Spain Guide


Buying a House in Spain

If you're considering buying a house in Spain within a community development you need to be aware of both the advantages and drawbacks (as there are plenty of both!).

It's important to understand the definition of a community property. You can buy a property on an urbanisation where there are no communal responsibilities and fees whatsoever. In that case you'll look after your own property, pool and gardens and pay your local tax to the town hall who'll take care of such things as rubbish collection, street lighting etc.

But when you buy into a Communidad de Proprietarios (Community of Property Owners) it's a whole different ball game. Now you're talking about being subjected to the rules and regulations laid down by a committee of owners who can decide everything from whether you can have a dog to what colour you're allowed to paint your own house. The community will, by law, have a committee of residents who will organise such things as exterior house painting, gardening, pool maintenance etc.

The committee levies an annual community charge and decides what services it's going to provide out of that fee.

The positive points include being able to move into a ready made community of neighbours who will probably include many of your own countrymen. The development will have communal facilities which may include extensive gardens, swimming pools, tennis courts, shops and bars / restaurants.

However, buying a community property can be fraught with problems and many owners have lived to regret it.

In the Event of a Committee Property

By law, the committee must hold an annual general meeting and the minutes must be made available to all residents. So, before buying into a community, get hold of last year's minutes to see if there are any problems you need to know about (such as the communal pool having a terminal leak meaning it will have to be replaced at considerable cost to local residents).

Preferably get hold of several years' worth of back copies. Find out who the committee are and arrange to meet the president and other members. Grill them about the way in which the community is being run and don't be afraid to mention any gripes you may have heard from local residents.

It's worth taking the time and trouble to do this because a badly run committee just like a bad neighbour can turn your dream home into a living nightmare.

Committees make their own rules and these are usually reasonable and reflect the wishes of the majority. The rules might include a ban on keeping pets, pool opening and closing times, a ban on ball games in the gardens etc. So find out what the rules are and make sure you would feel comfortable abiding by them before you make your purchase.

Legally constituted communities of property owners in Spain are governed by something known as the Law of Horizontal Property. This rather peculiar name comes from the expression division horizontal which refers to the splitting up of a development into individual properties.

This Horizontal Law sets out the rights and responsibilities of owners, the function and powers of the committee, responsibility for repairs and maintenance of communal areas etc.

You can ask your lawyer to obtain an English translation of this document so that you know exactly what you're getting into when you buy into a community. But this is no substitute for reading the community's own statutes and back copies of their AGM minutes as these will give you a greater idea of what you're confronting locally.

It's a good idea to get hold of a copy of the Horizontal Law for future use because you may need it even after you've bought the property. It covers such important issues as your legal rights as an owner to demand necessary improvements to your urbanisation.