Buying a house or apartment in Andalucia often means that you become part of an officially organised Community of Owners (Comunidad de Propietarios). Find out from your lawyer when you are purchasing your property if there is a Community of Owners and how it is run. The upkeep and value of your property will depend largely on the efficiency of the Community of Owners.
New buildings will be the responsibility of the promoter or builder until they are all completed and sold. As an owner of a property in a collective group of houses or (urbanización) or in a block of flats, you will be 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. Older properties are part of and already on-going Community of Owners.
From the official owners each year, someone has to be elected as President. There are other official roles to be filled and there will be an Annual General Meeting each year, of which you will receive formal notice, in time for you to be able to attend.
The purpose of the Comunidad de Propietarios is to ensure safe upkeep and good maintenance of the urbanisation or block(s) of apartments for the benefit of all owners. There are laws and bylaws which pertain to the setting up, running and statutes of the Community.
Communities speaking your language
Since many British and other foreigners have become home owners in Spain and especially in Andalucia, a lot of English speaking people have become involved in these Communities. In some cases there are more English speaking owners than native Spanish. This has led to some modifications in the law concerning the running of such bodies. Pressure has come from the fact that most English speakers have little or no knowledge of the Spanish language. Whereas previously meetings were held in Spanish, with Spanish Minutes and sometimes with and English translation for information, a majority vote can now result in the meetings and minutes being in English (or another voted language).
In any case, if you buy in an area where there is already a high percentage of British and other English speaking home owners, you will probably have most information provided in English. As an owner, you obviously want to be well informed of problems or improvements and a Community News Letter is an excellent way to keep you in touch. This luxury does not usually come free. Although some members of the Community may volunteer to help, there are always printing, translating costs, etc. Since ultimately the Community has to abide by Spanish laws and any information for the authorities or legal matters for courts, will have to be presented in Spanish and results relayed back into English for information. The Community will have to foot the bill and you will pay your portion in your Community Fees.
Depending on your outlook and reasons for buying a property, you may revel in the idea of becoming part of a very Spanish Comunidad. If you have an interest in integrated into Andalucian life, this is a great opportunity to meet your Spanish neighbours and learn the language. The Spanish community meetings tend to be attended by few (unless there is a burning issue to be resolved) and the few who attend will no doubt do a lot of talking, giving you a wonderful chance to attune your ear to the wonderfully colourful Spanish spoken in the Andalucian accent!
If there is a Community of Owners (often referred to simply as La Comunidad) you will pay Community Fees (Gastos de Comunidad) that are charged quarterly, monthly or half yearly. The fees can include charges for such things as:
- Local street/building lighting and maintenance
- Local street sweeping - stairwell cleaning
- Painting and maintenance of exterior of buildings and common areas
- Building lift maintenance (where applicable)
- Security guard
- Security monitor and/or gates/doors
- Maintenance of common areas such as roofs in buildings, etc
- Legal advice on Community matters
- Cost of translating and interpreters for Community Meetings if necessary
- Printing / translating of News Letters if they are made available
- TV Community Aerials - installation and upkeep (for digital TV, etc)
- Private water supply (this only exists in some Communities only and is supplementary to the main municipal water supply)
The normal way to pay your Community Fees is by Standing Order from your Spanish bank account. It is worth noting that you must always be sure to leave funds in the account you elect for this payment (and probably for your electricity, water, etc.) to avoid problems of non payment. The Community will normally send out a list of anyone in arrears with their Community Fees to all owners, with the notice of the AGM. Failure to pay can lead to legal action being taken against you.
Town Hall Taxes
Although you pay the Community for a certain amount of upkeep in the immediate vicinity of your property, there are still fees to be paid to the Town Hall and other authorities for infrastructure. Some of these Town Hall charges include:
- Rubbish Collection
- Sewerage System
- Main Water Supply
- Town Hall property tax (Impuesto de Bienes Inmuebles -IBI)
It is advisable to have all these Town Hall charges paid through your bank account, as each one comes in at a particular time of year, when you may not be in Spain. Fines are normally levied for late payment and sometimes there is even a discount offered for early payment by Standing Order.
The Community should benefit the value of your property
In light of the fact that you also pay for these municipal services, you may think that the Comunidad de Propietarios is somewhat superfluous, but the Community usually works well to keep the standards high in and around the immediate vicinity of your Spanish property. This, in turn helps to maintain one of the most important factors for the future - the value of your home.