Structural soundness certificate for old buildings

In Catalonia, owners of over 45 year-old buildings must obtain a structural soundness certificate from the Catalan Agency of Housing to show that the building meets all the legal requirements for building safety, health and aesthetics.

This obligation affects both owners of single-family detached houses and units in a commonhold building (in this case, it is the responsibility of the commonhold association). To obtain the certificate, the owners must get a specialist to draft a report on the state of maintenance and conservation of the building, the improvement in its sustainability and eco-efficiency, and the assessment of basic accessibility conditions. The report must state how often these actions are performed.

This certificate is not required in only two cases: 1) detached houses where the main building is at least 1.5 metres from any roadway, public-use area and neighbouring property, 2) detached houses that have a certificate of habitability that was in force when the building reached 45 years of age (until the certificate of habitability expires). The term of 45 years starts from the date of construction or any comprehensive refurbishment of the building.

The owners of the building pay for the technical inspection. However, there is currently no fee for applying for the structural soundness certificate. If you as an owner do not have this certificate when you should, you may be fined.

If the certificate states that the building is structurally unsound, the owners must agree to a refurbishment plan within one year, six months if the defects are serious. This plan must be overseen by qualified specialists. If no serious defects are found, the structural soundness certificate is valid for 10 years. After this period, it must be renewed.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Your legal adviser in Spain

Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German
Read this article in French

Read this article in Spanish

Why you should check that the details on your property in the Land Registry and the Cadaster match

As we have commented previously on this blog, there are two systems for registering and guaranteeing titles on real property in Spain: the Land Registry and the Cadaster. Having two systems means inconsistencies in the data registered can arise.

The details registered can differ from one system to another because both the information source and purpose differ in each system. The Cadaster provides property details to the Spanish Tax Office for collecting tax. This information comes from tax declarations and inspections. In contrast, the purpose of the Land Registry is to guarantee and protect property titles. Titles can only be registered by submitting public instruments. The information in the Land Registry is therefore more rigorous than that contained in the Cadaster as the information source is subject to stiffer requirements.

To help make the data stored in each system consistent and so this data better reflects reality, the Spanish government introduced in 2015 a straightforward procedure for coordinating the data in both systems. This procedure has been further extended. You can now update the data registered to make it consistent in both systems and ensure it reflects reality. The procedure is quite automatic and gives rise to numerous advantages. If the data registered is coherent and faithfully reflects reality, selling your property or transferring it in any other way (by mortgage, gift, etc.) becomes far more straightforward. These advantages affect the property’s market value.

So I encourage you to check that the details on your property in the Cadaster and the Land Registry are the same and do reflect reality. If you find otherwise, get in touch. We can help you rectify the problem. By fixing the problem, you will have peace of mind that your property rights are fully protected by the Land Registry and that you are only paying the tax you lawfully owe.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

Read this article in French
Read this article in Spanish
Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German

The recognition of notarial documents overseas

Expats with financial or family interests in their home countries often have to go to local notaries to sign powers of attorney and other formal documents to handle legal matters in their home countries. Differences between the legal systems mean that these types of formalities generate more complications than we’d imagine possible.

The main problem arises when the law requires that a particular document be executed as a “public” notarial instrument for it to be valid. In Spain, for instance, legal transactions such as granting powers of attorney and transferring real estate are only valid if they are executed via a notarially-recorded “public document”. But there are countries, e.g., most common-law jurisdictions, where this type of “public document” does not exist.

What makes a document “public” in countries where this type of instrument does exist depends on the law in each country. In Spain, notarial documents are public documents, which guarantees that the facts stated in these documents are true in accordance with what the notary public has personally verified, and that, from a legal point of view, the statements of intent made in these instruments are authentic. Basically, all these characteristics give such documents privileged probative force.

We can only be sure that a notarial instrument will be recognised as such and, therefore, as a public document in the country where it is to be used, if the notary public who authorises it confirms in the document itself that all the legal requirements have been met, both in the jurisdiction it was executed and where it is to be used. In these cases, as a complement and guarantee to the service provided by the local notary, it is advisable to seek the advice of a lawyer who knows both legal systems.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German
Read this article in French

Read this article in Spanish

When a loved one passes away, how do we know if we are beneficiaries of a life insurance policy taken out by them?

Many people aren’t sure of how many life insurance policies they have. And the beneficiaries of these policies are often even less likely to know about any benefit they may be entiled to. Therefore, there is a risk that a family member may spend years paying for life insurance with us as the beneficiaries for which we don’t receive the payout.

