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Property in Spain: the Nitty-Gritty of the Comunidad de Propietarios

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Property in Spain: the Nitty-Gritty of the Comunidad de Propietarios

A property owner might find that the committee insists on the removal of a new addition simply because the colour or design does not comply....

Posted by algrif

Tagged: property in spain, living, junta, community president, estatuto de comunidad, comunidad de propietarios, property owner, neighbourhood committee, administrator, spanish real estate

In-depth information about the Comunidad de Vecinos refering to the legal powers and responsibilities of both the committee and the Administrator. What items come into the scope of the Neighbours Committee. The Budget. Complaints and problems with the neighbours. It is based on the Spanish law known as Ley de Propiedad Horizontal. There is also a FAQs section which will be added in response to input from you, the reader.

This article is a continuation and amplification of the information in the first part titled Property in Spain & The Comunidad de Propietarios. Read that first if you haven’t already!

Skip down to the pertinent section for more information about the Community Committee of property owners.

  1. Common Items in the Community Budget
  2. What items exactly come under the eye of the Junta?
  3. The Administrator
  4. What happens in a meeting of the Junta?
  5. FAQs File

Common Items in the Community Budget

Naturally, a lot depends on the situation, size, and type of the common real estate property. A small block of apartments will have very different costs than a large urbanisation of individual bungalows with private pool and garage, for example.
That point aside, we can still state some typical costs, and divide them into, two basic groups. First, the “shrug-shoulders-grin-and-bear-it” group. Second, the “optional-we-need-to-discuss-this” group. There are some items that will fall into one or other group depending on the size of the community. Cleaning, for instance, in a community of 10 apartments is often done by rota, or sharing the tasks. But for 50 households, whether apartments or urbanisation, it would be contracted out in some way.

1) Unavoidable costs of the community are: (also see costs of living)

  • Electricity. Your community will need lighting, and other possible electricity needs, such as water pumps, lifts, automatic doors, door-phones, etc.
  • Water. For general cleaning of common areas, watering the gardens, swimming pool maintenance, etc. Included here is drainage and waste water disposal.
  • General TV distribution. Including providing signal from common satellite dishes, general and digital antennas, and possibly cable TV.
  • Maintenance and Repairs. Of common property items such as lifts, swimming pools, entrance doors and gates, gardens, etc. as well as repairs to common walls, pavings, roofing, etc. And not forgetting the fire-fighting appliances and sprinkler systems.
  • The Administrators fees. Also his costs, which he should put as separate items in the accounts. These costs will be things like postage, phone bills, etc.
  • Legal costs. Arising from any other item that might generate such a cost. Particularly anything to do with registering constitutional changes.
  • Bank charges. Account maintenance. Also there will be a contingency fund to maintain for emergency payments.
  • Insurance. Public liability insurance is a legal requirement.
  • IVA. Lets not forget our old friend, the tax-man. He needs to live too, you know!

2) Costs to be discussed are things like:

  • Cleaning. As mentioned above. Contracted out, or DIY?
  • Security. Do you need a hall porter for the apartment block? Night security for a large urbanisation? Do you need more secure doors, gates, walls or fencing, etc.
  • Swimming pool vigilance. Do you need a life-guard? If so, what months and what hours of duty.
  • Private road maintenance. Do you need to paint lines and parking spaces?  Do you want to put speed bumps? What about traffic signs? Is it really necessary to put gates across the road?
  • New installations.  This is where the fun really begins. It means anything else that your ‘friends’ and neighbours have thought that they can’t live without. Is it really essential to have closed circuit TV? More fixed umbrellas around the pool? Automatic doors? General water softener system at source? Etcetera. These things cost money. It can sound good when someone says “That’s only 23€ per month per household for one year!” But remember, you are going to have to add it to your personal household budget later, before you vote for it!

There is a similar pair of lists for those who have internal communal garage space and/or junk room trastero.

What items come under the eye of the Junta of Spanish Property Owners?

Firstly, all the decisions taken at the last AGM or Extraordinary GM need to be put in motion and followed. This is done by holding various meetings with the Administrator who will normally help in the organisational aspects. The Committee members will help in any way they can, using their time, contacts and knowledge.

Most decisions will involve some sort of service or purchase. This means that, by law, at least two quotes must be obtained. The committee will then meet up to discuss the merits of all tenders received, looking at both the financial and the service aspects. The majority decision rules, and a service is then contracted. All the residents are then informed of the decision and the financial and practical impact. In all the steps, the Administrator will ask the president, or his/her representative for permission to act. The reason is that it is in reality the president, as legal representative of the community who should be doing all this stuff, but of course it is more realistic for the Administrator to do it on his/her behalf. He therefore needs the committee to be aware of this transfer of authority on each point.

