On 30 April, we reported on the reduction in the ITP Transfer Tax and Stamp DutyTax approved by the Regional Government of Andalusia for the year 2021. This reduction would end on 31 December and the previous tax rates would start applying again from 1 January.
In this reduction, the Regional Government of Andalusia reduced the Transfer Tax a fixed rate of 7% without differentiating thresholds, for all home purchases completed during 2021. This represented a considerable reduction as, until that moment, 8% of the purchase price would be paid up to 400,000 euros, 9% between 400,000 and 700,000 euros and 10% from 700,000 euros.
This reduction mainly benefitted the sales of second-hand real estate luxury home market, which is currently very active in the coastal areas of Costa del Sol, such as Marbella, Málaga, Fuengirola, Nerja or Estepona, among others, or the Costa Tropical, such as Almuñécar (Granada province).
What is the new tax change of second-hand real estate that has taken place?
On Wednesday 13 October, the Andalusian Parliament adopted a new law, which has reduced the ITP Transfer Tax in Andalusia to 7% PERMANENTLY, which means that buying a home in 2021 or 2022 does not make a difference, as taxation will be the same. In other words, the tax reduction established for 2021 alone will become permanent.
When do you pay the ITP Transfer Tax in Spain?
The IPT Transfers Tax must be paid when buying a secondhand home, within 30 working days following the completion of the Public Deed of the Purchase in the Notary office. The Autonomous Community where the asset is located, is the one responsible for collecting that ITP tax in Spain.
When do you pay the Stump Duty Tax?
The Stump Duty Tax must be paid when purchasing a new or off-plan home, within 30 working days following the completion of the Public Deed of the Purchase in the Notary office.
In the case of new building home purchases, the repercussions of this tax reduction are limited, as in these purchases VAT is chargeable at 10% and no Transfers Tax is paid. In new homes, in addition to VAT, buyers need to pay the Stump Duty Tax, which has now permanently become 1.2% of the purchase price of the property, instead of the earlier 1.5%.
When will the permanent reduction ITP Transfer Tax enter into force?
It seems that its entry into force is set for November this year. However, until 31 December, the transitional reduction approved in April continues to apply. In other words, any person in the process of buying a second-hand propertyin Andalusia will pay the Transfer Tax at a rate of 7%, regardless of whether the purchase takes place in 2021 or in 2022.
Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors (Torrox, Malaga)
Are you a resident or homeowner in Spain and did you ever wonder about Spanish Inheritance Tax? Whether you maybe own a house and other assets or are thinking about buying property in Spain as an investment, this information could be useful to you.
I’m going to try to clear up some common doubts and make several example calculations so that you understand how this tax works in Spain and its current rates in Andalusia.
As a law firm specializing in providing legal and fiscal advice to foreigners in Andalusia, we’ve encountered certain unpleasant situations in inheritance processes with clients. These cases had a large financial impact from inheritance tax (succession rights) and some of them could have been avoided with the right fiscal advice and preparation.
1. Be careful with Spain! Every region has a different Spanish inheritance tax
The big difference in terms of paying more or less inheritance tax in Spain depends on the autonomous community where you reside, as they each have different regulations, with very different tax rates.
If you’re worried about how much inheritance tax an heir will pay, you need to know the benefits available in the autonomous community where you have your assets or where you’re thinking of buying a home.
2. Yes, that’s right. Non-residents in Spain pay the same Inheritance Tax as residents
There is an obligation to pay Inheritance Tax in Spain when a person inherits any asset located within Spanish territory, irrespective of whether they are resident in Spain. Since the judgments rendered in Spain in 2018, residents and non-residents, whether they are EU citizens or not, are subject to the same regulations in terms of Inheritance Tax in Spain.
In other words, if you’re an expat or reside in your country of origin, this will make no difference in terms of the tax to be paid compared to what someone resident in Spain would pay.
Be careful! You should not confuse Inheritance Tax payable in Spain with the law governing the Spanish inheritance process and the law of obligatory heirs in the Spanish Succession Law. If you want to know what this means, please watch C&D Solicitors´ video:
3. Who collects the Spanish Inheritance Tax for non-residents?
The only difference between residents and non-residents is the administrative body in charge of collecting the tax. If you’re resident in Spain, the administrative authority to collect this tax will be the autonomous community where you reside but, if you’re a non-resident, this will be the non-resident department of the central administrative Tax Office in Madrid.
However, even if you’re non-resident and inherit a property in Malaga, for instance, and you declare this tax to the Treasury in Madrid, you can still benefit from Andalusian tax regulations, which is why non-resident heirs in Spain pay the same as residents.
4. What is the most expensive Inheritance Tax region in Spain?
Andalusia is currently one of the regions in Spain where the lowest inheritance and gift tax rates for direct relatives of the deceased are applied, due to the tax bonuses and exemptions introduced in the last few years. Cantabria and Galicia are two other communities with the lowest Inheritance Tax rates in Spain, along with Madrid, Extremadura and Murcia. However, communities such as Asturias, Castilla y Leon and Valencia have very high rates of Succession Tax.
Nevertheless, these changes haven’t affected all groups of heirs and it continues to be a very expensive tax for some distant relatives, as well as for heirs with no official family relationship to the deceased.
So, if you for example are thinking of investing your money in buying a house for a tourist rental in Spain, in terms of succession tax the Costa del Sol (Andalusia) is much more attractive than the Costa Blanca (Alicante).
5. How is the succession tax calculated for a Spanish estate?
The rate of this tax is progressive, according to the value of the estate, i.e. the higher the value of the assets, the higher Inheritance Tax becomes.
Likewise, to the result obtained when applying the scale for this tax, multiplication coefficients are applied, which may increase the amount due under this tax. According to the degree of relationship and the pre-existing assets of the heirs, this coefficient may be higher or lower.
The lower the degree of relationship to the deceased and the greater the assets of the heir, the higher Inheritance Tax becomes.
6. Which heirs pay the least tax?
Descendants or (adopted) children, as well as spouses and ascendants. This means that children, husbands/wives, grandchildren and parents pay the least inheritance tax in Spain. These are relatives classified into groups I and II under the Tax.
It should be noted that the tax benefits existing for direct relatives are very different depending on the autonomous community where the assets are located or where they live and reside, as each autonomous community has its own regulations. Differences in Inheritance Tax rates in Spain are enormous!
7. How much Spanish inheritance Tax is paid by close relatives in Andalusia?
This group of heirs is included in groups I and II and they can apply a reduction due to kinship of up to 1,000,000 euros per heir in Inheritance Tax. If each of them inherits less than that amount, no Inheritance Tax will be due.
