When buying an apartment in Spain, or a house which forms part of a development, you will often hear talk of a “Comunidad de Propietarios” or “Community of Property Owners” and the service charges that can form part of the running costs of owning a property in Spain. What is this mysterious “community”? And how does it impact upon you as a property owner in Spain? Here we set out the obligations of the community, and your rights as a property owner.
What is a community of property owners?
In many developments in Spain, in addition to the individual apartments or villas there will be communal areas which are accessible to all property owners. The extent of these communal areas can range from a private road or a staircase, to a number of swimming pools, or even a golf course, depending upon the development. Clearly the maintenance of these areas does not come for free and so, by law, in Spain, a community of property owners must be formed and each property owner must pay regular community fees to cover the cost. The liability for each property owner varies in accordance with the size of the property. Depending upon its size, the community will usually appoint a paid administrator who will arrange an AGM each year. As a property owner you have the right to vote for or against any proposal raised at the meeting.
What are the benefits of a community of property owners?
The main benefits of a community of property owners are tangible. The fact that there is a pro-active plan for the maintenance of the communal areas, as well as a reliable stream of funds to cover the costs, means that it is extremely unlikely that the facilities will fall into disrepair. This means that if you own your place in Spain as a holiday home you will not need to use your holiday time for administration of the common areas.
The sharing of amenities also means that you are likely to have access to a wider range of facilities than if you owned a property outside of a development. For example, you may have access to swimming pools and gardens that are constantly maintained by professionals, which can be difficult to manage on your own.
The community will also most likely employ a handyman who can assist you with repairs to your own property, meaning that you do not need to source a professional, which can be tricky in an unfamiliar culture.
The community is also likely to have a constant presence on site, meaning that you can feel safe leaving your property vacant for long stretches of time. By the same token, if you rent out your property, having professionals on site at all times often makes collecting keys much more straightforward for those renting your property.
What are the drawbacks of a community of property owners?
The drawbacks of a community of property owners stem primarily from the fact that the community relies upon each of the members to make payment of their fees to enable the system to function effectively. Put simply, if the community is poorly run, with large numbers of debtors, then the essential maintenance works may not be carried out, and you may be asked to pay more than your fair share to compensate for those community members who do not pay.
By the same token, if you do not pay your community fees then you could find that you are subject to punitive action. You may find that you are barred from using some of the communal facilities, such as the swimming pool. It is also possible that the community could register a charge against your property for the debt owed.
Finally, while it is the case that you have the right to vote upon proposals raised by the community, as is true with any democracy, your view may not be the majority. Hence you could be obliged to make large payments for works that you do not agree with, or that you would prefer to delay.
How to prevent problems with the community of property owners
If you are considering buying a property that forms part of a community of property owners, the way to avoid future problems is to ask your independent Spanish lawyer to make enquiries in relation to the community before you have committed to purchasing the property. Your independent Spanish lawyer can request minutes of the most recent AGMs, as well as a report as to the level of indebtedness of the current community members. It is also possible to enquire as to whether there are any impending significant expenses, such as a new roof. This will give you a good indication as to the efficiency of the community and the expenses that you can expect to incur.
Ensure that you keep up with your obligations by making payment of community fees by direct debit, and try to attend the AGMs if you are able. In that way you will avoid any nasty surprises in the future.
If you are buying a property in Spain, please take a look at our pages on buying property in Spain.
If you have questions about how the community of property owners works, or if you have a problem related to communities of property owners, please be in contact with us. You can contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by telephone on 020 3478 1420, or by completing our contact form.