If you have considered purchasing property in Spain, you’ve likely done your research. You may have come across the terms ‘community of property owners’ and ‘community fees’, and asked yourself what they mean. Here we set out what a community of property owners is, what community fees are for, and why they can become a problem.
What is a community of property owners, and what are community fees?
If you own an apartment or a house that forms part of a development in Spain, there will be communal areas accessible to all property owners. Whether it’s a private road or a staircase, or perhaps a swimming pool, it goes without saying that someone is responsible for financing the maintenance and carrying out the upkeep of these areas. In Spain it is by law that a community of property owners must be formed with each property owner liable for paying regular community fees to cover the costs, varying in accordance with the size of each owner’s property. The community of property owners will usually appoint a paid administrator who will arrange an Annual General Meeting (AGM) each year, whereby property owners have a right to vote for or against any proposal raised.
Why can community fees be difficult to recover?
A community of property owners relies upon each property owner to make timely payment of their community fees. Without the payment of fees, either essential maintenance works may not be carried out, or other property owners may be asked to pay more than their fair share to compensate for those who have not paid. If record keeping in your community has been poor, or if the community is large, there may be a large number of debtors who have not paid which is arguably more difficult to chase than if there were only one debtor.
Additionally, there are many property owners in Spain who do not live in Spain. Many Brits use their property in Spain as a holiday home, only visiting a few times a year. In some cases, if the property owner receives a demand to make payment of their outstanding fees, they ignore it. Without the Spanish authorities engaging a firm to recover the debt, the outstanding community fees can be difficult to recover.
Recovering community fees - the case study of Mr Q
Here we take a look at one such case study, straddling Spain and the UK, whereby we assisted a community of property owners in recovering their fees. Meet Mr Q.
Mr Q had built up a substantial community fee debt dating back to October 2010. The community had made various attempts to contact Mr Q at both the Spanish property address and at his English address. As no payments had been made for some two years and the debt had escalated to €8,000, the community commenced legal proceedings against Mr Q in Spain.
A claim was filed in before the Spanish court in March 2013. With the Spanish judgment still pending in February 2014, the community instructed E&G Solicitors in Spain.
The debtor was immediately sent a payment request to his English address. There was evidence that Mr Q received this communication but no reply was forthcoming. Mr Q chose not to respond to further communications or to make any offer of payment.
E&G Solicitors in Spain acted swiftly in obtaining detailed information about Mr Q’s assets in the UK. It was established that Mr Q was a successful businessman with no outstanding court judgments and the owner of several properties in North London.
We delivered a further payment request to Mr Q – this being the final request before legal proceedings would be commenced to enforce the Spanish judgment in the UK. Mr Q chose this point to enter into negotiations, as he was very concerned about becoming involved in legal proceedings in the UK. Mr Q offered a payment proposal via his Spanish lawyer and it was agreed that he would discharge the debt with three payments.
Thanks to the swift action and expertise of E&G Solicitors in Spain the payments were made in due course and the community recovered the full amount owed. Our client had the following to say of the service we provide:
"I would recommend the services of E&G Solicitors in Spain without doubt. From our personal experience with the firm, the way our account was handled was impeccable. We wouldn’t change anything. The speed with which positive results were obtained inspires confidence in the service. I would suggest handing over your debt files to E&G Solicitors in Spain because they obtain the best possible results."
If you are an administrator of a community of property owners and you require assistance with debt recovery, 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.