For heirs to apply this reduction in Andalusia, their own assets prior to inheriting cannot exceed 1,000,000 euros either. Without a doubt, in Andalusia, widowed spouses and children pay much less Inheritance Tax than in other autonomous communities in Spain, which has resulted in an appreciable drop in tax collection from this tax in Andalusia.
8. Which heirs pay the most Succession Tax in Spain?
Persons related collaterally in the 2nd and 3rd-degree family, such as siblings, nephews, nieces and brothers– and sisters-in-law, as well as other more distant relatives such as cousins, great-uncles, great-aunts and strangers.
Without a doubt, these are the heirs that pay the highest Inheritance Tax rates in Spain and they’re classified under groups III and IV of the Tax. In Andalusia and other Autonomous Communities, this group of heirs aren’t the exception and pay a very high rate of inheritance tax.
9. How much tax is due for inheriting the usual property in Andalusia?
If you’re in groups I and II, unless the home is worth over 1,000,000 euros, you would pay nothing. But if the heir is in group III, such as a sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, or in-law, living with the deceased for at least the two years prior to the death occurring, a bonus worth 95% to 100% of the value of the home is applied. In the latter case, the home must be kept for 3 years following the death.
There are other discounts in Andalusia, such as heirs with disabilities, the acquisition of a sole proprietorship and farms.
10. What is the deadline to pay Inheritance Tax?
The deadline is 6 months after the date of death and, if it remains unpaid, the tax administration may initiate proceedings to claim payment of the tax, with the ability to impose penalties. However, if there are justifiable reasons, it is possible to request an extension of 6 additional months and this application must be filed within 5 months of the death.
After four and a half years from the date of death, the government cannot require payment of this tax. In this case, the tax would be zero due to it being time-barred.
EXAMPLES: Spanish Inheritance tax calculator in Andalusia
Dutch siblings Frank and Mark inherit their father’s property in Almuñécar, appraised at 300,000 euros. In this case, the answer is clear, each of them would pay zero in Inheritance Tax.
Now siblings Frank and Mark inherit their older brother Jan’s property in Fuengirola, appraised at 300,000 euros. In this case, each would inherit 50% of the property, appraised at 150,000 euros. The only bonus that they may apply is for the first 7,993.46 euros, for which reason each of them would pay the Treasury an amount of €31,393.56
Lastly, siblings Frank and Mark inherit their friend Martin’s property in Marbella, appraised at 300,000 euros. In this case, each would inherit 50% of the property, appraised at 150,000 euros. No reduction can be applied in this case, for which reason they would pay taxes on the entire amount received, resulting in a payment of €42,523.07 from each.
Final note: How does the Spanish Inheritance and Gift Tax affect the property market?
If you’re thinking about buying a home in Spain and you’ve read everything we’ve explained above, you’ve probably realized that Inheritance and Gift Tax have a significant influence on the property market in Spain and the choice of the autonomous community to settle in.
Excessively high rates in some regions and extremely low rates in others condition the investment decisions of potential home buyers to these trends. Inheritance Tax (succession rights) in Spain has a direct impact on the financial behavior of buyers and the decision regarding where in Spain they wish to live or buy a property.
You can read interesting information about this subject on our webpage Inheritance Tax Andalusia. If you need a lawyer specializing in Inheritance and Gift Tax, just send us a message through the contact form below.
If you are interested in the subject of Spanish inheritances, you might also want to read our pages on:
We are near the end of the transition period established within the BREXIT for British citizens resident in Spain, which ends on 31 December 2020. There are many tax consequences for British citizens in Spain but for now we are only going to focus on British citizens with assets in Spain. For example pensioners or owners of a second home. From the perspective of trade or the movement of British citizens in Spain for work reasons, the tax and bureaucratic consequences of Brexit are higher, even though we will not cover that in this article. However, we will also briefly address the process to obtain Spanish residency. This because during the past few months we have witnessed many police stations becoming overwhelmed and unable to meet the many requests for appointments for British citizens and their family members to obtain a residence permit in Spain. This procedure was approved as part of the transition period set to end on the 31st of December 2020.
Over the last few weeks of 2020, it has been impossible for many British citizens to make an appointment at the police station in the province where they live and this also applies to the province of Malaga in Andalusia. This has led many British citizens resident in Spain or about to move to Spain starting 2021 without a residence permit.
What will be the situation of British citizens resident in Spain after BREXIT?
Well, these British citizens will have to apply for a residence permit after the final Brexit on the 1st of January 2021, just like any other citizen from a third country outside the European Union. We recommend that first of all these citizens register with their city hall as soon as possible and also request a S1 form from the United Kingdom to prove that their healthcare costs in Spain will be covered by the United Kingdom. After this, the easiest thing to do is to contact a law firm or administration company that can advise you and help you with the process, as it will be complicated to do it on your own. It is very important not to delay and do this as soon as possible, even though it is true that there is currently a lot of uncertainty about the procedure in question, as the negotiations with the European Union remain open.
How will the status of British citizens change after 1 January?
British citizens will be able to travel to Spain and stay for up to 90 days within a 6-month period, consecutive or not, without having to obtain a visa. They could even be required to prove their financial capacity to cover their stay in Spain, as is the case with travellers from countries outside the European Union. If they wish to stay longer, it is very likely that they will have to apply for a visa or work permit, even though this has not been defined yet since the negotiations remain open.
What will happen with the British driving licence?
From 1 January 2021, the general regulations will apply and British driving licence will be valid to drive in Spain for six months counted from the owner’s entry in Spain or from the date that legal residence is obtained. They will need to exchange their British driving licence for a Spanish one to continue driving in Spain after those six months.
How will Inheritance Tax change after Brexit on the 1st of January 2021?
As we explained in detail in an earlier article about inheritance tax, fortunately, from 1 January 2019, citizens not resident in the European Union are able to obtain the same tax benefits and bonuses for Inheritance Tax as European citizens. Therefore, the application of Inheritance Tax and its consequences would not change for British citizens.
Potential future Inheritance Tax when buying a home in Spain
When considering the purchase of a home in Spain, as the regulations applicable to this tax depend on the autonomous community where the property is located, a very important matter is to consider which autonomous communities have a higher and a lower inheritance tax, before making such investment(s). For instance, British nationals are the main buyers of homes in Spain. Alicante (Valencian Community) and Malaga (Andalusia) are the two main locations for foreigners to buy a home in Spain but. However, when it comes to Inheritance Tax, there are big differences between one community and the other. The Valencian Community has the third highest Inheritance Tax in Spain, while Andalusia has the third lowest, according to the General Economists Council of Spain, in their taxation study for 2020. This means that, when thinking about that tax, Malaga has a much cheaper rate of Inheritance Tax than Alicante.
