Properties located in a development, popularly known as “urbanisations” in Spain; usually share communal facilities such as gardens, and services such as those of a maintenance person. All new urbanisations are the responsibility of the promoter or builder until they are all completed and sold. The responsibility is then handed to the comunidad de propietarios (the community of property owners) which you automatically join when you buy your property in Spain. Spanish law gives legal status to this community so that it can regulate the joint ownership of common property e.g. gardens, pools etc
Once you have completed on your property, you are notified and invited to attend a meeting to formally hand over the responsibility of general upkeep of the collective properties to a newly formed community of owners. Amongst the owners, someone must be elected as President and another as Vice President. An administrator is also elected, although for the first year it is normal practice to use the administrator put in place by the developer. The administrator and the committee members sort out the day to-day business of the community and call meetings when matters arise. The committee is annually elected. They hold yearly meetings during which a budget is approved by the Owners covering the expenses for the year. This budget is then divided between owners depending on the percentage contribution for each property as set out in the title deeds.
In some urbanisations where there are a mixture of houses and apartments, the apartment owners tend to pay a higher community fee than the house owners. In the urbanisation where we live owners of a two bedroom first floor apartment pay 170 euros per quarter, whereas the owners of a three-bed roomed town house pay just 55 euros per quarter. This is surprising, but you must consider that the area around apartments incur more expenses e.g. stairwell cleaning and lighting, lift maintenance, garage cleaning and maintenance etc. There are numerous factors which determine the cost of community fees including:
- The number of apartments that share a block.
- The more there are, the more there are to share the cost
- The position. The higher you go the more you pay and you may also be charged more for enjoying a view!
- The total number of properties in an urbanisation. The size of a development (total area).
In some rather unfair cases where a development consists of many phases, owners of completed phases may be expected to temporarily subsidise the community fees of the uncompleted phases. This is because the green areas, the pools etc which are intended for the entire use of the development still need to be maintained. We heard of a case in Marbella, where the owners of the completed phase are paying one thousand euros per month community charges. The construction of the other phases hasn’t yet started so it is likely that they will continue to pay this for the next few years! Seems very unfair really.
The percentage of the budget that each property pays is set in the Title Deeds (escritura) as this is determined by the developer. The Community fees are normally paid quarterly or half-yearly depending on the Community. Expenses vary according to services required and include salaries and social security for those employed by the community (gardeners, pool attendants, hall porters etc), repairs, electricity for the lighting of common areas, administration fees.
Every owner must pay their community fees on the date set by the members at the Annual General Meeting. 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.
The Town Hall will also make a charge for the Rubbish collection (Basura) from your property or development. This can be charged annually or quarterly depending on the Municipality in which you are purchasing the property. In certain cases, this may be included in your community fees.
In certain municipalities, there is an annual charge for the Recycling Tax (Tratamiento de Residuos). This covers the recycling of waste from the numerous glass, paper, and battery banks that are distributed throughout the area. Again in some cases, this may be included within the Community fee.
Most properties have electricity and water meters and you will be charged according to the amount of each consumed. Some communities will only have one meter for the whole development and therefore include the water in the Community Fees.
So before you purchase your off-plan property it may be an idea to enquire about the expected community fees. Most people don’t get to know about this until it’s too late….don’t get caught out, you’ve no excuses now!