The Community Of Owners
Common Elements In Apartment Block Or Urbanisation
When you buy a private property in Spain you often buy some common elements in the apartment block or the urbanisation where your property is situated. You become member of a Community of Owners.
As an apartment block cannot exist without common elements, it will always be constituted a Community.
Row Houses With Shared Plots, Walls And Roof
In a development of row houses, with shared plots, walls and roof, there must also be a Community to attend to common elements.
Urbanisations With Joint Ownership
Even in urbanisations with joint ownership of certain plots, construction or installations, a Community may be needed.
Urbanisations With No Community Of Owners
However, in some urbanisations no Community of Owners has been initiated, and sometimes proves difficult to get one started at a later stage.
The Law On Horizontal Property
The Communities of Owners in Spain are run by a law from 1960 called "Ley de Propiedad Horizontal" (Law on Horizontal Property).
Originally Made Only For Apartment Blocks - Now Extended To Other Developments
It was originally made only for apartment blocks, but is being used for other kinds of developments where common elements exist.
New Version Of The Law In 1999
A new version of the law came into effect in March 1999, with several important changes.
Translation Of The New Law Available From The FIPE
The Foundation Institute Of Foreign Property Owners has translated the new law on the Communities into various languages, has elaborated a comprehensive Info-File on the subject for anyone who gets elected as leader in a Community or who wants to know the details of the law.
Main Objective Of The Law - Administration And Maintenance Of The Common Elements
The main objective of the law is to regulate the administration and maintenance of the common elements the private owners possess jointly.
The Community cannot have any other tasks.
Title Deed Of New Construction & Its Division
The common elements are described in the "escritura de obra nueva y división horizontal" (title deed for description of new construction and its division into common elements and the various private properties).
Approved Urbanisation Plan
For an urbanisation you may find the reference to the common elements in the approved urbanisation plan (ask in town hall).
- Statutes May Or May Not Exist
- The Community may or may not have a set of statutes.
- Statutes May Never Contradict The Law
- The statutes may amplify the law, but never contradict it.
- Unanimous Vote Required To Create Or Change Statutes
- To make new statutes or to change existing ones, you need a unanimous decision among all owners.
Situation Where Statutes Do Not Exist
If there are no statutes, the Community must be run in accordance with the stipulations of the law.Interior Rules
For everyday life in the Community, you may adopt a set of "Interior Rules". They may be agreed or changed by a majority decision made in a General Meeting.
The "Cuota" And The Community Fees
Each property that forms part of the Community has its share (cuota) determined, (normally in the División Horizontal). The yearly fees to the Community are based on this share.
Highest Decision-Making Body Of A Community
The highest decision-making body of a Community is the General Meeting. You can have two kinds of such meetings, the ordinary that must be held each year, and the extraordinary, that can be convened whenever a need arises.
The General Meeting elects a president, a secretary, an administrator and a treasurer.
The administrator may also act as secretary, while the president may also be administrator.
Powers Of President
The president holds wide powers and represents the Community between General Meetings. He must be one of the owners, while the administrator can be a professional not owning a property in the Community.
Formation Of Board
It may be decided in the statutes to form a board (junta), for making decisions collectively. But do not forget the wide powers granted by law to the president.
Votes And Voting
- Votes Are Based On Each Owners' Share
- At General Meetings decisions are taken by a vote in accordance with the percentage share each owner has been assigned.
First And Second Convocations
We distinguish between first and second convocations. In the first convocation of a General Meeting a majority is needed of the total number of owners and shares to make decisions. If such a quorum is not possible, one passes to the second convocation half an hour later, where the decisions can be taken with a majority of the persons and shares present. In some questions a qualified majority is needed.
Notice Of General Meeting
The General Meetings must be called giving at least 6 days notice, in accordance with the law. Some Communities have in their statutes a longer convocation period, or have taken a decision about this at a General Meeting.
Forwarding Of Notices
If no other decision has been taken, and the owner has not given any other address in Spain for notices, the law foresees the letter convoking the meetings may be directed to the property that forms part of the Community.
Minutes & Decisions Of The Community
All decisions on the meeting must be written down in minutes, and an information on decisions taken sent all members.
Rights Of Those Owners Who Do Not Attend The Meeting
The ones not attending the meeting, have 30 days to protest against what they feel are illegal decisions or decisions contrary to their economical interests and eventually take the matter to court.
Budget & Bills For Fees
The ordinary General Meetings deal with accounting and budget for the Community. Once the budget has been approved, the Community, often the administrator, sends the bills to the individual owners in accordance with their "cuotas".
Payment Is In Advance
You must pay in advance, sometimes for the total year, or for part of the year.
Liability For Unpaid Fees When Property Is Sold
When a private property forming part of a Community is sold, the property is liable for the unpaid fees of the present year and the preceding year, nothing more.
Provision Of The New Law Regarding Outstanding Debt
And the new law provides that a certificate on whether a property has any debt before that property can be sold in a public deed. The Community must take legal action against non-payers to force them to pay before the debts become prescribed.
Obligation Of Owner To Pay Fees
If you are part of a legal Community, you are obliged to pay the fees.
Right Of Community To Collect The Fees
The Community is granted the right by the law to collect them.
Seizure Of Property For Non-Payment Of Fees
The courts may now in an abbreviated procedure place an "embargo" (a seizure) on the inscription of a property for unpaid Community fees, and later even place it for sale at public auction.
Registration And Books
Registration In The Property Register
The most important registration of a Community is the one in the property register. Normally the Community is mentioned in the "declaración horizontal". You can only register a Community if there are common elements belonging jointly to all private owners.
Books For The Accounting & The Record Book For Meetings
In addition to the books for the accounting, a Community must have a record book for meetings (libro de actas). You can buy such a book with numbered pages in the bigger bookshops, and have it stamped by the property register. All reports from General Meetings must be inserted in this book, so members can use their right to read and ask copies from them, from the secretary/administrator.
Get To Know The Legislation On Communities
WE RECOMMEND ALL FOREIGN MEMBERS OF COMMUNITIES IN SPAIN TO GET TO KNOW BETTER THE LEGISLATION ON COMMUNITIES AND HOW THEY FUNCTION, AND NOT TRY TO USE THE CUSTOMS OF THEIR OWN COUNTRY ON THE RUNNING OF THE COMMUNITY.