What happens to taxes on profits obtained from renting out my home in Spain?
If you bought a home in Malaga as an investment, for instance, and you use it forholiday rentals as a citizen of the European Union, the profit obtained from such rental would be taxed at 19% through their IRNR income tax for non-fiscal residents with a house in Spain. Many expenses can be deducted: mortgage interest, repair and maintenance costs for the property, electricity, insurance, etc. However, once you are considered a citizen not resident in the European Union, it will be taxed at 24% and no deduction for property expenses may be applied.
Estate Tax or Wealth Tax on my properties located in Spain
Estate Tax or Wealth tax also apply to assets and rights that non-residents have in Spain. As this tax has a minimum personal exemption threshold of 700,000 euros over the minimal fiscal value, all non-residents -in the EU or outside it- with assets of a lower value would pay nothing. The main difference in terms of EU and non-EU citizens lies in the fact that EU citizens can apply the regulations of the autonomous community where most of their assets are located. However, non-EU citizens would have to follow national regulations instead of those of the autonomous community where the assets are located. If we compare the tax rates in Andalusia to the national ones in terms of estate tax, the national rate of estate tax is somewhat lower. Therefore, applying national regulations does not always entail a greater tax liability.
The actual impact of that tax is non-existent for most non-residents due to the minimum fiscal value of 700,000 euros applied per person. This is why it is recommended that, if you are thinking about luxurious purchasing a property in for example Marbella on the Costa del Sol, it might be interesting to put the property in more than one name to profit from this exemption. Still, estate tax could have a high impact for those with high-value assets in Spain or considering the purchase of luxury properties.
How will Brexit affect the sale of my home in Spain?
The tax rate on capital gains obtained from selling the property would go from 19% to 24%. The withholding (down payment) of the Capital Gain Tax that a buyer must apply to a non-resident seller to pay the amount at the Tax Agency in Spain will continue to be 3% of the purchase price. This percentage is the same for EU citizens and non-EU citizens.
Will Brexit affect the ITP transfer tax on the purchase of a home in Spain?
No, it will not. The property ITP transfer tax paid in Spain for the purchaseof second-hand homes do not vary for EU citizens and non-EU citizens, for which reason, from 1 January 2021, it would not lead to greater expenses for British people. The same counts for the 21% VAT tax and documented legal acts (AJD tax) paid for new off-plan properties. The ITP tax depends on the autonomic region. For instance, in Andalucia a house buyer pays 8% ITP transfer tax over the purchase price up to € 400.000, until € 700.000 it´s 9% and after this the ITP will be 10%. To calculate the ITP tax on more expensive houses for a married couple it´s important to take into account if the couple is married in community or separation of goods.
Is the double-taxation agreement in force between Spain and the United Kingdom important?
Yes it is. The main purpose of this double-taxation agreement is for a British national living in Spain or a Spanish national living in the United Kingdom to be able to work and invest in those countries without having to pay twice for the same thing. This agreement will remain in force and is unaffected by the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. This agreement, which came into force on 12 June 2014, contains special clauses that exempt certain public pensions paid by the British government from taxation in Spain, as they can only be taxed in the United Kingdom. Likewise, this agreement protects residents national of either country from being taxed twice on income from capital gains and dividends. Income tax for non-residents, company tax, personal income tax and estate tax are covered by this agreement, for which reason these aspects should not be taxed twice in both countries.
Potential changes in the future for British house owners
Over the next few weeks, there will surely be changes affecting British nationals as it is very likely for the negotiations to change certain important aspects. However, on the date this article is posted (22 December 2020), little is known. We advise that, if you have any doubts, you contact and obtain legal or tax advice from a lawyeror company specialising in non-resident house owners.
Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors, Málaga
Buying a home in Spainentails a great financial investment and, therefore, you’ll want to do it with the lowest possible risk. This is why it’s very important to obtain legal advice and hire a specialised lawyer to help you throughout the purchase process, so that you can enjoy legal certainty and be aware of all the relevant information about the property.
However, there is another important thing to do before signing the Purchase Deed for the property. It is advisable to have home insurance ready to prevent any risk of financial loss due to potential damages, such as theft, water damage or fire. The importance of home insurance for the owner’s peace of mind and the investment made is self-evident.
This is why we’re posting this article, to clarify some concepts for foreign homeowners in Spain, so that they can understand this very important product well. In the event that you are buying with a mortgage, the bank will advise you and recommend that you obtain home insurance as, in the event of serious damage to the mortgaged property, the bank will want to secure repayment of the money borrowed.
At the end of the article, we cover home insurance for rural homes built in Andalusia, with or without DAFO/SAFO.
What are the building and the contents in home insurance?
A home insurance policy for an existing or new build property is based on two main concepts: the building and the contents.
1) The building (continente) is made up of the construction and structural elements of a home or building, whether these are walls, ceilings, floors or installations such as heating, water or electricity, among others.
2) The contents (contenido) are made up of the belongings of the people living in the home, such as furniture, electronic devices, personal effects, clothing, jewellery, art, etc.
What would be an appropriate value for the contents?
To properly assess the contents, we recommend that you think about how much it would cost you to buy the items you have in your home, going room by room until you cover everything in it. Jewellery or cash money have specific valuation in home insurance and may be insured up to a certain limit or under certain conditions. In other words, in this case, this information must be provided to the company so that it takes it into account in the policy.
And what is the right value for the building?
If the building becomes damaged, e.g. a fire, the company will provide compensation according to the cost of rebuilding the home, i.e. the potential cost of rebuilding the home must be calculated. The resulting value of this calculation is the one that should be included in home insurance as the value of the building.
A very common way to calculate said value is the use of average estimated building values published by the Colleges of Architects. For instance:
Mr Olle Johansson, a Swedish national, purchased a new home in the city of Malaga in 2020. It’s a flat measuring 120 sq. m.Well, taking into account the average estimated building values from the College of Architects of Malaga for 2020, the value per square metre built would be 809 euros. In other words, the value of the building for 120 square metres would be 97,080 euros. If there is an underground carpark and a store, these should also be appraised separately from the home, so that the policy covers them. Another example: Mr Jan Van Poppel, a Dutch national, will purchase a home in the countryside, in the Mijas area (rural land), which has: 200 built square metres plus 30 square metres for a pool. The value per square metre for an isolated home in the countryside is 984 euros and the value of the pool would be 445 euros per square metre. Therefore, the value of the building would be about 210,150 euros.
