If you have bought an apartment or villa, which take part of a building complex, keep in mind that these will be subject to the Spanish Law of Horizontal Division (Ley de Propiedad Horizontal). This law is applicable whether you are resident or not.
According to this law, every apartment or villa-owner has the co-property of the common elements of the building complex (stairs, lifts, faí§ades, swimming pool, cleaning services, drains, supply of water, electric wires etc;), together with the rest of owners of the block.
All property owners of the block form the Community of Property Owners (Comunidad de Propietarios). They are responsible for their individual parts and common areas of the block. They must maintain the common elements of the building. All of them participate in the expenses of the community on a pro-rata basis. Only those who buy an individual property standing on its own, will not have to join a community of property owners.
Every apartment of the block has a share (cuota de participación) in the common property, usually proportionate to the size of the owner’s property. Therefore the owner of a large flat will have a larger share in the common property, this share determines the community charges and voting rights of the homeowner.
The urbanizations are ruled by a different law (as they share elements with the outside world such as street lighting, refuse collection, roads;), however, the Spanish Law of Horizontal Division may also be applied to them provided that they meet some specific requirements.
2. Finding Out your Community Share Before Buying your Property
If you are going to buy a Spanish property, which takes part of a block, it is advisable to check at the Spanish Property Registry (Registro de la Propiedad) the physical description of your apartment and the building that is attached to, in this way you will find out your property size and what is your common-area share.
The Spanish Property Registry may also provide you with the rules about the use of the common facilities, general management and maintenance, which take part of the Statutes of the Community of Owners. Every new owner will be bound automatically by the Statutes and the decisions taken at previous meetings.
You should also make sure the seller is current in his payments, otherwise the unpaid back community fees could be charged to the new owner.
If you are purchasing in a new development the rules of the Community must be explained to you and approved on your behalf.
3. The Statutes and the Internal and the Internal Rules of the Community
Most communities have a wide set of rules which governs the property owners rights and standards of behaviour expected from the persons who reside on the complex. The Statutes of the community may only be modified by unanimity vote of the community owners, both present in person and by proxy. If Statutes need changing, this pertains to the annual general meeting.
The Statutes must set out the private share which corresponds to each owner.
If any member of the community violates the statutes, the community members can vote to ask the court to issue an injunction, which will forbid him from entering his property for a period of up to 2 years.
Besides the Statutes, the owners may establish internal rules, providing standards of behaviour for the community members and use of the common services. The owners are also obliged to comply with these rules, which may be modified by their simple majority vote.
4. Performing Repairs in your Community Block
Every community owner can make repairs in their own property (flat, attached house;) under the following conditions:
- Previous notice to the Community owners.
- If the building general structure and faí§ade was not modified.
- Avoid causing any damages to the rights of other community owners.
5. Performing Repairs in the Common Areas
The Community of property owners shall make necessary repairs to keep the building in a fit and habitable condition.
If any owner is to blame for delay in repairs ordered by the administrative Spanish authorities, he or she shall face the administrative penalties imposed for the delay to the community of owners.
When repairs are needed in the common areas, this shall be notified to the administrator.
6. Performing forbidden Activities either in the Own Property or In the Common Areas
Neither the property owner, nor the persons who reside temporarily or permanently in the property, are allowed to perform any activity that may damage the complex or that are contrary to the Statutes or community internal rules.
7. Main Obligation of the Community Owners
The community owners are obliged to the following:
- They must let work be carried out in their own flat when it is necessary for proper maintenance of the building or the installation of new services. For that purpose, they shall permit workmen entering their property. Should any damage arise as a result of these works, must the community pay an indemnity.
- They must respect the indivisible parts of the complex where the property is located: care of drains, electric wiring and any other installations, which serve other owners, they must also care their own installations.
- Maintain their property in good condition so that it does not cause any damage to the other owners. When causing damages to other owners, an indemnity shall be paid..
- They shall contribute, according to their community share, to the maintaining costs of the complex.
- On selling the property, the owner seller should provide a certificate showing either that he or she has no pending debts with the community, or those community debts which are still pending of payment.
- The secretary of the community must be informed about the address of the owners in Spain, in order to send them those notifications relating the community owners. If it is been impossible to send the notifications to the referred address, this will be placed in a visible place in the community complex.
- The Secretary of the Community shall be informed of the sale of the property, otherwise the seller will also be liable, together with the new owner, for the community debts of the property sold, although in this case the seller may claim the buyer for the payment of the back community fees unpaid.
8. Rights of the Property Owners
- You have the right to attend the annual general meeting as well as any extraordinary meetings of the community.
- You are also entitled to be informed in advance of the dates and the order of business of any meeting called. If you are not correctly informed, you can protest and even have the results of the meeting annulled by a court.
- At the meeting you have the right to voice your opinion, the right to vote and to present motions for the vote of the other members.
- You may be elected president, the vice-president or the secretary of the community.
- You may check the documentation and records of the community.