Because over our lifetime, we end up taking out a lot of life insurance. Not just with insurance companies but also banks and financial institutions, which, rather than offering it to us, require it for taking out loans. Sometimes life insurance is included free with other services, usually financial services.

In Spain, to safeguard against this risk, the Ministry of Justice created the Register of Life Insurance Coverage. This register provides information on whether a deceased person had any life insurance taken out and with which company so that possible beneficiaries can contact the insurance company in question to find out if they were designated as beneficiaries and claim any benefits they may be entitled to under the policy from the insurance company.
This public register is accessible to anyone wanting information on whether a deceased person had a life insurance contract and on the insurance company providing the policy. You can access the records of this register only after someone has died, from 15 days after the date of death, by providing proof of the death. The records are accessible for five years.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German

New Comprehensive Advisory Service for Property Owners

Owning a real estate property is a big responsibility. To protect your rights as an owner, your property must meet all current legal and technical requirements. To give you the peace of mind that your real estate property does meet these requirements and is fully protected legally — both now and in the event of any change in the law — Tarraco Iuris law firm would like to offer you its comprehensive advisory service for property owners.

Based in Tarragona, our specialist team of lawyers and technical experts are ready to handle all your properly-related legal and administrative needs, including the handling of any mediation process and other procedures and the drafting and lodging of documents for the Spanish authorities (local councils, provincial and regional governments, the cadastral register, the Land Registry, notaries public, the courts, etc.) or any third parties (adjoining property owners, neighbour associations, the community of owners, entities involved in expropriation processes, etc.).

To legally protect your property in Spain, we offer a complete range of technical and legal services that includes:

1. Helping you obtain a NIE (foreigner ID number required for tax purposes in Spain)
2. Drafting all property-related contracts, including preliminary, option-to-buy, purchase and sale, and lease agreements
3. Verifying property charges with the Land Registry
4. Verifying property zoning with the local council
5. Verifying any debts owed by the seller to the Community of Owners
6. Verifying that all tax due on a property has been paid (municipal property tax, tax on income from real estate property, etc.) and drafting and presenting any corresponding tax declarations
7. Providing an estimate of taxes and expenses so you can budget for the cost of transferring a real estate property
8. Verifying the applicable marital or inheritance law and advising you on the legal conditions for purchasing or transferring a property
9. Drafting title deeds for executing property transactions
10. Accompanying you to sign title deeds and any other notarial instruments, acting as advisers and/or translators
11. Assisting your negotiations with the bank for using the property as loan security
12. Registering title deeds with the Land Registry
13. Informing the local council of a change of ownership for the purposes of local taxes and fees
14. For sales by non-residents, preparing and presenting declarations on tax withheld for Spanish income tax and handling the collection of any refund
15. Preparing/lodging applications for:

a. Certificate of occupancy and energy efficiency certificate
b. Building technical assessment report
c. Certificate of structural soundness and certification of construction age

16. Plans and topographical surveys
17. Undertaking boundary demarcation and mediating in conflicts with neighbours
18. Undertaking historical investigations on properties and updating the cadastral record for divided or joined plots
19. Advising you on:

a. Utility connection and the possible use of wells and springs
b. New construction, reform or landscaping projects
c. Business projects
d. Road and path refurbishment
e. Land and building assessment

Are you sure your property is fully protected legally?

Do not hesitate to contact us for further information. Please contact us for any service you require that is not listed

Tarraco Iuris global management

Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German

Risks of buying real estate from banks

In these times of severe economic crisis, thousands of properties are sold at auction every month in Spain because their owners can no longer pay their debts. In most cases, the creditor is a bank and if no bidders participated in the auction, the creditor himself receives ultimately the contract.

Although the government related institutions in recent months insist on pointing out that the economic situation of Spain is improving, the reality is that the seizure of property and evictions due to debtors’ failure to pay their own liabilities have no end. The banks are the biggest creditors nationwide. In the judicial auction they usually get the property, without being able to recover the outstanding loans, because of the lack of interest of potential buyers for the seized property. After the bank has become the owner of the property, it passes it to a real estate agency, which is often established only for the purpose of selling this type of property. For the same reasons that the property could not be sold at auction, it often takes months or even years before the agency finds a buyer on the almost at a virtual standstill housing market.

