Just like most other countries in the world, Spain has very good planning and building regulations related to residential property. The problem is that these can be ignored by landowners, developers, and all the professionals being paid by them; glossed over by unprofessional lawyers and estate agents; not enforced by the authorities until the property is completed and sold to ‘innocent‘ purchasers who have bought ‘in good faith‘; with the latter phrase often covering buyer’s naivety or arrogantly assuming that Spain is a backward country without laws or regulations.
Here is a checklist of the items you should ask from the selling agent, developer or seller. By law, they must provide most of them to all enquirers when they first enquire, and not just before the notary signing.
- Nota Simple – A summary of the registered title of the property that confirms the registered description, who is the owner and any debts.
- IBI Invoice and Receipt (not just a copy of the bank confirmation) – to know the annual property taxes and the Catastral Value, on which many other taxes are based.
- Catastral Extract – Tax authorities’ description of the property, upon which they calculate the Catastral Value. Many times, this is different from the Registered Title, but the law states they must be corrected, which will need a topographical survey.
- CEE – Energy Certificate, stamped by the Junta de Andalucía or equivalent authority elsewhere in Spain. This gives a guide to the annual energy costs and the CO2 that the house will create, gives discounts on the IBI, and with the Climate Crisis, poor ratings are likely to be penalised by increased costs and taxes in the future.
- ITE Certificate – Structural soundness certificate required for all properties more than 50 years old and every 10 years thereafter, though it’s needed for as ‘young’ as 25 years in some Municipalities.
- Lease – a tenant can demand the right to stay for up to 5 years, no matter what the lease states, and a buyer and mortgagor must comply with that too.
- First Occupation Licence or Cedula de Habitabilidad – for new properties Do not buy a new property without this, as it confirms that it complies with planning and building regulations, and is permitted to have direct electricity and water connections.
- Decennial Insurance – all new buildings should have this unless they have been built specifically for one owner. It means the construction of the structure and foundations have been independently supervised and insured for 10 years. Some developers avoid this by selling the site and a building contract for the house separately.
- Recent electricity invoice – not just the receipt. This shows the contracted amount that is charged at the lowest price per month. If the use is more, the price on extra will be much higher.
- Recent water invoice – not just the receipt. The possibility of leaks can be indicated by excessive water costs.
- Community of Owners – Speak with the Administrator or President to find out what is the annual charge for the property, are there any unpaid registered against the property, and are there any major works due to start.
- Check the Planning (Urbanismo) zoning for the property to know that it is legal and what are the possibilities of increasing the floor area or building a pool.
- Damp or timber treatment guarantees – Damp is the most common fault we find.
- Builder’s Guarantees – In the first year the builder is responsible for correcting all defects, excluding only those created by the occupants’ use. In the next 2 years, they are responsible for correcting major defects, such as water penetration, wiring failure, major drainage problems, etc. These liabilities start on the date of the architect’s completion certificate, Fin de Obras, NOT the Licence of First Occupation, which is granted after, and there can be months or even years of difference between these two dates.
- Any other guarantees or maintenance contracts for machinery such as air conditioning, central heating, security alarms, demotics, automatic gates, etc
- Marketing Material – Spanish Courts have decided in the past that marketing material, such as agents’ sales brochures, building specifications, photographs and architect’s drawings, are legal descriptions of what is being sold, and action can be taken by a buyer for compensation or even stopping the deal if what’s actually sold is significantly different.
- Lastly, is the property being sold ‘cuerpo cierto’? This has the same effect as ‘sold as seen’, with no guarantee of sizes, specification or condition. It could be used to avoid the ‘Vicios Ocultos’ law, which relates to hidden defects that a buyer discovers up to 6 months after purchase, giving the buyer the right to claim compensation from the seller or even oblige them to take the property back and return the price. However, it’s one thing to have the right; it’s quite another successfully enforcing it.
Survey Spain, while carrying out pre-acquisition building inspections for buyers, development appraisals, and property valuations as expert witnesses for UK and all other worldwide Courts, provide a comprehensive service by requesting, studying and reporting on the information provided by the estate agents, owners and developers. Bear in mind that it’s one thing getting all the paperwork correct, but there’s not much point in having that if the property itself is not described accurately. That is especially true if these works do not have the appropriate licenses, etc. Equally, if there are structural or other building problems, which do not become apparent until after you have purchased. These matters can only be found out by inspecting and measuring during a professional inspection of the property by Survey Spain. Also, with the new lease legislation, is vitally important that you discover if there is a tenant within the building’s, whether it’s a registered lease or informal tenancy, as, if there is a tenant, you may not be able to get them out for up to 5 years.
Survey Spain, when carrying out their Building Surveys and Property Valuations, check on these matters, as appropriate to the locality in which the property is located as some areas of Spain have different regulations. Whilst some of it may appear to be duplicating the work of the solicitor, we measure the property and know the actual accommodation so that the buyer has been able to oblige the seller to provide an accurate title. A building survey can prevent a buyer from being burdened with the troubles of the seller.