Community properties in Spain are ones that share common areas or elements with other property owners. Community properties can include all manner of dwellings, such as apartments, villas or townhouses, but have a facility or area that is shared and communal.
In Spain, many homes are community properties apart from those that are completely detached and are on a private plot of land. This means community properties could share anything from a golf course and swimming pool to a hallway, lift, stairwell or garden. This means that when you buy a community property, you become part of a Community of Property Owners.
Being part of the Community of Property Owners means you will not only be responsible for your individual areas, but you are also responsible for maintaining the common areas too. Usually, this is by paying for the expenses of the upkeep on a pro-rata basis. Different community properties will vary their terms, payments and costs so it is essential to know what to look for when buying a community property.
What are the Positives of Owning a Community Property?
There are many advantages of owning a community property which include;
- Security - Your home is part of a community, and other property owners will be looking out for your property as it's in their neighbourhood.
- Social Interactions - Being part of a community means that it's a great way to meet new people and build relationships with your neighbours.
- Reduced Chores - With your garden and pool being part of a shared area, you don't have the responsibilities and jobs involved; they are taken care of as part of the community costs for upkeep.
- Lower Taxes - A community property will typically have cheaper property taxes than a detached home.
- Upgrade Your Living Standards - Community properties allow you to live in a better area with nicer amenities than you would if you had a private plot and sole ownership.
What are the negatives of owning a community property?
- Lack of Control - Usually, you cannot control the costs of the community fees, and they can be excessively high and are subject to increase over time, which can make it difficult to manage your outgoings and budget.
- Lack of Privacy - If you want to get away from it all then sharing your garden or pool with others may be restrictive and you may not enjoy the social environment that comes with it.
- Holidaymakers - If your neighbours rent out their property to holidaymakers, then you have the potential for noisy or disruptive neighbours, which may ruin your enjoyment of your property.
- Community Politics - People may try to push through unpopular proposals or raise regular grievances during meetings which can waste your time and divide the community.
- Rules and Regulations - You may feel restricted by some of the rules put in place by the community. Alternatively, there may not be adequate rules in place which people may take advantage of such as turning the property into a timeshare.
Structure of the Community of Owners and Management
Typically, a Community of Property Owners will use two methods of management for the community. Firstly, a community will designate a member of the community for specific roles. There could be an election of a president and a vice president, for large communities there may be a need for a treasurer and a secretary too. For every community, it must be registered with the Gobernador Civil, with Spanish documents submitted.
Alternatively, communities may refer the daily running to an estate management business who can take control of calculating costs and ensuring every member pays their required fee. This will usually mean an added charge payable to the estate management company too, but they are controlled and regulated by a professional body for peace of mind.
Understanding Community Fees
Every member of the community will be responsible for paying their share for the maintenance and upkeep of the communal areas. Usually, the cost will be based on the owner's share, and this is typically the size of the property that they own. You can find the percentage that you would have to pay in the property deed. The portion will also account for the sway and rights of voting in community meetings.
The fees can be incredibly varied and can cover a lot of aspects such as the use of a caretaker, cleaner, gardener, road cleaning, decoration maintenance, insurance, water supply, pool cleaning and satellite TV. The costs can also vary based on the quality of service you receive, high fees may still mean a good deal, if you can see quality and that you get what you pay for. Some people will pay for the privilege of their community being well run, maintained and managed.
Non-Payment of Community Fees
Sadly, many communities have suffered from debt problems as members do not pay their fees. This means that the area declines with management unable to pay for maintenance costs. With this in mind, a new Community Law was set up to help to remove property owners who don't pay their fees.
Once a demand is issued but the president of the Community of Property Owners, the legal proceedings means that it can be taken to court. Once a case is submitted to a judge, they will ask the debtor to pay the amount within a set period, usually 20 days. If the debtor doesn't pay, then an embargo is placed on the property, and the property can be sold at auction if the debt remains unpaid.
With this in mind, if you plan to have a property in Spain which you won't be at regularly, then you need to make sure you have a system in place to pay the community fees, so you don't face a legal battle because of unpaid fees.
Essential Checks to Make When Purchasing a Community Property
Before buying a community property some key considerations to check include;
- What are the fees? (ask to see five years' worth of service fees for an accurate overview)
- How big is the community?
- Do you like the neighbour? What do they do with the property, e.g. rent out to holidaymakers, timeshare?
- What facilities do you receive?
- What do the fees cover?
- What is your share of the property deeds?
- What are the rules and regulations?
- Is it well managed?
By considering these points, you can help to find the right property for your needs and whether a community property is right for you.