Secondly, there is the question of enforcement of decisions. The non-payment of quotas is entirely in the hands of the Administrator, by law, but for everything else, it is the president who must act.

What is this enforcement of decisions? Some examples:

  • Noise: Communities can make decisions about when the pool can be used, leaving a ‘silent siesta’ time as a community rule. Late night use of the pool is another point where a time limit needs to be set. Parties, loud music, etc. There are general laws regarding noisy neighbours in Spain (believe it or not!), but the community can make further restrictions. The committee might find itself having to enforce the decisions, and having to decide how.
  • Constructional changes: It is normal that the community can limit or veto external changes that affect the appearance of a property within the common real estate. Colours, particularly of aluminium elements of windows, patio awnings, fencing, and so on come into this. A property owner might find that the committee insists on the removal of a new addition simply because the colour or design does not comply with a general meeting policy decision. This can be costly for the owner, and the committee has to decide the best way to enforce this kind of decision. Moral: always check with the president before buying your new toldo or awning, or putting up the new fence your wife likes so much. If the colour or size is wrong, you would have to take it down. Can you glass in your terrace?  Check with the president first. Can you put a semi-permanent structure on your roof terrace? Check with the president first. And so on.
  • Pets: Normally it is stated from the constructor if this is a community that allows pets or not. On purchase of a Spanish property, you need to know from the start if pets are allowed or not. This rule is very difficult to change once it has been established. So if you own a pet, you must find out first if you can keep it in your house before purchasing your Spanish property. Or if you can’t stand barking dogs, then you also must be aware of this possibility before you buy. The committee would have to enforce this decision if it is broken.
  • Swimming pool: This is a zone that provokes many disputes. Sun-shades, chairs, food and drinks, noise out of hours, too many guests, too many kids, too many half-drunken adults(!!), best-site claims (the famous unoccupied towels), inflatable beds, ball games, and the list goes on and on. The general meetings often spend a lot of time on this issue, and the committee spends a lot of time wondering how on earth they are going to enforce the general meeting decisions.

Enforcement usually follows this process -  polite requests, formal requests, threatening legal action, and finally legal action. This last recourse of legal action would be where the Administrator takes over full responsibility.

Finally, there are the emergency items. This usually means urgent repairs and maintenance, or security. If there is something broken or damaged, then it will have to be repaired, which means getting estimates and contracts as quickly as possible. The same goes if there is a security problem that cannot wait till the next AGM.

It's not much fun being berated by upset neighbours while you are trying to doze off next to the swimming pool ...

The Administrator

Firstly, it is not a legal necessity to have a separate Administrator. The president can also hold this function. This can reduce overall costs, but the president must be prepared for a lot more work.

If your community of property owners prefers to employ an Administrator, then his proper title is Administrador de la Comunidad de Propietarios, He will be a qualified Administrador de Fincas, and he should be a registered member of the Colegio de Administradores de Fincas Rústicas y Urbanas. He will therefore be able to give you his colegiado number.

He will normally have a proper office with a secretary. He will look after all the legal aspects of running the community to make sure everything complies with the Law concerning Spanish properties, how they are divided, managed, and run. Commonly owned real estate in Spain is very closely governed by law, and his job is therefore pretty important. He will hold all the legal documents relating to the Constitution of the Comunidad de Vecinos. He will also have the keys to all public and utility access points.

He is also legally responsible for the collection of the quotas. His obligation is defined under Spanish law to take bad payers to court to recover any outstanding amounts. This process is rapid and effective, and will leave the debtor with a nice extra bill for costs. So, at the risk of repeating myself, it is most important that you arrange for your bank to make these payments automatically on demand.

Any other matter that cannot be resolved by the committee and/or the community of Spanish property owners would finally go before the courts. The Administrator would take over at this point and everything would fall into his hands. The president would be expected to help him collect any evidence that might be required.

The committee might also decide to place some items under his control, just because circumstances make it more practical. Pool maintenance is a typical example where the contractor would deal directly with the Administrator, who would also control the quality of the work being done.

What happens in a meeting of the Junta?

A meeting is arranged by the president and the Administrator. They try to ensure that as many members of the committee are present as possible, but, unless the community rules state otherwise, just the two of them are sufficient to make a decision on most topics. Majority vote wins, and the president usually has a deciding vote in case of even split. If you are a committee member, it is therefore most important that you do your utmost to attend these meetings. If the decisions taken are bad, you are partly to blame in the eyes of the rest of the community. It’s not much fun being berated by upset neighbours while you are trying to doze off next to the swimming pool on a sunny afternoon. And blaming the president because you were not at that meeting is not a good enough answer!

