Information about the Comunidad de Propietarios or committee of neighbours in the urbanisation or apartment block where your Spanish property is located. It tells you how they are elected to the property's committee, how you can be elected, what they can/cannot do and are supposed to do, and the function of the Administrator of your Neighbourhood Committee.
This is the committee made up of your immediate neighbours who, like it or not, have the right to meddle in your affairs...
Whether you are planning to buy a Spanish property in an urbanisation, or rent or buy an apartment, you are going to have to deal with what is commonly known as La Comunidad de Vecinos. This is the committee made up of your immediate neighbours who, like it or not, have the right to meddle in your affairs in a way that is sometimes not exactly to your taste. Remember that with real estate in Spain you generally have less rights and more obligations compared to some other countries!
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The Comunidad de Propietarios is a legally constituted committee. Any property in Spain which is covered by the Ley de Propiedad Horizontal [translated]is obliged by Spanish law to have a Neighbour’s Committee. This idea usually starts the alarm bells ringing for many expats, so here I intend to clarify some legal and practical aspects and - hopefully - put you at ease with the idea. This same Law, the Ley de Propiedad Horizontal, very closely controls how the committee is to carry out its duties.
The first thing to note is that if you have property in Spain that is completely self-contained, then this article is not for you. But if your property forms part of a communal Spanish real estate ‘whole’ that is divided between various owners, such as a block of apartments, or an urbanisation with external limits and some common areas such as a swimming pool or a common garage etc. like most Spanish properties, then you had better read on.
The second thing to note is that, if you are buying a second-hand property in Spain, it is very important to find out how the Comunidad de Propietarios (Neighbourhood Committee) is set up. But if you are buying newly-built Spanish real estate, then it might be in your interests to be on the initial committee to have a real say in how you want things to be organised from the beginning.
One of the most important functions of the Comunidad de Vecinos—as it is more commonly called—is to fix the budget of community costs (see below) for the coming year for the common property, and from there organise the monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly quotas for which each household will have to pay maintenance of the property and services.
Another function is to set the rules of the community and enforce them. This is where many people feel they are being dictated to. But the idea is to avoid friction between neighbours before it starts by setting some agreed guidelines and limits. The scope of action here is very wide, and will be covered in the second part: “The Nitty-Gritty of the Comunidad de Propietarios”. [link to article and replace ‘next article’ with title of article when finished].
But to give you an idea, here are a few aspects of the property requiring coordination: swimming pool rules, lifts, parking, cleaning, external appearance of the property. (They like properties in Spain to ‘co-ordinate’ as much as possible. Very appearance-conscious people, the Spanish) Structural work, noise, pets, security… the list goes on. This list will be amplified in “The Nitty-Gritty of the Comunidad de Propietarios”.
The committee is composed of a Community President, Vice president, Secretary and (normally) 4 ordinary members known as Vocales. All of these are elected by the property owners from among the property owners themselves. No outsiders, you’ll be glad to hear. All the property owners have the right to a vote no matter whether they are Spanish or not. One household: one vote, by the way. We’ll look at General meetings, where this vote is taken, further on
This committee is completed by the Administrator. He is also elected, and we will look very closely at this function in a moment.
Elections normally occur once per year. But there is a curiosity regarding the presidential position of the committee of property owners.
Elected at the AGM, either by vote as per the rest of the committee; or s/he can also be determined by literal ‘luck-of-the-draw’ (the Spanish love their lotteries), or by rotation. This means that you could be obliged to be the Community president for a year whether you want it or not! And it is not easy to get out of this either. For more information see “The Nitty-Gritty of the Comunidad de Propietarios” under FAQs (coming soon).
Spanish property owners do not normally rush for this post, if they know anything about it. This is because it can be a time consuming and unappreciated, thankless job. This person is also, at the end of the day, the legal representative of the community of property owners. He will also normally be the official key holder. See below under Who is the Administrator? for more information about the keys.The Committee:-What are the committee’s obligations and rights? Basically, they are there to ensure the smooth running of the communityof property owners by:
This means they have to organise committee meetings on a regular basis, and make decisions that can sometimes be difficult.They are governed by two sets of rules. The obligatory statute Estatuto de Comunidad which is fixed by Spanish law, and the Internal Agreement, which basically means the general consensus decisions of the community as written in the Régimen Interno’.
This person is a professional who should belong to the College of Administrators. The Spanish name is, as always, very long. His proper title is Administrador de la Comunidad de Propietarios, He is 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.This means he is trained and qualified to administrate property in Spain, or Spanish real estate of any kind. But his main source of income is usually from acting as the official Administrator for a number of neighbourhood committees. You will gather that his is a paid position. He will normally have his own office and secretary, etc. He is elected on a yearly basis at the same time as the committee of the Comunidad de Propietarios. His role is to help the committee realise its functions correctly and legally. He does this by:
... can get very heated when they think their toes are about to get stepped on. And there is nothing like protection of real estate to get the adrenalin running!
