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How to ..... ?

This blog is intended to be helpful to English-speaking foreign residents in Spain by explaining "How to ... " do certain things. "The Crazy Guy" has lived in Spain full time since 2008. A fluent Spanish-speaker he reckons he knows his way round the bureaucracy, the indifference and sometimes downright rudeness of "funcionarios".

HOW TO ….. buy a house in Spain?
Thursday, May 26, 2022

Most prospective purchasers go through estate agents, either online or directly in their offices. But there are other ways. The Crazy Guy has bought several properties in Spain over the last two decades. Here, he offers advice based on his experience.

I’ve bought five houses in Spain over the last twenty years and have sold three. As a result, I’ve gathered some know-how and learned from my mistakes. There are various ways to buy a house. Here are my ideas.

 

Estate agents (agencias inmobiliarias)

Buying via an estate agent is the normal way to purchase property, but it’s the most expensive for the vendor, who must pay a hefty commission (typically 5% or more) and possibly for the purchaser also, as vendors are less inclined to bargain. Some estate agents try to claim a finder’s fee from the buyers. I would always refuse point blank. The estate agent is working for the vendor not the buyer.

We bought our first property in Spain, in Ronda (Málaga), in 2001, via an estate agent, Unicasa (now gone bust).

Normally ultra-cautious at home in the UK, we agreed a deal to buy Piso Blanco within 30 minutes of viewing it (in our defence we had viewed umpteen properties in the preceding 12 months and knew straightaway that this small apartment in a comunidad with swimming pool in the up-and-coming Barrio San Francisco was perfect for our needs – a bolthole from our busy lives in England and also a potential holiday rental).

We did everything wrong. We didn’t get a survey, we used the estate agent’s recommended lawyer and opened an account at their recommended bank, Unicaja. All the advice said, don’t do any of those things. We did, however, and it was no problem - the lawyer was fine and we had an account with Unicaja for 20 years (until they got too big for their boots and started to mistreat their clients and I closed the account).

We got great value from Piso Blanco. Two or three family visits a year plus good lettings when we weren’t using it.

When I sold it after 18 years, I even made a small profit. No estate agents were involved – it was a private word-of-mouth deal.

We bought our second property two years later. I found the house myself and spoke to the vendor direct, but he insisted on using an estate agent– I don’t know why, because it will have cost him more, but it was his choice. That estate agency, Interrealty, also went bust.

This time we were a bit more streetwise. We found our own legal representative, a procurador, similar to a conveyancing solicitor. He was much cheaper and more diligent than many a lawyer.

We didn’t bother with a survey, as we could see with our own eyes that the place was falling down. I exaggerate slightly, but Casa Blanca needed a lot of work, which I mostly did myself over the next couple of years with help from friends and family. Take a bow Alan, Tom and Johnny, Amy and Jeryl.

I sold Casa Blanca after five years and made a decent profit. I used an estate agent, A & B Inmobiliaria in Ronda. The fee included the legal work. B has since retired, but A is now Emme Inmobiliaria.

The third house, bought by my then girlfriend Maud in 2004, was also via an estate agent, the aforementioned A & B Inmobiliaria. El Rincón was small, beautifully formed, but needed a lot of work, which I threw myself into enthusiastically. I was retired by then so had the time.

After my relationship with Maud ended, the house went up for sale. I sold it on Maud’s behalf by word of mouth. No estate agent involved. That was in 2010. We went to the notary on the same day that Frank Lampard’s spectacular goal for England against Germany in the World Cup in South Africa was inexplicably disallowed. (No VAR back then).

House number four is our current home. We spotted it on the website of Olvera Properties. We fell in love with Villa Indiana at first sight and soon agreed a deal with the English owners who were moving back to the UK. The estate agent, Thom, was excellent, very attentive to us as purchasers also. We chose not to use a lawyer (I felt confident after three previous property purchases that we did not need one. As it turned out, the vendor’s lawyer was also helpful to us for no charge).

 

Housefinders

There are companies that offer a house-finding service. In this case they are working for you, the prospective purchaser, so it’s right that they should collect a fee from you if they find you somewhere to buy. Their commission is similar to that charged to property vendors.

 

Corredores

Literally “runners”, these are local folk who have a portfolio of properties for sale, many of which are unknown to estate agents. The Spanish are very suspicious of estate agents (their reputation is on a par with lawyers, second-hand car salesmen and timeshare sellers) so local folk will not work with them. They are happy to work with corredores, however, and to pay them between two and three per cent of the sale price. The corredor will expect a similar amount from the buyers.

Despite this charge to the buyer, it usually works out cheaper through this system, as the vendor is more likely to lower his sale price because he is not using an expensive estate agent.

When we were looking for our first property back in 2000/2001, we were shown umpteen houses by corredores in Ronda, Arriate, Benaojan and Montejaque. Fascinating!

