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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 ..... obtain a tourist 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 Paul. Do you have anybody who deals with tourist licences?”

“Sí, Pol, 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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How to ... get an UK Emergency Travel Document?
Thursday, November 18, 2021

Imagine the scenario: you are British and are due to travel shortly to another country, but have lost your passport, had it stolen or it has expired. What to do? This happened recently to "The Crazy Guy". Here he describes how he managed to still travel as planned…

Not having your passport for whatever reason is less of a problem for many other nationalities, as they have ID cards that are recognised for travel across borders, at least within the European Union.

If you are British, however, you don’t have this luxury a) because we don’t have ID cards (why not, by the way?) and b) because the UK is no longer a member state of the EU.

My UK passport expired on 7 October and I had a flight to Germany booked for 28 October. Although I had applied for a new passport, with just 5 days to go to departure, it had not arrived.

My only chance was to apply for an Emergency Travel Document (ETD) which would permit me to make one return journey.

I went online to the UK government website (www.gov.uk/emergency-travel-document) to discover that I only needed to allow two working days to acquire the said document. It was Saturday and I was due to fly on the following Thursday. Three working days! Blimey! Talk about cutting it fine!

I filled in the online form and uploaded my passport photo. This is all very straightforward, I thought, and then I got a message back informing me that my photo was not acceptable. What?! It was the same professionally taken one I had submitted for my full passport and THAT had been OK!

I decided to start the application again from scratch, so I completed the online form for a second time and re-submitted my photo.

After a tense wait, I got the response from the website: photo accepted. Phew!

I completed the process, paid the exorbitant fee of £100 (the ETD was only for one journey, after all!) and I was able to relax for the rest of the weekend.

Come Monday morning I rang the British Consulate in Malaga to check on progress. After navigating a series of menus I finally got to speak to a human being rather than a machine.

I was told my application had been approved and that I had been sent an email to that effect. I said that I had received no such email. The nice lady disappeared for five minutes while I got to listen to some MOR muzak.

Back on the line the nice lady apologised – they’d sent the email to someone else! Good job I rang then!

I arranged to collect my ETD on Wednesday morning.

At the Consulate in Malaga on said morning security was expecting me. I was on their list.

Once in the Consular offices another nice lady asked me about my upcoming travel plans before handing me my ETD, a rather surprising sky blue colour. I was good to go.

I have to say, apart from the kerfuffle over the “non-email” and the initial non-acceptance of my photo, the whole process was remarkably speedy and efficient. Personnel on the phone and face-to-face were extremely pleasant and courteous.

Postscript: My journey to Germany and back is now complete.

Interestingly, on the flight out, Ryanair would have accepted my TIE as ID at the gate. The border police at Karlsruhe Baden-Baden airport also.

On the return journey my TIE was accepted by ground staff at KB-B airport to board my flight and at Malaga airport there were no checks at all.

Could have saved myself £100, but I didn’t know that!



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HOW TO ... solve electricity problems. Does your system blow a fuse from time to time?
Wednesday, November 17, 2021

There are still houses in the villages of the Serranía de Ronda (and possibly throughout Spain also) with antiquated electrical systems or with out-of-date fuse boxes. This means that if too many appliances are on at the same time, fuses can blow.

The Crazy Guy has experienced this first hand. Here he explains what you need to do to rectify the problem.

Many householders, especially in the villages, are still having problems with their electricity supply. It’s even worse in the winter when houses consume more “luz” than in the summer. As soon as they switch on the TV or put the oven on, the power trips out.

Why does this happen? And what can be done about it?

In Spain each property has a contract for a certain amount of power (potencia) expressed in kilowatt hours (kWh), the lowest being 1.75 kWh. In the past if your usage exceeded the contracted amount, there was no problem – you were simply charged for the extra consumption.

However, since the more power you contract the higher the standing charge, the electricity companies realised they were losing out on revenue. So they decided to fit limiters to the domestic supply in order to restrict consumers to the amount of power contracted. The result? Fuses blew every time your consumprtion exceeded what you were paying for.

With a kettle rated at 2 kWh, electric radiators at 1.15 and a ceramic hob at 225 kWh per annum , not to mention fridge, washing machine, dishwasher, TVs, stereo, computers, etc., it’s not rocket science to realise that 1.75 is totally inadequate in the modern age.

So, what’s the solution? Contract more power. Easier said than done.

  1. You need a boletín to prove that your electrical system conforms to the latest standards. So an approved electrician has to inspect your installation. The boletín has to be sent to Málaga.
  2. You’ll need a new integrated plastic meter box in an outside wall with a metal door.
  3. When that’s done and you’ve had your boletín back, you need to make a new contract with a provider (eg. Endesa, Iberdola, EON. I am with Serranía Eléctrica in Ronda, because you can ring them and speak to somebody or you can attend their office without an appointment and deal with them face-to-face).
  4. Once this has all been cleared and approved, they will send an electrician to upgrade your supply if necessary and fit the appropriate limiter.

We know houses that still only have 1.75 contracted power. They’re going to have a problem once the limiter is fitted.

Our vivienda rural had 2.3 but we’ve upgraded to 5.75 to cover all eventualities. We didn’t want to have problems with blown fuses whenever guests plugged the kettle in!

The total bill for all this work is quite high: boletín, materials and labour. Our bill came to:

Builder                  50

Materials             150

Electrician             50

Boletín                100

Total                   350€

 

But at least we now have peace of mind - we know that our supply is safe, legal and adequate.



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