Just a little bit of info for those who have not yet paid their Community Fees
Community Fees – The Law
We know the law and how to apply it on your behalf
majority of property developments in Spain are subject to a legal requirement that the owner of the property, at the time of purchase, becomes a member of the Community of Owners – the Comunidad de Propietarios. You will have been advised by your solicitor if this applies to you.
The Legislation governing the Community of Owners is the Horizontal Property Act and its reforms in 1999. The act applies whether an individual is a resident in Spain or not.
One of the clauses in the legislation makes every owner jointly responsible for the common elements of a complex such as stairs, lifts, the water supply, drains, swimming pools, gardens and maintenance of general services. This responsibility comes in the form of a community fee. Put simply it is a legal requirement to contribute a set value to the community so that work can be undertaken on yours and the other owners behalf.
Communities are now suffering. None payment of the fees is leading to a shortage and funds and a decline in services. Sadly, owners are ignoring their legal responsibility. The consequences are grave.
The Horizontal Property Act art 9.1 states:
“An owner must pay their community fees according to their co-efficient share for the general maintenance and upkeep of their complex. Failure to do so may result in penalties being imposed and ultimately a forced sale of their property.”
Traditionally the legal collection of outstanding fees has taken place in the Spanish courts, a lengthy process. Our services are changing this by using EU Legislation to pursue debtors in their home courts making enforcement against UK assets far simpler.
The following questions provide an insight into the common questions we are being asked.
Q. How are my community fees calculated?
A. When you purchase a property you are notified of the properties entry in the Spanish Property Registry (Registro de la Propiedad). This provides the physical description of the property and the building that it is attached to. The information notifies you of the size of the property and what the common area share is. From this you are notified of the requirement to pay the community fee and this requirement is legally ratified in the purchase agreement. For an off-plan property the fee will not have been set as the running costs will not yet be known however, the rules of the community will be explained and approved on your behalf. For an established community you will be notified of the exact cost and frequency of payment.
Q. How are my community fees amended?
A. Your community is legally obliged to hold an AGM once a year. This is presided over by the President. The President will notice the meeting to all community members in advance. This notice will be served on community members at the address you provided to the community. A number of items are dealt with at the AGM including, for the purpose of this question, the approval of the community accounts and the setting of the budget for the following year. If the costs of running the community increase or, more commonly, the level of unpaid community fees increases, the President will propose an increase in the community fee to cover any deficit. If accepted by a majority vote the fees are increased and binding on all community members (subject to a legal challenge mentioned below).
Q. Can I object to the level of the community fee?
A. If you feel the decision voted by the majority of the community members is illegal, contrary to the statutes of the community, or seriously damages your own interests, you may ask the local court to have the decision annulled. You can also oblige the President to call an Extraordinary General Meeting. It is important to note that you may only contest the decisions taken at the meeting if your community payments are up to date. You can object to 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 to within 1 year. If you do nothing, you are bound by the decision reached.
Q. How am I notified of changes to the community fee?
A. Personal responsibility has to be taken. As stated above, you are notified of the existence of community statutes and community fees at the time of purchase. So far as community fees are concerned you have accepted at the time of purchase that you are legally obliged to pay them. You must therefore ensure your preferred contact details are in the hands of the President and/or Administrator. In any event, a letter is sent to your property address in Spain providing a copy of the minutes from the AGM. Again it is your responsibility to check the post at your address or arrange for someone else to do it for you. Ignorance is no defence.
Q. Am I obliged to notify my President or Administrator of my UK address?
A. No. The Horizontal Property Act, Section 9(1)(h) provides that service of any document on your property in Spain shall have full legal effect. You should however provide your address in the UK if that is where you require any notices relating to the community to be served. The responsibility is therefore yours to ensure you receive all documentation. You will of have made arrangements for the notice of utility bills. Community fees are no different.
Q. What will happen if I do not pay my community fees?
A. Firstly, you will not be allowed to vote on any matters relating to the community in the AGM, meaning you are bound to comply with decisions even if you do not agree with them. There are even more serious considerations though. If you are pursued through the Spanish courts the ultimate sanction is to have an embargo placed on your property and it ultimately sold. Clearly, if you have not provided any address other than your property in Spain it may be that you are unaware of the court proceedings and your property sold without your knowledge. Remember, service of documents on your property in Spain shall have full legal effect. Alternatively you can be pursued through your local county court in the UK. Judgment will then mean enforcement is available in the UK through any normal means including bankruptcy. It is essential that you pay your community fees as they fall due.
Q. I have received a letter about community fees what should I do?
A. Firstly, do not ignore it. That will only make matters worse. The letter has been sent to you on the instruction of your community President. It means the other owners have voted to take legal action against you for unpaid community fees. If you do nothing it will result in court action being taken against you. It is essential that you contact your Administrator or us to discuss matters in more detail.
Q. Why have I received a letter in the UK?
A. Your President can take action against you in Spain that will ultimately lead to the loss of your property. However, they are keen to keep good relations and for that reason they have decided to pursue you in the UK in the hope that a more satisfactory outcome can be found. Should you choose to ignore us, we will pursue you through the courts.
Q. Why have interest and costs been added to the amount I owe?
A. All outstanding debts attract interest, community fees are no different. Costs are added as the President has legitimately incurred these costs in chasing the debt. Both interest and costs are lawfully applied under relevant legislation. they become part of the debt and must be paid.
Q. What will happen if I do nothing and ignore the letter?
A. We will issue a European Order of Payment in your local County Court. You will then be sent the form by the court for your comment. You have options and these will be explained to you by the court. Even if you deny the amount is due we will continue to pursue through the county court until we have obtained judgement. We will then seek to enforce that judgement against UK assets, including your home. You should contact a solicitor if you are uncertain about the contents of any documents received.
Q. What can I do to stop the procedure mentioned above?
A. As stated above, contact us or your Administrator. You can pay the debt in full. We will then provide you with details of what future payments are due and when. We will also notify of the date of the next AGM so that you can become more involved in your community.
Q. What happens if I cannot pay the full amount?
A.Your community is being crippled by non-payment of community fees. It means they do not have funds at their disposal to maintain buildings so in effect your non-payment is causing the value of your property to drop. In order to avoid this situation continuing your President will be more than happy to look into a sensible instalment plan for the repayment of the debt. This will only be discussed if you make contact prior to the issue of any court papers.