9. Building Improvements
No property owner may demand new services, facilities or unnecessary improvements on the complex.
When the members have reached an agreement to make unnecessary repairs on the complex, which costs exceed of 3-month community fees, the member who did not vote in favour to this agreement is not obliged to pay for these repairs.
10. Annual General Meeting
10.1 General Information
The community members shall meet at least once a year:
- To elect the President and the Administrator.
- To propose the budget for the coming year as well as other matters, such as the accounts and expenditures of the previous year.
- To approve the Statutes of the Community and determine the internal rules.
- To check other business arising for the better management of the community, etc;
The President shall notice the meeting to the community members in advance, although the community members may decide to meet without the President call.
The meeting shall be presided over by the president.
Most of decisions are taken by majority vote of the community members.
10.2 Attendance to the Meeting
Community members may assist to the meeting in person, or by a representative, the appointee need not to even be a member of the community. This is commonly used in communities where the foreign owners are absent much of the time.
An absent member may also delegate his vote to another member, or appoint a proxy to vote for him.
Those members which community payments are not up-to-date, may participate in the meeting but cannot vote to elect neither the Secretary nor the Administrator.
10.3 The Book of Minutes
The details of the meeting and the voting of the community members must be recorded in the book of minutes (libro de actas), this shall also contain the dates and the order of business of any meeting called.
The book of minutes can be used in Spanish court proceedings, e.g. when any community member is claiming before court that his or her interest has been seriously prejudiced by the decision taken at a meeting hold by the community members.
This book must be stamped as authentic by the Property Registrar.
The Secretary of the Community shall keep the book of minutes.
10.4 Contesting the Decision taken at the Meeting
Any member feeling that the decision voted by the majority of the community members is illegal, contrary to the statutes of the community, or damage seriously their own interests, may ask the local court to have the decision annulled.
They may also oblige the president to call an Extraordinary General Meeting.
The owner may only contest the decisions taken at the meeting if he has his community payments up to date. The member may object the decision within 3 months from the date on which it was reached. Except when the decision is illegal or contrary to the Statutes, in which case it may be objected within 1 year.
In this case legal assistance is strongly recommended.
11. The President
11.1 President’s Election
The Spanish Law of Horizontal Division provides that every community of owners must have a President, who must be elected from among the members of the community, in turn or drawn by lottery for a time period of 1 year, unless otherwise is stated in the statutes of the Community.
The president may be sued by the community members if they feel his actions have prejudiced their interests.
It is mandatory for the elected president to perform the president duties for the community.
Perhaps you have a property in Spain subject to this regime of horizontal division, which you only use during your holidays. Although the Spanish law provides that the member appointed may reject the election by asking it to the First Instance Judge and explaining him the main reasons to reject the election. However, if you are elected president and think that could not perform the president’s corresponding duties, we advise you to explain it first to the former President.
In general terms, the President of the Community of Property Owners is charged with the following duties:
- The President is the Community’s most important legal representative. Community members’claims should be filed to him.
- He can bring lawsuits in the name of the community when he is authorised by the vote of the general meeting.
- He may also perform the Secretary and Administrator duties, carrying out all administrative work if no other officers are elected, unless otherwise is stated in the Statutes.
- He shall inform the community members in advance of the date, hour and place of the meeting. He shall prepare the order of business of general meetings, the accounts of expenditures and the budget for the coming year. He presides the meeting and informs the absent members in writing of the decision taken.
When the president acts as the sole officer of the community, among the duties he should perform are the following:
- Oversee the management of the common elements of the property.
- Hear the complaints of the community owners.
- Collect the community fees charged to each owner.
- Have full responsibility for the operation of the community, subject to the approval of the annual general meeting.
The Community members may appoint a professional administrator to administer the daily operation of the community, and he is paid a regular fee for this service.
The administrator shall manage the efficient running of the community’s common elements, he shall also carry out any other function conferred by the general meeting.
He prepares a budget of estimated expenses for the coming year and presents this at the general meeting for the members’ approval, they must vote to accept it or not. He must keep the records of the community and makes sure the minutes are properly written.
All requests and needs of the owners will be directed to the Administrator.
The president may terminate the services of the administrator at any time, if he feels that the administrator is not carrying out the duties specified in the contract. This decision must be previously submitted to the general meeting for approval.
Any member of the community may apply to a judge to have an Administrator’s action annulled when he feels that it is contradictory to any provision of the community laws.
The administrator must keep the records and accounts of the community at the disposal of the members.
13. Failure to Pay the Community Fees
Every owner must pay their community fees on the date established by the members at the Annual General Meeting. Fees may be paid on a monthly, quarterly or on annual basis.
If any of the members fail to pay the community fees, the President or the Administrator may claim the debt, previous authorisation of the community members, in the Court of First Instance from the city where the block of flats is located, and even have the property sold at auction to recover unpaid charges.
14. Getting legal help
We offer solid legal advice regarding any issue you may have regarding a community of property owners in Spain:
» Ask an English-speaking Spanish lawyer.