Valuing the building at the purchase price
When we buy a home and obtain home insurance, we often think about setting a value for home insurance as close as possible to the purchase price paid for the property. However, this reasoning is misleading as it should be taken into account that the land where the home is located is not covered by home insurance, as the land always remains intact. In the event of serious damage, if you already own the land, you only need to insure the cost of rebuilding the home. However, the value of this land is what makes up most of the purchase price of a home in most urban sales. For instance, buying a home in the golden mile in Marbella, in central Malaga or on the beachfront in Nerja entails a high cost due to the location (land) of the property, rather than for the value of the building itself.
Rebuilding is much cheaper than buying when you already own the land. Therefore, the most important thing is to insure the real reconstruction value in the event of serious damage. This is about assigning the actual value to the building of your property. You also need to take into account that, when you own a home in a block of flats, if there is serious damage affecting the building, the community insurance will cover part of the damages affecting only the common elements of the building. The façade, roof, terraces, etc., are elements that would be covered by the insurance of the Homeowner’s Association in the event of a fire. In other words, if you are buying a flat or apartment, you’ll need to insure the building. This is why, in these cases, you should calculate the reconstruction value of your building for insurance purposes. If you provide a value above the reconstruction value, this would lead to so-called over-insurance in your home insurance and, if you provide a lower value, it would lead to under-insurance.
What would happen in the case of over-insurance in the policy?
Imagine a home in a building measuring 100 square meters, with a building value of 300,000 euros because this was the price paid when it was bought. If there is a serious accident requiring the reconstruction of the home, the company will never pay more than the reconstruction value, which would in general be around 80,000 – 90,000 euros. In this case, the owner would be paying a very high premium every year for the insurance policy needlessly, as the company will only honour claims up to the reconstruction cost of the home. In extreme cases, the company could even interpret that there has been bad faith when obtaining the insurance policy and this could be a major issue, as it could declare the policy void and refuse to pay the amounts that should be paid in the event of damages.
What happens in case of under-insurance?
In the event that the building or content is valued below the actual value of the building or furniture, the company will not cover 100% of the damages, even if the amount of the claim is lower than the value of the insurance policy. For instance, if the actual value of reconstruction of the building is 100,000 euros and the policy contains a building value of 60,000 euros, the home would only be insured at 60%. Someone might think in this case that any damages equal to or lower than 60,000 euros would be covered by the policy but in reality that’s not the case. For instance, in the event of a small fire with damages valued at 10,000 euros, the company would interpret that 40% of the claim is not covered by the policy as only 60% of the building value of the home is insured. Therefore, it will only pay 6,000 euros as compensation, always applying the rule of proportionality to every claim.
Special insurance: luxury homes
If you own a luxury home or you are thinking about buying a luxury home, the estimated cost of reconstruction or replacement based on the coefficients of the colleges of architects would surely not be a valid calculation method for homes of this type. The key to insure the building in homes of this type is to calculate the reconstruction value of the property with objective parameters. I.e. if the home has very high quality finishes in terms of automation, insulation, aluminium or timber structures, flooring, taps, toilets, air conditioning, etc., this must be taken into account and, in this case, these values should be added to the building insurance. As mentioned, the value of the building must be as accurate an estimate as possible of what it would cost to rebuild the home to the same standards. In this case, it’s very important to inform the company of the “peculiarities” of this home so that it has as much information as possible and to accredit the reason behind the value of building insurance being above the average reconstruction values in the area. Keeping all purchase invoices and proof of purchase for high-value furniture is very important to prove the estimated cost.
What is the insurance compensation consortium?
All persons who have an insurance policy in Spain, whatever the type, pay a small part of the price to the consortium. The consortium is a public business entity that covers accidents such as flooding, terrorism, atypical cyclones, large fires or other risks set down in the “extraordinary risk insurance regulations”, which are not covered by insurance policies, with damages of this type being expressly excluded from insurance covers. When damages of this type occur, as the insurance company does not cover them, the consortium acts as guarantor to compensate policyholders and keep them protected in these situations.
Rural homes and the building value in home insurance
First of all, we should remember the legal premise that most existing rural homes (rustic / countryside)in Andalusia, which are used for residential purposes, are illegal and, therefore, in the event of the destruction and total loss of the home, such as due to fire, earthquakes, serious flooding,etc., they cannot be rebuilt. This is because the Urban Planning Law of Andalusia (LOUA) does not allow for issuing a building permit on rural land for a residential home. The existence and continuity of those thousands of illegal homes on rural land are based on their age. Therefore, in the case of destruction or total loss, there would no longer be an old home and it would not be possible to obtain a permit to build a new house or rebuild the one that was there.
The above explanation means that the value of the building in home insurance for these homes can be estimated, as mentioned above, at around 984 euros per square metre built in Malaga. As the value is based on what it would cost to rebuild the home and the rural home cannot be legally rebuilt in the event of total loss, what situation would we be in? In the event of total loss, if we have a country home with a surface area of 150 square metres and the building is valued at 150,000 euros, the company would pay that amount as compensation for the building, along with the amount corresponding to its contents. In this case, the owner would receive compensation for the home in addition to the value of land where nothing can be built. This is why the value of the land in a rural home is very low compared to the construction value, especially when compared to an urban home on land where it is legal to rebuild it.
Tips for a safe and well insured home
When obtaining home insurance and purchasing your property, think carefully about the value of the building and contents and don’t forget to include stores, parking spaces, pools, etc. If you have any doubts about the insurance value, talk to the insurance company itself. It’s important for the company to help you clear up any doubts when assessing your insurance value.
Big news for Andalusian house owners that don´t have their First Occupation Licence (LPO) yet which is obliged to present when applying for the RTA rental licence of the Registro de Turismo de Andalucia. This was a problem because many houses don´t have this licence as it wasn´t a standard requirement for new build houses until the eighties.
On March 12, the Andalusian Government published in its Official bulletin (BOJA) a Law Decree which has as its main purpose to simplify the regulation of some procedures in Andalusia. This regulation has affected a multitude of procedures and among these the new article 169 bis of the Urban Planning Law of Andalusia (LOUA) of 2002 was approved, which affects the First Occupation Licence (Licencia de Primera Ocupacion or LPO in Spanish).
Likewise, article 169.3 of the LOUA has been modified with a second paragraph that establishes that those acts that are subject to a responsibility declaration do not require a licence. As a general statement, we can say that the new decree allows obtaining the right to occupy or use the majority of buildings located on consolidated urban land throughout Andalusia, by submitting the responsibility declaration together with the required legal documentation by the interested party.