I have had the humiliating experience of having an 80+ year-old lady giving me more than an ear-full on a public street because she did not like the design of the new security doors we had voted for. As it happened, she had a point; so I was in the horrible position of having to wait for her to run out of steam while passers-by eyed and ear-wigged us with great interest. Not recommended. 80+ year olds have a lot of time and, when it comes to grousing, energy.

At the meetings, each item from the last AGM is considered to establish what progress is being made toward fulfilling the AGM decisions. Those present discuss the merits and faults of each situation, what can be done to finalise each issue, or whether it needs to go back to the AGM because of problems that were not apparent at the start.

Plans and estimates for services and purchases are considered. Decisions taken, and permissions given go to the Administrator to proceed with contracts. The committee will also sometimes issue a letter to the whole community to inform them of an important decision, such as a change of insurance company, or to advise that a proposed installation will cost more than first thought, or just to say that an issue has been resolved. This will allow for some feed-back before finally committing all the property owners to an important expenditure.

Complaints are also discussed, as well as if there are any enforcements to be made, and how to make them.

Community of Spanish Property Owners FAQs

  1. What do I do if I have a complaint? The first thing to do is to take it to either the president or the Administrator. They can advise you if you need to put it in writing, and what solutions might be possible. Follow up your complaint by asking from time to time what is happening.
  2. What if I receive a complaint? You should go asap to the president or administrator to find out exactly what the problem is, and try to find a suitable solution. Whatever you decide, ignoring it hoping that it will go away is not an option. The whole set-up is there to reduce friction as much as possible, and if you have read this article then you are aware that the committee has the backing of Spanish law to get things resolved one way or another. If it is a serious issue, you might need legal help.
  3. I wish to claim against the community. How do I go about this? This can happen if you are injured or lose out financially due to an action or decision taken by the community. You legally need to present your claim to the Administrator. If serious enough, then you could need legal representation, but the amicable route is best to start with. An example (from personal experience): You get stuck in the lift on a bank holiday weekend. Everyone from the committee and the hall porter etc. have gone away. When your cries for help are finally heard, the Fire Brigade los bomberos arrive, release you, and present their bill.  This bill can then be presented directly to the Administrator when he returns, and he should pay it, as it is a community charge.
  4. How can I get out of being President? If your community works on either a rotational President or drawn-out-of-the-hat system, you could well find that you are obliged to be the President. Basically, under Spanish law, if you are the owner of a property governed by the Ley de Propiedad Horizontal you cannot refuse this duty except...
    • If you are physically incapable of the job
    • If you are mentally incapable of the job
    • If you can prove that you never live in the property
    • If you can prove that your property has been offered for sale on the Spanish property market since before you were chosen.
    • If you do not actually own the property, you rent it.

    On this last point, a friend of mine, who rents his flat, heard a knock at his door the other day. He opened it to have a big box full of books and papers shoved into his hands with the words (in Spanish) “Your turn for president. Bye”. He had to take this to the administrator with a legal affirmation that he was not, in fact, the owner of the property.

    Your application to renounce the position must be made within less than one month of your ‘election’. You would do this using a legal representative before the local tribunal. At this point my advice has to stop, as I cannot risk misinforming you. If you find yourself in this position, then go to see a good Spanish-English lawyer and get some legal help.

  5.  

  6. Our president is never here. What can we do about it?
    This makes decisions difficult. The Administrator can try to insist that (s)he comes to some meetings. If the president is also the Administrator, then you might need legal advice to at least remove the status of Administrator so you can employ an official Administrator and get some things done. Legally, the president can be obliged to attend to his duties, but it will need legal aid of some kind. It might be better to put up with the accumulating problems and wait to the next change of president. Your community constitution might allow for an Extraordinary GM to remove the falting president and vote someone else in. Get hold of a copy of the constitution and see.

  7.  

  8. Is it possible to change the basic rules of the community?
    This means the constitution, and refers to things like pets, change of use of properties for business purposes, presidential election procedures, etc.

    These kinds of goal-post moving changes require unanimous vote at an AGM. This is a legal requirement under the Spanish property law. If your Junta tries to enforce a change of this kind, you have legal recourse to defend your rights. Take it to a lawyer.

Please submit any other questions you might have to the Spain Forum in the living in Spain section. I’ll try to get back to you on there. - Al

Last updated 17 03 2007

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Comments

If you'd like to ask a question for discussion, please mosey on over to the Spain Forum. See our posting rules and instructions here.

24/Nov/2008:
olliec said:

Can the committee and administrator change the method of calculating fees, without owners voting on the change

 
12/Jan/2010:
sanita said:

If administrator didnt call meeting for 2 years, did not want to explain to owners where and how money been spend, does not have any bill to present how money has been spent... what do we, the owners, do about it? I refused to pay my maintance fee for this year, until I know where and how money has been spent.

 

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