AGMs must be held at least once a year. Notice of the meeting is sent to property owners in Spain or overseas and must arrive a minimum of 6 days in advance Extraordinary meetings require the same rules as the AGMs (except, of course, the bit about 'once a year') There must be an agenda sent with the notice. This agenda must include voting-in of the committee members and, if applicable, nomination of the president. This is your big chance! More about this below. The agenda must include election of the Administrator. Remember, this post is in effect a contract for one year between the Administrator and the Community. Then the optional stuff for the coming year. This is where the real fun begins! Discussion, or more likely argument -- (I've even seen arguments get out of hand and come to blows more than once!) Spanish property owners can get very heated when they think their toes are about to get stepped on. And there is nothing like protection of real estate to get the adrenalin running!
Each item is voted by raised hands when the president or Administrator decides that enough time for discussion has been allowed. Straight majority wins. If you cannot be present, you should send your proxy vote to another resident of the community or the Administrator before the date of the meeting. The Community president presides this meeting, but in practice it is usually the Administrator who runs it, because he has the experience and know-how. However he must back down if the Community president insists on presiding the meeting. This can happen if the Administrator is about to get the big E, or just because the president believes s/he is the best wo/man for the job! You cannot vote after the meeting. The law does not allow for a meditation period. All votes must be counted at the meeting itself. The meeting sometimes decides to postpone a vote to the next meeting if consensus is not reached. Arrive on time, and be prepared for a long session. Bring a cushion! A reasonably short time after the meeting, a summary of the meeting and decisions taken will be sent to all the property owners so they know what the majority want them to do, or not do, with their little piece of Spanish real estate.
The quotas, often called el pago de la comunidad or just la comunidad are charged monthly, or bi-monthly, or quarterly, according to the inicial Régimen Interno. They are the payments made by each household to comply with the Budget. When buying any Spanish property, you must check on what la comunidad is. You need to know as it could be quite a lot of money per year. The same applies if you intend to rent rather than buy a property in Spain. The owner will tell you the rent, but la comunidad is separate, and you can get a nasty surprise if you don't ask the owner how much it is first! An important point for buyers of second hand Spanish real estate is to check that the property they are about to sign for has la comunidad fully paid to date. This is one of those transferable debts. It comes with the property itself, and will fall to the you, the new owner, to pay any outstanding amounts! The quota you pay is your proportion of the communal costs as determined in the annual budget mentioned above. Your proportion is calculated from the percentage of the total occupyable space that your particular piece of Spanish real estate contains. Garage and parking spaces come into this calculation also, as do any other bits and pieces that you might own, such as a private trastero - that famous junk room that we all seem to need more and more the longer we live in any property in Spain, or wherever! The Administrator will do this calculation using the official escrituras to give the exact percentages. This calculation is made public to the whole community. The Budget Presupuesto is the estimated costs for the coming year for the whole community. The money goes to pay a number of things. The next article, "The Nitty-Gritty of the Comunidad de Propietarios", will deal with this item in more detail. But generally we can say that the commonly owned real estate has to be lighted, maintained, and cleaned. Pools have to be looked after. Electric and water bills etc have to be paid. And the Administrator submits an invoice for his services too of course. There are always improvements in the pipeline, such as installation of a new general antenna for Digital TV, as a very recent example from my own community. Be careful to arrange the correct and prompt payment of la comunidad. The Ley de Propiedad Horizontal has fixed that this must be paid within a reasonably short period. Non-payment is taken to court very quickly and is treated as a priority case. If non payment continues, then the court can issue an embargo on your property against payment, and will add all sorts of costs on top! This means that you must make arrangements with your bank about payment of la comunidad if you plan to be absent from your Spanish property for any length of time. It also means that you would be ill-advised to withhold payment because you have an unresolved dispute with the community.
Re-election is fine, unless the internal rules do not permit it. This is often the case with the Community president, who is usually replaced each year. Administrators are almost always re-elected, unless they have done a really bad job or run off with the community bank account, etc. In the case of new-build Spanish real estate, there is a legal handing over procedure from the constructor / promotor, which includes the formation of a temporary Comunidad de Propietarios with a temporary Administrator. It is usually in your best interests to get onto this committee. It is also usually very easy to get elected to this initial Junta, because most people are bumbling around completely unsure of what they want, where they are going, what their new address is, etc. So, just nominate yourself for each post as it is mentioned until you are elected to one of them. This will give you a very important 'say' in the initial proposals for the Régimen Interno. You can protect your self interests, and veto some of the really stupid ideas that are often put forward. You can also ensure that information is produced in English (Or French, or German, etc) as well as Spanish as a matter of internal ruling. One stupid idea (in my humble opinion) I came across recently was an urbanisation where you have to drive on the left!!! Or perhaps you think this is not such a bad idea? Then get yourself onto the committee.
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