In other words, it will no longer be necessary for these buildings to obtain the First Occupation Licence (LPO) from the city council since the new ´Declaration of occupation or use´ replaces the Occupation Licence. The responsibility declaration of occupation grants the owner the same rights that the First Occupation Licence granted from the day of its presentation.
What is a “responsibility declaration”?
The responsibility declaration is a document signed by the interested party in which he declares that he meets a series of requirements according to specific regulations and therefore allows him to acquire a right. From the date of presentation (also by a certified architect) the right that is intended to the interested party is recognized, so from the legal point of view it is equal and replaces the earlier First Occupation Licence (LPO) granted by the City Council.
This type of procedure is becoming more common in the Spanish administration. This is because from the presentation of said responsibility declaration the right is recognized and, therefore, it is possible to avoid the waiting time and delay of the administration which in the case of the First Occupation Licence was months.
Which buildings can present a responsibility declaration for their right of occupation?
Article 169 bis commented above, establishes in its section c that it can be obtained by responsibility declaration “the occupation or use of the works of the previous section, provided that the buildings and facilities are finished and their destination is in accordance with the regulations of application”. These works in section b) of article 169, whose occupancy rights would be obtained by means of a responsibility declaration, are: “Works in existing buildings and facilities, on consolidated urban land and in accordance with urban planning, that do not alter the occupation and height parameters, nor involve increases in buildability or the number of homes ”.
Therefore, in section c, existing buildings that have never had a First Occupation Licence are enabled so that they now can obtain their right of occupation, by filing a responsibility declaration. Section d includes the possibility of obtaining the first occupation or use, through a responsibility declaration for new buildings: “d) The first occupation and use of new buildings, provided they are finished and their destination is in accordance with the application regulations and with the works licence granted”.
It is important to say that this change does not affect dwellings on undeveloped land, rustic dwellings, since they cannot obtain the First Occupation Licence as they officially are not part of the urban planning.
What obligations does the responsibility declaration establish?
The interested party who signs a responsibility declaration to acquire the right to occupy a property is responsible for the fulfilment of the established requirements to be able to enjoy said right. Along with the aforementioned declaration, he must present the required technical and legal documentation that certifies compliance with the requirements. Likewise, it will undertake to maintain compliance with said requirements once the declaration is presented.
Therefore, it is evident that responsibility declarations for the occupation or use of a building should not be presented when the requirements demanded by the norm for their presentation are not complied with. It must previously be analysed whether the house in question can obtain this right. It should not be forgotten that the presentation of the responsible declaration supposes assuming a legal responsibility. Presenting said declaration with falsification of the data or documents provided or not attaching all the required legal documentation may suppose legal responsibility for the interested party by the administration.
How does this regulatory change affect tourist rental in Andalusia?
This regulatory change is evident that it will allow many homes, which up to this date do not have a First Occupation Licence for various reasons but still complied with the requirements. These can now obtain this legal recognition with the presentation of the responsibility declaration and required documentation. Since the Andalusian Government legislated tourist homes and forced their registration in theAndalusian Tourism Registry (RTA), requiring the First Occupation Licence, there are many homeowners in Andalusia: Malaga, Costa del Sol or Costa Tropical for example, who have applied for such a licence for their homes. Due to the slowness of the municipalities in granting the First Occupation Licences, many of the owners that have applied for said licence are still waiting for this to be resolved.
Many owners from towns such as Nerja, Málaga, Marbella, Vélez-Málaga, Benalmádena, Fuengirola, Almuñécar, Torrox … etc, and many other municipalities on the Costa del Sol and Costa Tropical will now be able to obtain their right of occupation through a responsibility declaration and hence comply with the requirement of the LPO. This way they can carry out the registration of their home in the RTA for the tourist rental of the property.
There are more than a few foreign clients of our office who have spent months or years “fighting” with their City Council to obtain their First Occupation Licence and now they will be able to obtain said right with the responsibility declaration, easily and quickly. Of course, for these homes, this regulatory change has meant a very important and positive change since one of the main attractions for a foreigner who wants to buy a property in Andalusia is its profitability through tourist rental. With the current crisis of the coronavirus COVID-19, these types of changes help the economic activity.
How does this change affect the sale of second-hand properties?
Most of property purchases by foreigners in Andalusia are existing homes and some of these do not currently have an LPO. It is evident that the responsibility declaration will, from now on, facilitate the process of obtaining the right to occupy a property. This due to the fact that it is understood that the right of occupation or use has been acquired since the presentation of the responsible declaration. Well, from the buyer’s point of view it is very important that, when buying on urban land, carefully check whether the property can obtain said right of occupation or not if the occupancy rights have been acquired by the seller through the presentation of the responsibility declaration.
The potential buyer must request a copy of the technical documentation presented together with the declaration from the seller, so that his lawyer and / or architect can review it and confirm that said property meets the requirements to obtain the right of occupation or use. If the future buyer does not make this verification, there is a risk that the seller of the property, in order to make it appear that his home has the right of occupancy, presents or is going to present the responsibility declaration despite the fact that the property cannot obtain said right for not complying with the requirements.
In this scenario, the buyer and new owner of the property may encounter a problem. Obviously, the seller could be held responsible for this situation but in most cases of foreign sales, the sellers are non-resident, it would be expensive and complicated to initiate legal proceedings. Always check with your lawyer about the situation of the property you are going to buy.
As we have previously mentioned, also for this type of housing it is possible for the developer to obtain what was previously the First Occupation Licence (LPO), through the declaration of occupation or use. The Urban Planning Law of Andalusia (LOUA) with this regulatory change, establishes that an occupancy licence for new homes is not required in Andalusia, it is possible to present the responsibility declaration of occupation.
In other words, even if the developer wanted to he or she could no longer obtain the LPO from the City Council as a result of this regulatory change. This means that, even if it is stated in the signed private purchase contract that the developer is required to obtain the LPO it would now be sufficient for the developer with the responsibility declaration as it would prove that the new house has the right of first occupation. The promoter by means of the declaration fulfils the private contract of sale.
What happens if the developer has improperly filed the statement?
The City Councils have an obligation to review whether or not the responsible statement meets the requirements to obtain the right of occupation or use, and may declare the cessation of occupation in the event that the requirements are not met and may also demand legal responsibility from the promoter for said actions.
