Property in Spain: the Nitty-Gritty of the Comunidad de Propietarios
Posted by algrif
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.
- Common Items in the Community Budget
- What items exactly come under the eye of the Junta?
- The Administrator
- What happens in a meeting of the Junta?
- 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.