How do you find a corredor?

Simply go into the busiest bar in the town or village you have chosen and ask if there are any houses for sale. By the time you’re halfway down your first caña, there will be a local guy standing beside you, jangling keys from his belt and offering to show you a range of properties.

This system works on trust and a handshake.

I know several professional people who worked as corredores in their younger days, including my bank manager, Carlos, and two guiri hoteliers, Ian and Andy. The latter, recently retired from the hospitality industry, is still active, I believe. Another friend of mine, Pablo, does it too. He’s long retired and sees this as a way of topping up his pension.

 

Private sales

You see quite a lot of handwritten se vende signs on properties, with a phone number. If you speak Spanish or have a friend that does, give the number a call.

That’s how I found my fifth house.

I’d just viewed a house in Montejaque (Málaga) that I’d discovered by word-of-mouth when I spotted a sign on the house next door. “That’s Armando’s house,” said my companion.

“You mean Armando, mi amigo, del bar?”

I went straight to the bar, spoke to Armando who was about to close for the siesta, and he agreed to show me the house there and then. It was his family home, his parents were long deceased and the house was now owned by him and his three siblings who all live in the village.

Long story short, I bought the house, which I named Casa Real in their honour (their surname is Real).

A private sale, no lawyers involved, just the notary to legalise everything.

That’s the way to do it.

 

Word-of-mouth

This tends to happen by chance, although you can try to engineer a word-of-mouth situation by asking in a bar or at the tourist office. Or by talking to other foreigners already living in the town or village. Nowadays you can also use social media, eg Facebook or Twitter.

I remember back in 2001, when we were on a 'recce', my then wife, Jeryl, and I asked the landlord, Juan, in the now defunct Bar Alemán in Montejaque, if he knew of any houses for sale.

“Yes my mother’s.”

“Can we view it?”

“Sí. Next week?”

“No it has to be today. We fly home to England tomorrow.”

“Oh, that’s a bit tricky.”

“Why?”

“She doesn’t know yet that her house is for sale! I have to ask her if it’s OK”

Well, we got to see the house and liked it but took no decision at that point. However, when we returned a couple of months later, the house had been sold to a retired British couple, Philip and Sandra, who were later to become good friends of ours.

So, the clear message is: Strike while the iron’s hot!

No matter, later in the year we found Piso Blanco in Ronda, as referenced above.

***

So, dear reader, these are my recommendations. Most transactions still occur via estate agents, but the other methods are also worth considering.

Happy househunting!

 

Further reading:

My God, what have we done?

The Story of El Rincón

How We Found Our Dream Home

A Building Project Nears Completion

The Crazy Guy gets his house finished just in time

The Houses That Jack Built

Was It Something I said?

Cheque (sic) Your Spanish Bank Account



Like 3        Published at 5:08 PM   Comments (1)


HOW TO ..... reapply for all your cards, when you lose your wallet or have it stolen.
Wednesday, May 25, 2022

This is one of the nightmares of modern life. Your wallet is gone, you may have lost a significant sum of money, but the worst is having to block your bank and credit cards, order new ones and replace all those other important documents, like your ID card, driving licence, health card(s), railcard, store cards, etc.

The Crazy Guy has lost his wallet or had it stolen three times in Spain in the last dozen years, the last time this very week. During the same period his wife has been pickpocketed on two occasions. Here’s their story.

 

Wallet gone - five times

The first time my wallet went missing I had apparently dropped it one Sunday morning 12 years ago in the pouring rain in or outside Libreria Dumas, the newsagents in Ronda (Málaga).

I returned to the shop immediately. There was no sign of it in or out. Bugger!

I drove straight to the comisaría de policía nacional. When I announced to the duty sergeant that I’d lost my wallet he asked my name and immediately informed me it had been handed to a beat bobby 10 minutes previously and he was on his way back to the station with it.

Five minutes later I had my wallet again, fully intact with cash present. A passerby had found it on the street outside the newsagents and handed it in straightaway. I was impressed with the honesty.

I had been lucky.

My wife’s first loss was in the La Cañada shopping centre in Marbella. We informed the security guards at the centre, reported the theft to the police online and my wife cancelled her bank cards.

Amazingly, a week later, we got a call – the wallet had been found in a bin – minus the cash of course. But at least she didn´t have to reapply for new documents.

She had been to some extent lucky.

Four years later it happened again, this time on the pedestrian shopping street, Calle La Bola, in Ronda. We went to the policía nacional to do the denuncia. While we were doing so my wife’s purse was brought in, minus the cash of course. It too had been found in a rubbish bin.

Lucky once again that she didn’t have to reapply for her cards and documents.

In 2020 my wallet was stolen in a bar in Montejaque (Málaga). The villagers were so outraged that they started their own private investigation and found the culprit, an 18 year old druggie. His father handed my wallet in to the local hotel. No cash left, of course.