If within the first six months from the presentation of the declaration, the City Council has not adopted the necessary measures for the cessation of the act or use, in the event that the requirements for that occupation are not met, the City Council would be liable for damages caused to third parties in good faith. In other words, the City Councils would answer to the people who bought these homes with the conviction that the sale could be carried out, since these the day they signed the Deed of Sale, they had the declaration responsible for the promoter of occupation or use (former LPO) .
The foregoing gives leaves us to understand that if the Town Hall reviews said declaration in those first six months and understands that the cessation of the occupation must be decreed, the developer would be responsible for the damages to the buyers. However, I understand that in most cases there should be no damage to the buyers, since the optional management of the works (mainly architects and surveyors) will ensure that their final works certificate is in accordance with the law since they would be the main responsible along with the promoter if this was not the case. The final works certificate is the most important technical document to obtain the right of occupation in a new home.
Can the declaration of occupation or use be presented in all Town Halls?
It is true that to this date few municipalities have approved specific procedures for this process such as Malaga, Marbella, Seville or Córdoba. The Andalusian Government has published a practical guide to this decree, along with the models for the responsibility declaration and the necessary documentation, so that the Town Councils can use it. In our opinion, such models can also be used by citizens since the right of occupation can only be obtained through a responsibility declaration, and not through a licence granted by the City Councils as of March 13th 2020.
It is true that since most of the municipalities have not approved this new procedure through their municipal ordinance, it is likely that they do not agree with obtaining said right of occupation by presenting the responsibility declaration, unless that City Council has previously approved that specific procedure.
Notwithstanding this Decree in the tenth transitory provision, allows those interested who prior to March 13 have initiated a procedure to obtain a first occupation license, can request the application of this new procedure and therefore may obtain the right of occupation through the responsibility declaration.
If the new regulation provides for the possibility of changing the procedure already initiated, we understand that since it entered into force it allows obtaining the right of occupation by means of a responsibility declarations, even though the City Council has not published its municipal ordinance.
Can supplies be contracted with this responsibility statement instead of the LPO?
The answer is categorically YES. Although it is very likely that it will be necessary to explain and discuss, at least during these first months since probably several of the supply companies for electricity and water will not have obtained this information or guidelines of said legal modification and will continue to demand the LPO. As you can understand, the best thing to do if you are an owner is to consult with your lawyer or architect about the specific situation of your property.
Of course, if you are in the process of buying a home or thinking about it, it is very important to contact a specialized lawyer who can advise you in the process of buying and selling the property and who knows these urban issues well.
Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors, (Málaga, Andalusia)
With this post C&D Solicitors would like to inform you about recent information from the Spanish government about the Corona virus. As the changes happen fast now and information often isn´t put in English, we hope our translation can help you to understand the current situation.
Due to the Corona Virus Andalusia, the central government declared a state of emergency on Saturday, March the 14th for the whole country. This is due to the -then- almost 6,000 cases of infection at that moment, half of which in the region of Madrid. The country is largely locked down and all powers now lie within the central government to guarantee the safety of the country and all food supplies.
All schools, restaurants, parks, playgrounds, beaches and public leisure facilities are closed and everyone must STAY INSIDE as much as possible. The police can give out large fines to those who don´t respect these rules and make it possible for this virus to spread any further. People can only go outside for:
– work (if working from home is not possible)
– purchases in the nearest supermarket
– visit to pharmacy or medical centre (in case of emergency)
– walking the dog (close to home)
– to get gas
– use the cash machine
– buy at kiosks (newspapers)
– to help the needy / children / elderly
– return to the first residency
So one should NOT go for a walk, jogging, to the gym, meet up with friends, have a chat with neighbours or other people on the street, etc. Public transport will be limited. The rules are in force for at least 15 days from now.
The government calls for solidarity and to respect each others health. Do you have a cold or flu complaints? Only people with increased risk from chronic or respiratory illness should go to the emergency room. In all other cases, you should stay indoors and take paracetamol. This because the hospitals are overcrowded at this moment with people in real need. It is of course very important to take maximum care of your personal hygiene and not to infect other people if you think you might be infected.
From Monday on many supermarkets will take extra measures to guarantee the safety of their workers and to avoid unnecessary hoarding of food.
Please pass this digital information on to people (like friends, family, holiday makers, renters, etc.) in Spain that might not follow the Spanish news.
Of course C&D Solicitors wishes you all good health. We hope that we all can stay positive and cooperative despite of the inconvenience as there are many Spanish professionals doing there very best to keep us all safe.
The team of C&D Solicitors, laywers in Torrox (Malaga / Andalusia)
On 9 April, the Andalusia Council approved, through a Decree Law, an amendment of the tax on inheritance and gifts, which, in particular, entails great tax savings in terms of the tax on gifts. This legislative amendment introduced a bonus of 99% of the tax liability due in inheritance and gift tax, that is to say only 1% of what was previously paid would be due.
Needless to say, the Tax on inheritance and gifts is devolved to the different Autonomous Communities that make up Spain so this bonus is the one in force in Andalusia. But, depending on the location of the property or residence of the recipient (for movable assets) –the person receiving the asset–, legislation will be different on the matter of inheritance and gifts.
Example: A father gifts his son 200,000 euros
With the previous legislation, the tax liability on this gift would have been 31,621.21 euros, which meant that the son would have had to pay 31,621.21 euros in taxes after receiving this money from this father. With the new regulation, this tax liability of 31,621.21 euros can benefit from a bonus of 99%, which means that, now, the son would pay a tax of 316.21 euros. Without a doubt, it represents huge tax savings. When money or other moveable property is donated, the applicable regulation for this purpose will be that of the residence of the recipient.
Who can benefit from this bonus on the gift tax?
Those people included in groups I and II established in the regulation governing this tax can benefit. This means that the recipient must be the spouse, child, grandchild or parent of the grantor; the person who gives away the asset.
What other requirements need to be met for gifts in Andalusia?
Besides being included in groups I and II mentioned above, it will be necessary for the donation to be made effective in a Public Deed before a Notary and, if money is gifted, its source must be justified. In case of donating a property, this Deed will be used to inscribe the property in the new name of the new owner in the Land Registry.
What happens with the Capital Gain Tax and Plusvalia?
From the perspective of the tax on gifts, there is no problem with a parent donating a property in Andalusia for the child to apply the 99% bonus and pay a very small amount for the tax on gifts. The problem in the case of properties affects the grantor because, even if the property is gifted, the Tax Agency equates that transfer to the sale of the property –for the Treasury, there is no difference between donating and selling–. For this reason, the grantor must pay Capital Gains Tax calculated on the difference between the original value paid in the purchase of the property and the value of the property when gifted.
