Tag: judgment

plusvalia selling property

RECLAMATION PLUSVALIA TAX FROM SALE PROPERTY AT A LOSS

plusvalia selling property
plusvalía, property, nerja

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

lawyer dutch speaking

JUDGEMENT: Bank responsible for bank guarantee developer

Bank responsible for guarantee developer
Bank responsible for guarantee developer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

MORTGAGES: THE WELL-KNOWN ECJ RULING ON THURSDAY 14TH OF MARCH

MORTGAGES: THE WELL-KNOWN ECJ RULING ON THURSDAY 14TH OF MARCH

HIPOTECA 2
European vs Spanish legal protection for consumers with mortgages

About a month ago, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling caused a great stir among Spanish media. This court judgment has been originated from a preliminary ruling handed down by the Mercantil Court nº 3 of Barcelona, as a result of the mortgage foreclosure procedure between an individual and La Caixa Bank. This preliminary ruling intends to clarify if Spanish legislation complies with the consumer protection requirements regulated by the European Directive 93/13/ECC. This Directive was approved to ensure consumers’ protection against their disadvantageous position with respect to a professional when contracting certain services.

In short, here below are the facts intended to be disclosed before the ECJ:

First: In regard of Spanish civil procedure in the matter of mortgage foreclosures, it was intended to be disclosed if Spanish regulations fail to comply with the aforementioned European Directive protecting consumers, because in Spain the “judgment debtor” cannot claim the existence of unfair terms set forth in this contract. In Spain, if judgment debtors want to claim the existence of unfair terms in this type of contracts, they should initiate different court proceedings which may not paralyse the mortgage foreclosure proceedings; for example, a situation may arise where a property is auctioned due to the unpaid mortgage and the judgment debtor may also obtain a favourable court decision declaring that the contract of that mortgage is null and void once that the property has been auctioned. This may arise because the mortgage foreclosure cannot be paralysed despite the contract may be considered to be null and void.

Second: regarding the substance of the matter, the concept of “unfair term” of the Directive is intended to be clarified in order to assess if the terms of the mortgage contract—subject matter of the main action and undersigned between an individual and a bank, are of unfair nature; these terms are the following: early termination of long-term contracts, fixing of default interests and the liquidity agreement. These are “cut and paste” terms (similar terms) appearing in any mortgage contract which anybody may have executed with a bank.

Regarding the first issue, the ECJ is clear and unambiguous declaring that the Spanish procedural regime reduces the effectiveness of the protection pursued by the Directive, because:

a) Possible unfair terms of the main contract cannot be challenged in the same mortgage foreclosure proceedings which may finish with the property put up for auction.

b)  Mortgage foreclosure proceedings cannot be paralysed by the courts, although they know that the judgment debtor has filed court actions challenging possible unfair terms.

It is worth mentioning that by virtue of a repeated European case-law, the national court is obliged to consider of its own motion the unfairness of all contractual terms under this Directive.

Regarding the second issue, the ECJ answer is not very revealing, or at least automatically, in order to know whether a term is unfair or not, as the ECJ considers that the national court is the only competent body to interpret and apply the national Law. However, the court ruling states that to decide if a term causes an imbalance to the detriment of the consumer in relation to bank—national regulations must be taken into account if that agreement is not signed between the parties, the court shall assess if this term leaves the consumer in a less favourable situation than this provided by the national Law in force in case this term exists. For example, if the term fixing the default interest in the mortgage contract (normally around 20%) is an exception and there is no other similar legal interest in national Law (i.e. default interest applicable to commercial transactions is at 7.75%), then this term may be considered to be unfair; an open-and-shut case, judge for yourself.

Finally and regarding ongoing and future mortgage foreclosures in Spain, it is worth mentioning that two rulings have been already issued in the last three weeks declaring mortgage contracts to be null and void, because default interests were unfair.

 

 

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

 

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