Doing your research - the community of owners

What should you take into account?

Conveyancing Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The community of owners is an important and influential group of people in Spain. Most properties belong to a community and you should check out the implications before you buy.

The community of owners is a group with a firm foundation and legal status in Spain and nearly every urbanisation will have one. They are required to have a president and secretary and an annual general meeting will be held every year.

The formality with which the community is conducted and the money required to support it, can come as a surprise. However, the majority would agree that they provide a useful method of ensuring that an urbanisation is cared for and remains a good environment in which to live.

The benefits

One of the main benefits of having a community of owners is that they are responsible for looking after the communal areas in the urbanisation. If there are shared stairwells, entrances, walkways and gardens, their maintenance will be organised by the community.

Many urbanisations in Spain have a communal pool, something that can be a real asset if you don’t want the responsibility of having your own private one. However, they still need regular maintenance and this responsibility will fall to the community.

Anyone wanting to do building work must pass it by the community first. This can seem a nuisance if it’s you who has plans to change your property. However, there are definite advantages to having a group who oversee the alterations that individuals would like to make. Home improvements in Spain can sometimes have ill-considered consequences for neighbours. Consent from the community of owners can prevent unpleasant repercussions.

Being part of a community means that there is a method of approaching neighbours where a particular issue has arisen. Noisy neighbours, unsocial habits or other matters that affect the overall wellbeing of the community can be raised at a meeting.

All good reasons why a community is worth paying for. However, as with most good things, there are a few little draw backs.

The issues

You will have to pay a monthly fee to your community. In recent years an increasing number of housing developments in Spain include additional facilities. Some even have their own gym, saunas and jacuzzis, even an indoor pool perhaps as well as one outside.

These all come at a cost. The more facilities you have access to the more you are likely to pay. In some cases we have seen the community of owners cost as much as €300 a month. Although this is probably at the top end of the scale, whatever the cost, it should be factored in when organising the budget for your property in Spain.

In most cases, the community of owners runs smoothly. However, there can be clashes of personality, issues to do with non-payment of fees and disagreements about the rules that are set around facilities such as swimming pools.

The law in Spain is quite tight around communities. Debtors can be directly challenged and they can ultimately have their property embargoed and even sold on. The community itself can apply to the court for an embargo on the debtor’s bank account, just like the tax office do.   

Use of your community pool is likely to have a number of conditions surrounding it. Not all of them might agree with you and your plans. However, this is like any shared space that you’ve ever used – it requires compromise. At least you have recourse to the community if problems do arise.

Questions to ask

Perhaps what is most important is that you do your research before hand. Information about the community of owners is not something that your solicitor is likely to come across when they carry out their  other checks and searches. This is something you will have to confirm   for yourself.

The most important question to ask, is how much will it cost. As mentioned, it can be a significant addition to your budget and you must be clear about how much you can expect to pay.

You might also want to reassure yourself about the way in which your particular community is run. It is quite reasonable if you are considering buying a property for you to ask to speak to the president.

Taking a good look around will give you an idea of how well the community is doing its job. Are the grounds tidy? Does it look as though home improvements are kept in check?

Find out about the community rules and regulations. These can vary greatly and can even extend to expectations around siesta time. It is unlikely that what you discover will change your decision to buy but it’s good to know what to expect.

It might be an unusual concept for some, but the community of owners generally functions well in Spain. Make sure that you are informed about yours and it should be a bonus rather than a burden.  

Do you have any questions?

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