It is important to note that if the grantor is a tax resident in Spain, over the age of 65 and gifting their habitual residence, no capital gains tax would be paid for gifting or selling the property.
Lastly, as the city where the property is located also interprets a gift as a sale, it will ask for its piece of the pie in the form of capital gains tax – Plusvalia in Spanish-. This local tax is calculated according to the number of years that the grantor has owned the property, with a maximum of 20 years, and is paid on the increase in value experienced by the plot/land of the property.
What if I value the property at a low price to pay less tax?
You may be tempted to set a very low value for the property gifted and thus pay less Capital Gains tax when it is gifted. This is perfectly understandable but it is very important for this value not to be below the minimum taxable value, which is the taxable value that the Treasury deems properties in Spain to have. That is to say, the value of the property being gifted should not fall below the minimum taxable value to prevent an inspection by the Tax Agency. The minimum tax value in urban properties is based on the cadastre value of the property multiplied by a factor that varies from town to town.
Does this bonus apply to everyone, regardless of whether they are resident in Spain?
As explained in several previous articles, the most recent from March, different judgments have ruled that both residents of the European Union and residents of third countries must be treated the same as residents in Spain for the purposes of the Tax on Inheritance and Gifts. Based on this, anyone who meets the requirements explained in this article can benefit from the 99% bonus in Inheritance and Gift Tax introduced in Andalusia or any other regulation of the relevant Autonomous Community.
Example of a property being gifted
Let’s imagine a Swedish homeowner who bought a property in Almuñécar (Granada) for 200,000 euros and decides to gift it to his son who lives in China, with the current minimum taxable value being 300,000 euros. Since the home is in Andalusia, the son-recipient can benefit from the 99% bonus in the tax due and would only have to pay 554.68 euros for the tax on gifts, of the total tax amount of 55,466.81 euros.
Since the father-grantor obtained capital gains of 100,000 euros from the gift, he will have to pay capital gains tax on this 100,000-euro “profit”, which currently stands at 19% of net profit (after certain possible deductions). However, as the owner is 64 years old, resident in Spain and is gifting his habitual residence, we recommend that he waits until he turns 65 to avoid paying capital gains tax. The son will surely understand the reasons.
What happens to taxes where the recipient resides?
Before accepting a gift, it is important for the recipient to get information, from his or her country of residence, regarding which tax will have to be paid on this, if any. Lastly, it should be said that this amendment of the Tax on Gifts in Andalusia means that the construct of gifts may be attractive in situations where a couple wants one of the spouses to own 100% of the property –only for married couples under separation of assets– or if they want to leave the property to their children or grandchildren during their lifetimes. Previously, from the standpoint of tax savings in Andalusia, the only options were to terminate co-ownership or sell the property but now, with this new amendment, in many cases it will be better to gift it as more taxes will be saved on the transfer of the property.
Read more about the subject of selling your house in Andalusia in the video below:
As we stated in our post in February 2015, on 01/01/2015, the regulations governing Inheritance Tax were amended, EU citizens began paying the same Inheritance Tax as citizens resident in Spain. From that time EU citizens were able to pay tax in accordance with the regulations of the Autonomous Community where the assets are located. Remember that these regulations are much more beneficial than national regulations on Inheritance Tax, which were applied to EU citizens until that date. This amendment left non-EU citizens out, which were required to continue paying tax according to national regulations.
Supreme Court rules in favour of Non-EU members
However, two judgments of the Supreme Court, in February and March 2018, referring to residents in non-EU countries such as Canada or Switzerland, determined that there would be discrimination contrary to the free movement of capital if non-EU citizens were not allowed to opt for regional regulations in the same manner as EU citizens. Therefore, these non-EU citizens should also be treated in the same manner as EU citizens in terms of Inheritance and Donations Tax, also being eligible to receive regional tax benefits.
We should add that the free movement of capital is enshrined in article 63 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which prohibits all restrictions on the movement of capital between Member States and between Member States and third countries, making the limitations for non-EU citizens in terms of Inheritance Tax contrary to the regulations of the European Union.
Since September 2018, the Spanish Tax Agency decided to comply with these rulings and started accepting settlements of Inheritance Tax for non-EU citizens, applying the regulations of the relevant autonomous community to these.
Benefits of tax calculations by Autonomous Communities
This change in tax criteria represents significant savings in terms of inheritance for non-EU citizens, as it should be noted that, in most Autonomous Communities in Spain -including Andalusia-, a widowed spouse, children and descendants, such as grandchildren, barely pay any Inheritance Tax, as they are eligible for significant bonuses. These bonuses in Andalusia were explained in detail in our article from January 2018.
Possibility to reclaim tax until four years back
Suffice it to say that this tax change opens the door to claims from non-EU heirs who have paid Inheritance and Donations Tax over the last few years, if a comparison between national and regional regulations were to show that they paid much more than an EU citizen would have. This claim may be filed provided that the right to claim has not been time-barred, the deadline being established at four years after the payment was made.
Brexit and British citizens
As a last note, considering the consequences of Brexit for British citizens with properties and assets in Spain, fortunately, even if they remain outside the European Union and would be considered non-EU citizens, they would be able to continue to benefit from bonuses and discounts in Inheritance and Donations Tax in the same manner as before.
It should be noted that there are many British homeowners and buyers with properties in Spain and, at least, their heirs will not be harmed in terms of taxes payable in a future inheritance procedure.
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 detailsand 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.
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.
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.
New information on the DAFO certificate: in June 2017, we posted an extensive article on the legal situation and the legalisation of homes in non-urban land in Andalusia –DAFO / AFO–, outlining our opinion about positive and negative aspects of this legal precept. Almost a year and a half after this article, we would like to use this post to provide new information to owners and buyers of homes on non-urban land.
This information, which we believe may be useful, does not represent a fundamental change from what has already been stated, as there have been no legislative changes to the DAFO during this year and a half. This information, however, is based on our experience with different Councils in the province of Malaga and the approach they have been using for DAFO, as well as the questions we have seen among our clients.
Are Councils required to issue a DAFO/AFO?
Nowadays, we have found that a growing number of Councils, whenever there is any notification relating to a rural home, automatically open a file and start proceedings to start the DAFO process. This could be for example for the notification of:
Sale of a home
RTA (VTAR / Vivienda Rural) rental registration
Opening License Casa Rural / B&B
Registration of a property in the Land Registry
Applying for an urban certificate (for example for a purchase)
Change of account holder of the water supply
In other words, a growing number of Councils have been taking advantage of any information or request related to a property located on non-urban land to demand owners to start the DAFO process and legalise the rural homes built in the municipality. That said, if you wish to rent your property seasonally and you intend to register your home in the RTA -Andalusian Tourism Registry-, or you would like to register a pool or storage in the Property Registry, we recommend that you first analyse whether your home could obtain a DAFO.
