fundamental right. In addition a legal  system which protects third parties in good faith should be provided in order to ensure legal certainty; inspection and penalty procedures should be carried out and should not go on forever due to the lack of interest of public administrations, so that their effectiveness may paralyze these type of constructions before they are entered into legal transactions; common sense and realism should be imposed and Regional Governments should be consistent with what has been accepted in these years, due to their failure to act or interminable penalty and enforcement procedures.

It seems understandable that town-planning legality will be now strictly enforced and hopefully it will be watched over. However, solutions should be provided from a logic and legal perspective for all previous cases.

 

 

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

 

 

 

RELEVANT RULING FOR HOMEBUYERS OF NON-COMPLETED PROPERTIES WITHOUT BANK GUARANTEES

Ruling for non-completed Spanish properties without bank guarantees

Ruling for non-completed Spanish properties without bank guarantees

In the last few years, it has become quite common the significant number of homebuyers who have purchased off-plan properties and paid large sums of money on account for their future homes, however, the developer has never completed nor handed them over. Consequently, the advanced money has been lost in many cases, because the developer may have gone bankrupt and lost all assets to refund these amounts to them.

Spanish Government passed in 1968 the Law 57/1968 dated 27th of July on the receipt of sums paid in advance prior to the construction and sale of homes. This was aimed at stopping several cases of homebuyers who lost their money paid for properties which never were built.

Spanish Law 57/1968 is still in force and solicitors, who are specialised in this issue, know the regulations for homebuyers’ protection in respect of sums paid in advance to developers for off-plan or under construction properties prior to their completion. However, the most relevant point at this moment is the judgment argumentation set out for the court proceedings where 46 homebuyers without bank guarantees securing advanced payments, made a legal claim jointly and severally to the bank and the developer demanding the total amounts paid, because the construction works were never completed. The judgment was pronounced by a court of first instance of Albacete on the 08/06/2012 and was confirmed by the Provincial Court on the 11th of February of this year.

The aforementioned judgment ordered the bank to refund all amounts of money paid by the homebuyers, considering that it was jointly and severally liable together with the developer, pursuant to the interpretation of Articles 1 and 2 of the abovementioned Law of 1968, Article 4 of the Spanish Ministerial Order of 1968 and the First Additional Provision of the Law 38/1999 on building regulations.

Although the bank was not a party on the sale agreement and did not either issue bank guarantees for homebuyers’ payments on account, the main line of argument of this judgment to consider the bank to be jointly and severally liable is that this bank knew about these payments in the developer’s account and was aware that these amounts were paid for the purchase of homes in a property development. As a result of that, the bank did not comply with the obligations provided by Law 57/1968 and committed a banking malpractice, pursuant to the interpretation of Article 1.2 of this Law, as the developer should have been required to open a special account where depositing its funds apart from any other amounts aimed at the construction of the properties. In addition, the bank should have not permitted these deposits in ordinary accounts, and particularly when this bank was the only financial entity financing the development and profited from this real estate business.

This judgment entails a court action to recover the money for those homebuyers without bank guarantee securing the amounts paid on account to developers, because, if appropriate, they could bring an action for joint and several liability against the bank where the developer’s loan was granted, where the payments were deposited and where the developer operated. Thus, homebuyers will have better chances to recover the sums paid, considering that there are already many judgments where developers has been condemned to pay, but court orders cannot be enforced because of their insolvency, while banks are always solvent.

 

 

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

 

THE “SUMMER HOLIDAY RENTALS” ISSUE

Spain, summer, holiday, rentals, tax, law

New rules Spanish holiday rentals tax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

PREFERRED SHARES: THE GREAT SCANDAL

Preferred shares of Spanish banks

Preferred shares of Spanish banks

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

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

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

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

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

Holders of the aforementioned preferred shares have the following options:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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)

 

 

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