During this period, the attitude of the banks is far from what is expected of a correct owner. For example, in the case of apartments or houses in settlements with community facilities, the banks often do not pay the contributions to the community of owners required for maintenance, swimming pools, gardens, etc., until a buyer is found, thus bringing the condos in financial difficulties, as these depend on the contributions to cover the general expenses for cleaning and maintenance of the common areas. Furthermore, neither the agencies nor the banks take a minimum care about the conditions of the building and so, leaks, pigeon nests or all sorts of other problems that affect the neighbours remain unresolved.

These risks should be considered when investing in Spain. Investors are normally interested in such kind of real estate because they believe that their price might be below the average price. However, it should not be forgotten that the banks have more than enough capacity to hold on as long as necessary until its real estate stock is sold (after all, they were helped for that with a lot of public money). Investors must convince themselves that the banks won’t reduce the price more than other owners who might need the money urgently.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German

Further increase in the final costs of the transfer of property in Spain

The costs associated with the transfer of ownership may affect the decisions of both parties, buyer and seller, as the net price that the seller receives after deducting expenses and taxes may be much less than expected in the beginning, and the final price to the buyer by adding costs and taxes may be much higher than previously thought.

The parties of a contract for the transfer of property (usually a purchase contract) can decide freely about these matters. However, we are going to analyze now what the laws say when the parties do not achieve an agreement among themselves:

  • The municipality tax on the added value of the property sold, in the case of urban land, is one of the costs to be paid by the sellers. This is a percentage of the difference between the declared value at the time of purchase and the estimated value of the property at the time of acquiring it by the seller.
  • The income tax on the increase in value is also an expense of sellers. If the seller is non-resident, the buyer must submit a deposit (3% of the price) as an insurance tax directly to the tax office. For this reason, this amount is usually subtracted from the purchase price. Subsequently, we have to calculate the payable tax, which also consists of a percentage of the difference between the declared value at the time of acquisition and declared value of the property at the time of sale.
  • The tax on the transfer of property is the buyer’s responsibility. The tax has been raised again in Catalonia and other regions of Spain, and now the buyer has to pay 10 % of the selling price for this concept.
  • The account of the notary (exclusively for the purchase contract) is according to the law at the expense of buyers, unless the parties agree otherwise. The role of the notary in Spain (unlike other countries) is only a formalization, converting the final contract in a public document. This contract has been issued in advance by the parties with the assistance of a lawyer. The notarization of the contract of sale in accordance with Spanish law is not absolutely necessary, but it is very appropriate, because a contract that is not contained in a public document cannot be registered in the registry of property. And such recordation of the change in ownership is not only a guarantee for the buyer, but also a prerequisite when the buyer has to finance the price with a mortgage.
  • What we have just commented justifies as well that the cost of recording the change in ownership in the registry of property has to be paid by the buyer.
  • The costs of preparing the documents to be submitted along with the case, is to be paid by the seller (these documents are normally processed or checked by lawyers). The cost of a lawyer could be common to both parties, as well as the lawyer provides the following services:
    • To provide consulting and legal assistance during the whole process of transfer of ownership.
    • To translate the will of the parties to the legal and technical language.
    • To make a final agreement of sale and prepare it to be notarized by a notary.
    • To foresee the tax consequences of the transaction for both parties and to prepare and submit formally and in time the tax returns in the most convenient manner.

But it is always better for the parties to agree in advance (even in an oral form) the main terms and conditions of the contract, so that the lawyer is able to represent the interests of both parties without any kind of conflict, simply because he develops the sales agreement already adopted by the parties.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German

Building Energy Efficiency Certificate: a new requirement for the sale of real estate

The Spanish Royal Decree 235/2013, of 5 April, has just come into force. It approves the basic procedure for the certification of energy efficiency of buildings. Under this new regulation, from June 1st 2013 on, you cannot validly formalize contracts for the sale or lease of property without the submission of such certification.

Real estate selling management has become a very difficult task in the last years, but not only because of the crisis: the continued imposition of new legal requirements has also hindered this sale management, with the excuse to increase the guarantees for the buyer. For example: recently, we have found that it has become impossible to record a property purchase contract in the Registry of Deeds if the transfer of ownership has not been previously communicated to the municipality concerned, so that the tax popularly known as “plusvalia” could be calculated and paid. Previously we had also found that, in the case of sale of dwelling, it has become necessary to prove its habitability by filing a document that, in many cases, costs a lot to get (or at least, a long time). And in most cases, in which such statements only come to ratify the existing factual situation, its demand has only served to slow processes and increase the costs and the bureaucracy around the sale of a property, which are already excessive.