As we have explained on many occasions, the DAFO is a procedure created to regularise homes on non-urban land that have been built illegally –most of them–, over which legal liability can no longer be claimed due to the passage of time. When the Council issues the first notification, it does not really require the owner directly to start the DAFO process. This first notification is about “telling” the owner to submit evidence whether the home complies with the legal requirements to be eligible for DAFO. This means that, if it does not comply with these, it is very likely that this is because there is some illegal situation in the building. This issue may still be subject to penalties from the Council and, in this case, the Council must open a sanctioning procedure against this unlawful situation, with the legal consequences you can imagine.
It is for these reasons that it is very important that, before you do anything or apply for anything at the Council that may entail the opening of a file against the property, you confirm that the home is eligible for DAFO and whether there is any building or work that may give rise to penalty proceedings. In this case, it is best to do nothing until enough time has passed. This in normal countryside is 6 years. Likewise, if you are thinking of buying a rural property, you must know that, when the Public Deed of Sale is executed and submitted to the Property Registry, the Council will receive a notification of this transfer and may later require you to legalise the home through a DAFO process.
Can I carry out internal refurbishments and renewal works through DAFO?
In accordance with Decree 2/2012, which governs DAFO, in this type of buildings “… only repair and preservation works required by the strict maintenance of the safety, habitability and sanitation of the building may be authorised”. Having said this, it is obvious that the works that may be carried out in properties of this type are limited and must be very clearly justified, always thinking about preservation and maintenance and never on improvements or additions, as renewal works as such are not possible. Since all rules are subject to interpretation, it is possible for some Councils to authorise certain types of refurbishment works that others do not. For this reason it is best to inquire at the Council to see if you could get planning permission before the work begins.
However, having said this, the desired internal refurbishments must always be justified from a point of view of habitability and necessity in terms of health and safety in the building, such as:
the opening of windows,
replacement of the roof,
replacement of floors,
substitution of sanitation equipment,
extension of the surface of a room that may be considered too small (without increasing building surface), etc.
The important thing is to evidence the need to carry out such works. Most likely, for the council to issue planning permission, it will be necessary to have completed or applied for the DAFO. Along with the technical project from an architect for the DAFO, the need to carry out such works should be justified due to the safety, habitability or sanitation of the home, applying for the corresponding licence. It will be very difficult to obtain permission without having completed the DAFO process.
If the home you intend to purchase already has a DAFO certificate, it is possible to apply for planning permission for the refurbishment works mentioned above but it is necessary to take into account the date the DAFO was obtained. It would not be very logical to apply for permission to refurbish a home for which the DAFO was approved only a few months prior, as the DAFO is supposed to certify that the home was in perfect conditions of habitability, without problems in terms of its safety or sanitation. Needless to say, if there has actually been some sort of unforeseen breakdown or accident in the property, permission may be requested for such repairs.
Can properties with a DAFO/AFO be mortgaged?
This question arises because a Spanish Royal Decree from 2009, regulating the mortgage market, contains an article that specifies that properties not meeting the legal requirements may not be mortgaged. Despite the existence of this rule, we must state that rural properties or homes on non-urban land have been, are and will continue to be able to obtain mortgages. There may be some banking institutions that do not provide mortgages for rural properties but there are many that do, which is logical as, in most cases, these properties are consolidated and are not subject to penalties, for which reason there is legal certainty over these.
We have submitted a query/test to one of the largest appraisers on the national market for mortgage valuations. In our query, we sent the land registry information – nota simple – of a rustic property with a DAFO certificateregistered in the Property Registry and the response from the appraiser was unequivocal: homes with a DAFO are being appraised on the mortgage market. It should be taken into account that the appraisal value of a property for mortgages issues on non-urban land –a rural property– may be 20% to 40% lower than the purchase price, as the mortgage is given over the valuation price of the property. Nevertheless, a mortgage can be secured for these.
Can I have a RTA / VTAR rental licence for my rural property?
It is possible to rent and register a home on non-urban land in the Andalusian Tourism Registry -RTA- for short-term rentals (less than 2 months). This home would usually be registered as a tourist home for rural accommodation -VTAR-. As clarification, it should be said that it is possible to register rural accommodation or B&B as a country lodge or “casa rural” but this is designed for owners who are engaging in economic activities and operating such rental as a business, with at least one of them being required to register before the Treasury, pay VAT and register for Social Security.
The registration of a rural property in the RTA is subject to two approaches, depending on whether we talk to the Regional Government of Andalusia or the Council.
a. Regional Government of Andalusia
A few days ago, we had a talk with an inspector of the Regional Government in Malaga, who is in charge of inspecting homes of this type. Among other things, he told us that the Licence for First Occupation –Licencia de Primera Ocupación or LPO– is necessary to register homes on non-urban land in the RTA. As some people know, very few rural homes have an LPO. However, it is possible to obtain “legalisation” through the DAFO. The Inspectorate of Malaga have told us that a DAFO certificate would not be deemed to replace the Licence for Initial Occupation. In my legal opinion, I think that the Inspectorate are wrong and I clearly deem it arguable that, in the absence of a Licence for First Occupation, if a property has a DAFO certificate, this document should be accepted. Among other things, the DAFO certificate is the council recognition of the habitability of the property on non-urban land. In fact, Councils interpret this as a licence for the occupation of the property.
The Regional Government of Andalusia will notify the Town Hall when a home is registered in the RTA and this will lead some Councils to automatically call upon the owner to legalise the home through DAFO. It is also possible that a Council form will need to be completed before the home can be rented. Ultimately, at the municipal level, it is necessary to notify that you intend to rent your home and, if you lack an LPO, you will probably have to obtain a DAFO so that you can get this document, which recognises the habitability and occupation of the dwelling.
What should I do if I want to buy a rural home?
You can select the one you like best, without fears or concerns. Take the time you need and, once you have made a choice, you can start the buying process and negotiation. At the start of the process, do not hesitate to hire a lawyer specialising on this matter, who is familiar with this aspect of the law. As we have stated on many occasions, the cost of a lawyer is very small in comparison to all the money you will spend to buy a property in Spain. Saving money by failing to hire a lawyer during the process to buy your home in Spain may be one of the biggest mistakes you ever make. I know you may think what I want to do is to sell you my services –and this is true, this is why I work. But if you think about it carefully, you will understand the importance of having sound legal advice while buying a property in a country different from yours.