Understanding embargoes in SpainSpanish Law Wed, 8 Jan 2014
The use of the word ‘embargo’ in Spain is a lot more widespread than it is in many other countries. Whereas it’s often associated with a ban on trade between different countries, in Spain it can refer to an action taken against your property or Spanish bank account.
If you have an embargo on your Spanish bank account, then what it means in practice is that your account will be frozen without your permission. Again, a concept that is unusual for those coming from many other countries. Who would do such a thing?
Why you might have an embargo
An embargo might be placed on your Spanish bank account when you have an outstanding debt. It could be a missed mortgage repayment, a loan you’ve defaulted on, non-resident taxes or IBI property tax in Spain that remain unpaid.
It comes either in the form of a court order or from a government public administration office in Spain, such as the tax office (Agencia Tributaria). A private individual or a company can take an outstanding debt to court. Whilst a decision is made about how the debt will be settled, the judge will freeze your account. In the case of a Spanish government department, there is no need to go to court. Your account can be frozen and you may not even realise that you owe any money!
The debt might be settled by money being taken out of your bank account in Spain directly. If there is insufficient money there to cover the debt, then assets can be seized, including property, pensions or even jewellery.
What you can do
It sounds harsh, and it is. Even more so when you consider that if your account is frozen your bills in Spain will not be paid. This can lead to services being disconnected with all the additional costs and inconvenience that can cause.
If you should be in the unhappy situation of your account being embargoed your first action is to identify why. On the embargo itself there should be a reference number and an indication of which department has placed the embargo.
You should then contact this department to find out what the embargo is for. You will then have opportunity to agree a method of clearing the debt enabling your account to function once again as normally.
Of course, if you make it your business to ensure that your bills are paid and taxes are up-to-date in the first place then it is much less likely that this will happen to you.