Legal information for buying property in Spain
When buying in Spain, you don’t want to be caught out by a piece of legislation in a language you don’t understand. Make sure you have the right legal representation for your property purchase
Purchasing a property is essentially a legal transaction, which is why hiring a solicitor to assist you and guide you throughout the paperwork is extremely advisable. Mainly because many of the professionals that you will be working with, including the notary, will be speaking Spanish. While many documents, including the sales contract (escritura), will also be written in the language. A bilingual solicitor will be able to ensure that you understand every aspect of the process.
The Legal Process
It’s imperative to have a solicitor on your side to help you navigate through the legal process. They will need to check that the vendor is the legal owner, and that there are no outstanding debts on the property: whether there is an existing mortgage on the property; whether the property complies with local building regulations; and if any major construction is due in the area. You will often find that Spanish houses are officially owned by more than one person, e.g. beneficiaries of a will. Any sale will then need to be negotiated with all owners – and this is best done by a solicitor.
If you are buying a property on an urbanisation or in an apartment block, there will undoubtedly be communal areas. A solicitor will check the minutes of the community’s last AGM to see if the charges are being met by the property owners. If not, you may find the costs increasing to compensate for non-payment. A lawyer will also be able to tell you about annual expenses, such as service charges, property tax (IBI), non-residents’ income tax and utilities. They will also check that the utilities are actually connected to the property.
It cannot be emphasised enough how important it is to have a solicitor on your side to help you navigate through the legal process.
In addition to hiring a solicitor who speaks English, it is also important that whomever you work with is completely independent. Most towns in Spain will have a solicitor who is bilingual, and you will be able to find a list of these at the local town hall. The Spain Property Guide Resource Centre can put you in touch with trusted and carefully selected bilingual solicitors to help you with your property purchase in Spain.
You will need to include the fees for a solicitor when you are budgeting for your purchase, along with other additional costs. It’s important to ensure you know what you are going to have pay for these legal services at the outset.
Of course hiring your own solicitor will mean you have increased costs during your purchase – but in the long run, this will actually save you money. When buying a property in Spain, it makes sense to also have a Spanish Will; your lawyer can help you with this, particularly when you need to assess the implications and differences between inheritance laws in your region of Spain, compared to your home country.
You will also be required to employ the services of a notary throughout this process. It’s important that you don’t confuse a solicitor with a notary. The solicitor will be employed by you alone to protect your interests, while a notary, also legally trained, is employed by the government and therefore do not officially act for either side of the transaction.
The role of a notary is to oversee and rubber-stamp the paperwork in a property transaction, check all necessary taxes are paid and register the property with the Spanish Land Registry. Your independent solicitor will ensure your contract and property are exactly how you – their client – want them, and that you are protected from any charges left over from the previous owner(s), such as mortgage costs, estate or municipal taxes, and any other claims.
After sales services
Once the sale has gone through, you can to retain the services of your independent solicitor for any further advice. For example, your lawyer can help will any plans you have to open a business or become self-employed in Spain; if you want to change your Will; or if you need advice on residency or permits.