I contacted the mother of the culprit and made it clear that if I did not get the cash back within two days I would do a denuncia to the guardia civil. I got the cash.

I had been fortunate that the village had rallied round and helped to solve the crime.

This week, however, my luck appears to have run out. My wallet went missing after a family party in Germany on Sunday. I spent Monday retracing my steps, but no sign of my wallet.

After a dozen phone calls that night and yesterday I’d cancelled everything and ordered new, with a couple of exceptions.

 

How to do it?

First priority was to check my bank accounts online. Phew! No suspicious activity. But I cancelled all my cards anyway and ordered new ones.

With my UK bank I was able to do that in a few seconds online. In theory that should have been possible with my two Spanish banks, but their apps decided not to play ball, so I rang their 24 hour emergency lines and dealt with it quite quickly.

Point to note: Don’t ring customer service. With CaixaBank I waited 25 minutes unanswered until I gave up and rang the 24 hour line. I was answered immediately. With BancSabadell it was just as quick.

With luck, my new cards will be waiting for me in my buzón when we get back.

***

A replacement driving licence is trickier. You have to pay the tasa of 20.81€ first. Tricky, nay impossible, when you are abroad. You can apparently pay on line, but with no bank card ….. how?

My senior citizen’s card was tricky too; the website function was down and the free telephone number does not work from outside Spain. Oh, well, that’s not so urgent.

To order a replacement EHIC (tarjet sanitaria europea) proved troublesome also. After 22 minutes waiting in a telephone queue listening to atrocious muzak, I eventually got to speak to somebody. We’ll see how quickly they manage to sort that out.

For my tarjeta sanitaria (Spanish Health Card) I rang my local health centre and ordered a replacement in seconds over the phone.

For my private health care card, it was similar. I rang them, they answered straightaway and my card is already in the post.

My replacement press card was dealt with quickly via email and I discovred that Amigos de Paradores no longer issue plastic cards. It’s all done online. At least my accumulated 288 points are intact.

That just leaves my store cards and loyalty cards. I’ll sort those out when I next visit Bauhaus, IKEA, Leroy Merlin, MAKRO, Springfield and the AVIA petrol station.

 

Final word of advice:

DON’T LOSE YOUR WALLET!



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HOW TO ….. get your house warm?
Tuesday, March 29, 2022

When The Crazy Guy was nearing completion of the reforma of an old house in a mountain village 690 metres above sea level, he realised how cold it was in the house, so what to do?

I bought an old village house in Montejaque (Malaga) in October 2020. 12 months later it was ready for a trial rental. Good friends from the UK tested the house and gave very useful feedback.

In February and March 2022, friends from Germany stayed in the house free of charge in exchange for their labour, mainly joinery jobs.

However, this period of time coincided with the coldest start to a year for a long while in this part of Andalucía and they were cold in this draughty house dating from the 19th century. All they had for heating was a gas fire in the living area and electric radiators in the bedrooms.

So, what did I do?

Firstly I installed a pellet stove in the living area. We took the flue up through the ceiling and through one of the bedrooms, before exiting at eaves level.

Secondly I ordered new double glazed windows with built-in shutters for the front of the house, and a new entrance door.

Thirdly I installed a wall heater in each of the bathrooms.

What a difference!

The downstairs (open plan lounge, dining room and kitchen) is now as warm as toast.

The second bedroom is nicely warmed by the stove pipe passing through it.

It is no longer an ordeal to go to the loo or take a bath or shower.

The main bedroom is easily kept warm with the existing electric radiator.

The thick stone walls of the house ensure that the heat stays in.

And in the summer, these same walls will ensure that the heat stays out.

What a great result!



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HOW TO ..... import a foreign vehicle to Spain and re-register it onto Spanish number plates
Saturday, March 19, 2022

The Crazy Guy recently completed the process of importing a UK vehicle to Spain and re-registering it onto Spanish number plates. He found it extremely straightforward.

When I decided to buy a UK vehicle here in Spain, I knew I needed to re-register it as soon as possible. I asked some friends who’d already done this and they referred me to companies on the coast that do it for you for a pretty hefty fee.

I decided that I probably didn’t need to waste money I didn’t have so I decided to do it myself with the help of a gestor.

Irene, the gestora, told me what I needed to do and how much each stage of the process would cost. Once I’d completed the process, I just needed to bring all the paperwork in and she would deal with tráfico in Málaga. All for a fee of just 80 euros!

This is what I had to do:

Get an independent engineer’s report (una ficha técnica reducida). She gave me the phone number of a local engineer, Natale, and told me it would cost 110€. It cost…110€.

I had to get the headlights changed, as it is a right-hand-drive vehicle. My neighbour Antonio, a car mechanic, did that for 380€.

Next, I had to go to the ITV station to request an inspección técnica de vehículos, like a super strict MOT. A few days later I was contacted with an appointment. They did the test. It passed. 150€.