The last obstacle to be overcome by sellers of property is the obligation to provide buyers or tenants the BEEC energy certificate confirming the energy efficiency of the house. This document will describe how the house effectively consumes electricity and will include objective information on the minimum energy requirements so that future owners or tenants of the building (or a part of it) have the opportunity to compare and evaluate its performance with other similar proposals.

The purpose of this regulation, allowing consumers to compare the energy efficiency of buildings, is to promote energy saving investments and also more energy efficient buildings in the housing market. In addition, this guideline helps to report information about carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the residential sector, which will facilitate the adoption of measures to reduce emissions and improve the energy rating of buildings. Laudable goal, of course, but in a very long term, if there is something new to be built in this country. Nowadays, what we have is a huge offer of buildings that do not find a buyer and selling them has become with the new directive even more difficult.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German

If I change my residence to Spain, what should I do with my car?

If you are used to walk around the urbanizations in the Spanish coast, you realize that there are plenty of cars with foreign number plates parked for months or even years at the entrance of the house of their owners. All these vehicles are in an irregular situation, which may cause a complaint and have as a result a significant administrative fine for smuggling.

The change of residence has very important consequences in daily life. One of them is the legal situation in which our car will be: a car registered in a foreign country can only circulate legally in Spain during several months. Beyond that deadline, we are required to register it in Spain, following the procedures provided for each case.

Due to the current economic situation the Spanish administration exhausts all possible ways to raise revenue. Nowadays we are detecting an unusual activity of the police inspection, chasing offenses with which the state previously was more tolerant. That’s why resident foreigners, who have maintained in Spain for years without any problems their old cars registered in their home country without worrying about legalizing them, are now very often facing heavy fines and administrative complaints because of this offense.

The vehicle legalization due to a change of residence is a very complicated process, in which different administrations are involved without any coordination between them. If our home country is not a member of the European Economic Community, as in the case of Switzerland or Russia, we must formalize import customs formalities before the car can be tested by the official stations of roadworthiness. In addition, if the vehicle was not marketed in the European Economic Community, we will not have the necessary certificate of conformity, and we will have to instruct an authorized inspector to report on its technical specifications. This requires high costs which, added to the administration fees and the necessary management costs, can make the legalization economically unviable, depending on the situation and the age of the vehicle. However, we can not forget that to unsubscribe a vehicle or to test its roadworthiness can only be made in the country of registration. That means that we should return to the country of origin with the vehicle, if we decide not to legalize it into Spain. In any case, if we are denounced, the fines or the risk to be prosecuted for smuggling can have a much higher cost.

Carlos Prieto Cid, Lawyer

Read this article in German
Read this article in Russian

The european order for payment procedure

The tardiness of debtors is a well known and frequent problem for business players. Naturally this problem increases in times of crises. An instrument which is not used very often to enforce a debt is the European order payment procedure. When clients consult a lawyer they often believe that if a debtor moved into a foreign country and didn’t leave any asset in Spain there is no possibility to assert the claim. On these grounds they write off their receivables. But there is always a possibility to enforce the debts. It exists a especially easy method if the debtor lives in another country of the European Union.

The european order for payment procedure is legally regulated since 2006. The European regulation 1896/2006 of the counsel and the European Parliament is released in the Official Journal Nr. L 399  dated 30.12.2006. As usual in european procedural law this is a communication system between juridical authorities and parties based on a mutual confidence of the member states of the European Union. Part of this basis of trust is the belief that all courts of justice of the European Union’s member states are credible and that the systems of public communication particularly post are credible as well.

Furthermore laws like this always want to simplify the communication between the administration of justice and the party of the proceedings in the different cultures, tongues and countries. This would be done with publishing officially translated forms in the official journal of the European Union. Because of this further costs and interpretation issues could be avoided.

It should not be forgotten that this European law is directly applicable and there’s no need to transfer it into common law.

In any case this is a possible procedure to the creditor of recovering receivables. However the creditor is free to use the old fashioned way as well, if he prefers it. The european order for payment procedure pretends to be significantly easier and quicker and it avoids any procedure leading to a judgment as well as an allowance of existing deeds between the different countries.

The creditor only has to present the official form to the competent court of the originating country which has to fulfil different requirements and will be sent by the court without further analysis to the debtor to his new residence. The court only checks the compliance with the formalities.

If the court doesn’t accept the form there is the possibility to appeal against this decision at the same level of jurisdiction in accordance with the national law. If the court releases the default summons the debtors has two possibilities, either he fulfils the requirement or he oposes. If he does neither of them the court of the originating country releases an executory title which accepted in every country of the European Union.

Carlos Prieto Cid, Lawyer

This article in German