Buying a House in a Community of Owners

10 Things you Should Know when Buying a House in a Community of Owners

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10 things you need to know if you are thinking of buying a property in a community of owners in Spain. Keep this in mind!

What is a community of owners?

Certain types of properties in Spain, such as urbanizations, apartment buildings, residential complexes, under the law of “horizontal property”, have to form a community of owners.

The community of owners maintains the communal aspects of the property and grounds in good order. Membership is compulsory and all members must pay the community fees by law and according to their corresponding percentage in the budget.

So, when buying a property that is part of a community of owners, what should you bear in mind?

  1. The community has to be headed by a Governing Committee (Junta de Gobierno) which is composed of a president (one of the owners of the property elected by the other owners), a Vice-President (who stands in when the President is unable to) a Secretary, a Treasurer and/or a professional administrator.
  2. Always check before purchasing a property, with the Administrator of the Community, that the current owner (vendor) has no outstanding debt owed to the community of owners. They should issue a certificate of no-debts for the day of completion. You may also want to check that your vendor doesn’t have an ongoing case with the Community regarding an illegal extension, unauthorized satellite dish, etc.
  3. Talk to the President or Administrator of the Community about the history and future of the complex. Is the community planning to undergo costly renovations in the future that you will be liable for? Have these already been agreed on and how much will this cost you? Would you be allowed to close in a balcony, add an extension, etc.?
  4. How much are the community fees? Remember, these may increase along with the cost of living and condition/age of the urbanization. How are the fees payable: by bank transfer, standing order, monthly, quarterly?
  5. Check the community statutes. All regulations are binding. The title deeds (escritura) might state some general by-laws but not all of them (check the community books). Traditionally, the first elected Committee will have set in place a list of more defined rules which you will want to request beforehand so that you know you will be happy with those conditions in your new property. By Law, the buyer automatically accepts the community rules when buying the property.
  6. Firm rules exist about the community meetings, the votes taken and the rights and obligations of the owners who do or do not attend.
  7. The Community must hold an Annual General Meeting every year where decisions concerning the community will be made. If you are unable to be present at the meeting, you can delegate your vote to a fellow property owner by a written authorization usually called a “proxy vote”.  If you have been unable to attend the meeting and do not delegate your vote, you are understood to be in agreement with the decisions made unless you contest them within the allowed time limit.
  8. Any decision made by the community of owners can be appealed within certain time limits.
  9. The president is the appointed representative to represent the Community in Court and through an AGM will be the one who is authorized to appoint Lawyers and Court runners to defend its interests, if and when required.
  10. There is a specific law that governs the Community rules, which is called “Ley 49/1960, de 21 de julio, de Propiedad Horizontal” and has been updated recently.

Problems and concerns may arise in your community of owners, or maybe you have doubts before buying a house which is part of a community of owners. In this case, we recommend that you contact expert Real Estate lawyers that can help you.

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