I returned to Irene, my gestora, and gave her all the paperwork. A week later I was contacted to be told everything was in order with tráfico in Málaga. I just needed to pop into the office to pay some tax and the gestora’s fee.

A few days later I was summoned again to collect my new placas, number plates. Bob’s your uncle! My car was now Spanish and legal.

Here’s my final bill:

  • Ficha técnica reducida €110
  • Change of headlights €380
  • ITV €150
  • Import tax €600
  • Gestora fee €80

TOTAL €1,320

Please note:

My vehicle was imported to Spain before the UK left the EU. From 1 January 2021 onwards, you have to pay import duty on top.



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HOW TO ….. Dodge the Tax Man (or not): Catastral Values and Tax in Spain
Monday, March 7, 2022

It used to be standard practice when buying and selling property in Spain to under-declare the value in the escritura (deed), in order to avoid tax. Everybody was complicit, vendor and purchaser obviously, but also estate agents, lawyers and even notaries turned a blind eye. In recent years the authorities have tried to clamp down, however. The Crazy Guy who has transacted a few houses in Spain in his time, has had a look at the current situation.

The practice of under-declaring a property’s value to avoid taxes has to some extent disappeared. Once upon a time everybody was at it and it seemed to be condoned. All part of the long-accepted tradition of low-level corruption in Spain.

In the last few years things have tightened up, however. Most estate agents and lawyers are no longer prepared to get involved, as fines can be heavy.

Every property has a valor catastral, a value for tax purposes. This may have nothing whatsoever to do with the real value, as valuations in many areas are well out of date, and certainly does not relate to market value, although, as house prices have dropped markedly since la crisis (the 2008 recession, not the Covid-19 one!) they can be uncannily accurate.

To counteract the fact that valuations are out of date each town/village has a coefficient by which the valor catastral is multiplied to arrive at a more accurate valuation for tax purposes. Hacienda use this to try and prevent loss of revenue through under-declaring the price when properties change hands.

So, for example, I used to have an apartment in Ronda (Málaga) with a valor catastral of just over 17,300€. The coefficient for Ronda is a massive 4.2 because property values have not been re-assessed since 1998. That makes the valuation of my apartment for tax purposes 72,660€. In the mid-80s, ie before the worldwide recession in 2008, the market value was much higher, at around 120,000€. So the system is by no means perfect, because if we had sold the flat then, we could have under-declared massively and presumably got away with it! I eventually sold it three years ago for about 10,000€ more than the valor catastral. Got my timing wrong there, didn’t I?

In nearby Montejaque, also Málaga, the situation is very different. Here the coefficient is just 1.8 because properties were re-valued as recently as 2007. A friend of ours owns a house there with a valor catastral of nearly 92,800€ which makes its value for tax purposes 167,040€. Its market value is probably around 150,000€ in the current economic climate, so, if she were to sell the house at that price, she’d pay more tax than she should!

If the authorities think you’ve under-declared to avoid paying tax, you could be in for a shock. You could be hit by a big tax bill for the shortfall and a fine to boot. So, you have been warned!

 



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HOW TO ….. get enchufado?
Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Being enchufado oils the wheels if you live in Spain. If you want to keep abreast of what's going on, if you need to get things done with the minimum of stress and if you want to generally feel good about life here, you need to get “plugged in”.

Enchufado literally means “plugged in”. It´s similar to being a member of the Old Boys´ Network or being a Mason, except you don´t have to have attended a public school or have a funny handshake.

 

How to get enchufado

1. Put yourself about by going to local bars or cafés regularly and getting to know the owners and the staff.

Go for early morning coffee and chat to the locals. Check out my article on this subject. The link is at the end of this article.

Find out who the influencers are in your town, village or locality and try to befriend them.

 

2. Introduce yourself to the local mayor/mayoress and other local politicians. I know the alcadesa de Ronda, María de la Paz Fernández, whom I met back in 2011 when we were campaigning against the proposed high speed rail line through the valley where we live.

I know the alcalde de Montejaque, Diego Sánchez Sánchez, very well, as a result of my various inputs into the village, in terms of tourism, writing for the village magazine, organising activities and general promotion of the village.

I also know the alcaldesas of Benaojan, Fuente de la Higuera and La Indiana. The alcaldesa de Fuente de la Higuera, Alicia López, is also the president of the Asociación de Vecinos and a near neighbour. Not only that she is the Ronda councillor responsible for Culture.

 

3. Join your local neighbourhood association, Asociación de Vecinos, if there is one. The week we moved to Fuente de la Higuera in 2011, our new neighbours urged us to attend the AGM of the local asociación later that week. It was the quickest way to meet the 50 or so locals who live in that pedanía.

 

4. Get to know the local police. Easier said than done with three forces to contend with and tricky in a large town like Ronda.

However, in a small village such as Montejaque (pop. ca. 900), it´s quite straightforward, although the outcome might not be what you wanted. In a small village you only come across the policía local and the guardia civil, because they are part of the community.

I know two municipales (policia local) very well. They fined me three times in 2021 for parking offences! That amounted to 400€ towards the Police Christmas Ball! Not what was planned!

On the other hand I know a few of the local guardia civil officers based in next-door village Benaoján, as I´ve had to go there a few times regarding registration for tourism lets and a couple of denuncias.

I find them respectful and pleasant.

 

5. Get to know the editors of local publications. You never know when they might come in useful.

I know the former editor of SUR in English, Liz Parry, the current incumbent, Rachel Haynes, and the new Deputy Editor, Karl Smallman.  

I worked for a time some years ago for the editor and proprietor of The Olive Press, Jon Clarke. I know him very well!

I´ve known Juan de Castro, editor of El Hacho magazine (Montejaque) for many years.

 

6. Similarly, get to know people in local radio and TV. I´m still working on this, but I have made good contacts at Charry TV.

 

7. Make yourself known at the local notaries. You never know when you might need them or they might need you. There are two in Ronda: Isabel Colomina Ribas and Gloria Maria Ramos Lizana. I know doña Isabel and doña Gloria and members of their staff well.

 

8. Do simple things like be friendly, greet people on the street and in shops and bars, and above all SMILE.

 

9. And finally, and perhaps most important of all, if you don´t have Spanish, make an effort to learn some.

There are free courses paid for by the Junta de Andalucía or the Diputación de Málaga or your local town hall. There are, for example, courses in Ronda and Montejaque, and, no doubt, in other municipios.

There are also a number of commercial language schools.

***

Getting enchufado brings lots of benefits. Some might say it´s unfair on those who aren't, but, hey, when in Rome …..

Good luck!

 

Further reading:

Early Morning Coffee

Nota(ry) bene

Being on the box

Police Check

Spain's Three Police Forces Explained and Who Does What

Top 10 tips for learning Spanish



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HOW TO ..... obtain a tourist property rental licence ?
Tuesday, November 30, 2021

In order to rent a property to tourists, you need a licence for that property. Failure to comply can be costly. And the authorities are on the lookout for houses being let without having this licence. And most online rental sites, like booking.com, Airbnb, Tuifly, etc. will not list your villa, house or apartment without your tourist licence number.

The Crazy Guy has two properties to rent and went online to find out how to apply for this licence. Well, that’s when the problems started!

 

Making the application

I rang the man who had sorted out the vivienda rural licence for my wife’s rental property, Casa Rita, 10 years ago. Alfredo doesn’t do that anymore, but he gave me the number of a man who can, he said. By the name of Oscar.

Oscar doesn’t do it either, but he told me it was really easy to do it yourself online.

So I went online to the appropriate website, read the information and started filling in the form which I deemed to be the correct one. I then needed a digital certificate to proceed.

With the help of Paco at Guadalinfo I applied for a digital certificate.

Well, I’m sorted, I thought. Not so.

At home, I went back online and tried to use my digital certificate. Nothing seemed to work. Why does one have to do everything online these days? What’s wrong with going to see somebody?

I asked friends who also have rental properties. One English lady said it was a doddle to do yourself. Not for me. Others recommended going to a gestor, who would do it for 150€ in one case, 200€ in another. Per property! Blimey! That’s a bit steep, I thought.

I decided to ring my Gestoría where they have different experts for different things. Daniel does my tax return every year for 50€, Ana Rosa does autónomo for the same price and Irene does anything to do with vehicles for 60€, eg she helped me import a vehicle from the UK and switch it to Spanish number plates and she changed the title on my wife’s recent car purchase. In no case did we have to travel all the way to Tráfico in Málaga City – she did that as part of her fee.

“Hola, soy The Crazy Guy. Do you have anybody who deals with tourist licences?”

“Sí, Crazy Guy, Rafael.”

I went to see Rafael, told him what I wanted and asked how much he charged. 30€ per house. A bargain compared with the other two gestores I’d been told about.

“When can we start?”

Rafael made me an appointment at Urbanismo in the Town Hall in Ronda to check whether my Ronda  property was eligible for rentals and two days later I was sitting with him, armed with my escrituras and ID, while he filled in the online forms.

One property is classed as urban and, according to my new best friend, should be processed quickly. The other is rural and may take longer. Both properties will be inspected before a full licence is granted.

So, all my fretting and frustration with “online” was unnecessary. I should have simply gone to Gestoría Jiménez in the first place.

But, remember, it pays to shop around.

 

Factfile

Recommended holiday lets in 2022:

Casa Real , Montejaque – traditional village house, sleeps 4 adults . Available April to October.

Casa Rita, Montejaque – traditional village house with hot tub, sleeps 4 adults. Available April, May, September, October.

Villa Indiana, nr. Ronda – villa with private pool and large gardens, sleeps 4 adults and up to 2 children. Available June, July, August.

 

Annex

In order to be granted a Tourist Licence, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • All rooms must have direct ventilation to the exterior or to inside patios and a system of darkening the windows (either blinds or shutters)
  • The property must be adequately furnished and equipped with the appliances, fixtures and fittings required for immediate use and according to the number of beds offered
  • First aid kit available in the property
  • Smoke and CO alarms
  • All guests should be provided with tourist information about the location, leisure areas, restaurants, grocery stores, closest parking facilities, medical services, transportation, as well as maps of the city and entertainment guides.
  • All guests should be provided with contact details of the owner or operator for any incidents
  • All guests should have at their disposal clear information and instructions on the usage of appliances and installations, as well as internal regulations and restrictions if any 
  • Availability of Claims and Complaints forms and a clearly positioned sign informing guests of their availablity 
  • Cleaning service on arrival and departure of each new guest. 
  • Linen, towels and household articles in proportion to the offered accommodation capacity, as well as a replacement set

Once you and your property comply with the above list and you have the required documents on hand you need to register for your Holiday Rental License by submitting the Responsible Declaration “Declaracion Responsable” in front of the Tourist Board of Andalusia.

In this document you declare that you fulfil all above requirements and will be able to prove it during the inspection when it takes place. Now the Declaration is submitted you get your provisional (if submitted in paper form) or final (if submitted online with a digital certificate) Registry number which is the same as your Tourist License Number and you can legally start the activity of tourist rentals. Don’t forget to include the above Tourist License number in any advertisement of your property.

 

This however is not all…

Once you have obtained your Tourist License you also need to register your property with the Policía Local or Guardia Civil to fulfil your obligatory requirement of passing on ID details of each guest over 16 years of age.

This can be done online once the property has been duly registered with the Police.

Furthermore, a rental contract, even in its very simple form, needs to be signed with every guest and kept on file for the period of at least one year along with their ID details.  

For houses in the countryside or in towns with less than 20.000 inhabitants, there is another license: VTAR (Vivienda de Turismo de Alojamiento Rural). It´s almost the same and the inspectors use the same checklist as mentioned above. For the VTAR license, however, there are some important differences. 

  • Air-con: Air-conditioning is NOT an official requirement
  • LPO: Because of the legal status of houses in the countryside in practice the License of First Occupation isn´t checked by most inspectors. However, you can expect that in time the DAFO certificate will be the standard for the VTAR license. Unfortunately of course no-one can predict yet if this would also apply for licenses that already have been granted. 
  • Maximum 3 months: With the VTAR license you are only allowed to rent out for a maximum of 3 months (90 days) in total per year.
  • Vivienda Rural sign: You are obliged to have a standard entrance sign which says Vivienda Rural, your registration number, the official name of the house and the logo of the Junta de Andalucía. 

Just as with the normal RTA license, because you aren´t a company you can´t offer extra services like serving breakfast.



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HOW TO ..... save money on your electricity bill?
Saturday, November 27, 2021

The Spanish government introduced nationwide changes to electricity charging and billing on 1 June 2021. These changes have to be applied by all electricity suppliers. There is a view among the public that this is a price hike. In fact there have been street demonstrations protesting against the changes.

However, this is not necessarily the case, says The Crazy Guy. There really is an opportunity to save money on our bills, so that we end up paying less than we used to.

Since 1 June new regulations and new pricing will be applied to our electricity consumption. The main change is to tariffs. From now on there are three tariffs, peak (punta), standard (llano) and off-peak (valle).

Three energy periods

The new 2.0 TD tariff will have three different time periods for consumption, split over six time bands in which the cost of electricity will be different throughout the day. The schedule for new billing periods depends on the day of the week, the month, and the geographical area.

Billing periods from Monday to Friday in the peninsula, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands:

  • VALLE: It is the cheapest period and includes the night-time hours with lower electricity consumption, from 00:00 am to 8:00 am AND AT WEEKENDS AND ON BANK HOLIDAYS.
  • PUNTA: It is the most expensive period and is from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm and from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
  • LLANO: This period has an intermediate price and is from 8:00 am to 10:00 am, 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm and from 10:00 pm to 12:00 am

If we re-organise our consumption, so that we use as much off-peak power as possible, we can all save money. 130€ per year per household on average, according to the National Markets and Consumption Commission (CNMC). 200-300€ per year if you can avoid “simultaneous consumption”, ie more than one device running at the same time. Not sure why this should be the case, but, hey, I’m just a blogger …..

Obvious things to change include:

  • using off-peak power for washing machines, driers and dishwashers.
  • If you have a pool, let the pump run in the early hours.
  • If you have a watering system for the garden, why not run it in the early hours?
  • Other tips to save energy consumption include reducing the temperature setting on your fridge to 5ᵒC (what? – ours is set to 3ᵒC, which is more than adequate, even in summer!)
  • An iron uses lots of power. If you do your ironing before 8.00 am you could save 36€ a year.
  • Reduce the thermostat on your central heating to 20 in winter and 25 in summer.
  • Use the ECO setting on appliances like dishwashers, washing machines and tumble driers.
  • Watch less TV. Televisions are notoriously expensive to run, so having yours on in the background with nobody really watching it is costing you big-style.
  • Leaving devices and appliances on standby also consumes electricity. Unplug every time.

Making adjustments

We’ve already made changes in our house.

Our pool pump now runs in the early morning, the irrigation system too.

We’ve started putting the washing machine on when we go to bed. The dishwasher also. We don’t do much ironing, but it will now get done before 8.00 am.

Our freezer is already set to -18ᵒC and our fridges to 3ᵒC, way below the recommended 5ᵒC.

Recommended suppliers

We were ripped off by ENDESA for 10 years. I understand that IBERDOLA did the same to many of its customers. Based on our own experience and that of friends (real ones as well as the Facebook variety), we recommend the following suppliers:

Eléctrica Serranía de Ronda

Nordic Energy

 

 



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HOW TO ….. save on bank charges?
Saturday, November 20, 2021

Cheque (sic) your Spanish bank account

Banks are lobbing charges on current accounts without warning customers. Some customers now pay 240 euros a year just to have an account. The Crazy Guy investigates.

The biggest high-street names in Spain have tightened their special conditions for clients who want free banking.

Some banks are charging their customers up to 240 euros a year - in other words 20 euros a month - just for having an account with them. The commissions for the most basic financial services keep going up and the conditions demanded by some banks to exempt their clients from these charges are increasingly severe.

This is the way the banking sector has decided to increase its own income in a scenario of negative interest rates.

In the first six months of this year all the big banks increased their earnings from commissions, as they themselves reveal in their results. The five biggest banks in the country alone earned more than 10 billion euros just through charges and commissions.

In the case of Málaga-based Unicaja Banco (which is the fifth biggest in the country after its merger with Liberbank), between January and June this year it earned 10.6 per cent more from commissions than in the same period last year.

This increased income from commissions is not coincidental, but the result of an active policy of charging more and imposing conditions which are difficult to meet.

There is a double objective to this policy: they want to encourage more of their most loyal customers to contract financial products such as insurance, pension plans and investment funds, and they want to earn more from customers who merely have an account with them.

 

Numerous complaints

This strategy of increasing commissions and making it harder for clients to be exempt from them has resulted in increased conflict between the banks and consumers.

According to Banco de Espana, the number of complaints from customers about current accounts rose last year by nearly 50 per cent to 4,153. Most of the complaints were about the higher charges, where the number almost doubled, to 2,134. Complaints about bank commissions now account for ten per cent of the total.

Let’s look at some examples of what banks are now charging:

 

 

At the end of last year the leading Spanish bank, Santander, began to charge 240 euros a year instead of 144 (in other words, 66.7 per cent more), just for maintaining its One account. That charge applies to clients who do not fulfil the requirements for exemption: having a salary or pension of at least 600 euros a month paid into their account, three direct debits every three months and paying with a card six times in three months. If a client does not fulfil any of those three requirements, they will pay 240 euros a year. If they only fulfil the first one, they will pay 120 euros and if they fulfil the first one and one of the others they won't pay any account maintenance charges at all.

 

 

 

CaixaBank is the other bank at the top of the list of maintenance charges for account holders. Since October 2020 it has been charging 240 euros a year. If customers don't want to pay charges, they have to fulfil several requirements: pay a salary of at least 600 euros a month or a pension of 300 euros directly into their account, or have more than 20,000 euros in investment funds, savings or pension plans, as well as paying three bills through the account or making three purchases with their card every quarter. If they only have their salary or pension paid in the bank charges 60 euros a year.

 

 

In June2021 BBVA also tightened its conditions for those who want to avoid maintenance charges. The group announced that it would be charging 160 euros a year for clients who did not meet its conditions, justifying the decision by blaming "the economic situation following the health crisis, and the evolution of the financial markets".

To avoid paying commissions customers have to fulfil three criteria: income paid in (salary of more than 800 euros, pension or benefit of more than 300 euros, or periodic credits of more than 800 euros a month); payments through the account (five bills in four months or seven credit card purchases in four months) and products (loan, mortgage, insurance, investment funds, savings plans or insured incomes, or three payments of 200 euros by card in four months).

 

 

BancSabadell, and its subsidiary Solbank, in the meantime, increased its commissions for account maintenance twice last year, the first to 60 euros a year and the second to 120.

To avoid having to pay these, clients have to take out some type of insurance or loan or have at least 10,000 euros in investment funds with the bank, as well as having income of at least 700 euros a month paid directly into their account.

 

 

In March, Unicaja Banco told its customers that charges were going up for those who did not fulfil the requirements of its Zero Commission Plan: a salary, pension or unemployment payment of 600 euros or more paid directly into the account, or regular credits of at least 7,200 euros a year; pay at least 1,200 euros a year by credit card or a minimum of two operations a month; and have an insurance policy through the bank, or have a minimum balance of 6,000 euros in the account or in other products (investment funds, pension plans or savings).

Only those who fulfil all these requirements will be exempt from commissions. Those who only fulfil some of them will pay 60 euros a year and those who don't fulfil any of them will have to pay 120 euros.

 

Credit and Debit Cards

In addition to the cost involved in having a simple bank account there is commission for other basic services such as a debit card. Most banks have stopped offering these free of charge, unless the client fulfils the conditions listed above.

***

On a personal level I have accounts at two banks. My main account is at BancSabadell, where I fulfill their requirements and have free banking, including my credit and debit cards.

I have also had an account with Unicaja for over 20 years. They have just started to charge me 10 euros a month, ie 120 euros a year, despite always having had free banking up to now.

I don’t fulfill one of their requirements and they are not prepared to be flexible and make an exception, so I have closed the account and switched to CaixaBank, whose requirements are less strict than the other big banks.

I would have thought that Unicaja would have appreciated my loyalty for over two decades, and accommodated me, but no, so “¡ADIÓS Unicaja!”.

 

With acknowledgements to SUR IN ENGLISH

 



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HOW TO ..... pay less tax in Spain?
Friday, November 19, 2021

If you act fast you can save a lot of money before the end of the year. The implementation of some basic tips will help you cut your personal income tax for the next income tax declaration in 2022.

The Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU) reminds us that we still have time to reduce our personal income tax bill for the next tax declaration in 2022. If you want to pay fewer taxes, the OCU encourages us to implement a series of guidelines before 31 December 2021.

“At OCU we want to help you by reminding you of our 10 tax tricks, tips that, always within the law, will allow you to reduce your liability to the Spanish Inland Revenue (Agencia Tributaria or Hacienda).”

1. Take advantage of regional deductions
Did you know that it is possible that you can offset your children’s daycare, educational expenses, public transport travel ticket, domestic help, the installation of water or energy-saving devices, rent, etc.? To confirm this, the OCU advises as a first step to clarify first of all the tax deductions to which you are entitled, which vary depending on each autonomous community, and put them into practice.

2. Communicate changes in your family circumstances
Inform your employer of any change in your family situation: if a child is born, if you divorce, if there is a disability … The amount of personal income tax you are liable for depends, among other things, on family circumstances.

3. Exchange salary in cash for salary in kind
Obtaining part of your salary as wages in kind is a good way to save taxes: some benefits such as health insurance for the employee, his spouse and his children; food vouchers; season tickets, are exempt from income tax.

4. Review your expenses like a professional
If you pay trades union subscriptions, professional college fees or if you have had a labour lawsuit and have paid fees to the lawyer and attorney, those expenses may be deducted from your overall income.

5. Make donations
Donations may be deducted, and if you always make them to the same entities, more so. If you make donations to NGOs, foundations and non-profit organisations, you may deduct 80% on the first 150 euros, and 35% on what exceeds that amount (that percentage rises to 40% if it is the third year of you donating to the same entity and each donation has been equal to or greater than the previous one). So, it is time, then, to start supporting a charity.

6. Pay off your mortgage
If you have the right to take advantage of the tax deduction for the purchase of a habitual residence, you should pay off your mortgage before the end of the year, according to the OCU. “If you bought your house before 2013, 15% of what you paid to buy the house is deducted, up to a maximum of 9,040 euros, or 18,080 if you pay it with your spouse and you declare separately. It is worthwhile to pay off your mortgage in advance up to an amount that reaches that limit and thus take full advantage of the deduction,” they argue.

7. Wait until you turn 65 to sell your house
If you are close to reaching 65 and you are considering selling your habitual home, it makes sense to wait until you turn 65, because any profit you make from the sale will be tax-free.

8. If you are a landlord, take advantage
If you are the owner of a rental property, you can deduct from your rental income expenses such as: IBI, advertisements, agency, insurance, community … and also repair and maintenance expenses and the interest on loans for the purchase or improvement of the property (up to a certain limit).

9. Save on pension plan
Contributions of up to 8,000 euros to a pension plan cut the personal income tax bill, but be careful: it is very important to choose a good plan, otherwise the expenses and low profitability can turn it into a bad investment.

10. Compensation for profit and loss
If you are an investor, if you have assets to sell … remember that profits outweigh losses (and vice versa). Act accordingly.

And remember…
It is important to keep all supporting documents for deductible expenses (receipts for payments, courses, donations, etc) in order to avoid possible problems.

 

Acknowledgments to the Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU)



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