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The vast majority of properties in Spain located in urban areas belong to a community of owners (comunidad de propietarios in Spanish). As part of a community, the property is liable for payment of fees for upkeep and improvement of the commonly-owned features. In this article, we take a look at community fees in Spain, what they are for, how much they are and what happens if you don’t pay them.
What is a community property?
Any property in Spain that shares an element with another property is classed as a community property. Communal features typically include a swimming pool, sports facilities and gardens. Community properties in apartment blocks share entrance halls, stairwells and lifts as well as external elements. Properties on larger communities may also include streets and street lighting.
Did you know? When you buy a community property in Spain you automatically become a member of the community of owners and must meet your obligations as well as abiding my community rules and regulations.
What are community fees?
Community fees are paid for the upkeep and improvement of the common elements and include the following:
- Electricity and water bills;
- Cleaning of communal areas;
- Professional services (e.g. concierge, gardeners, pool cleaners, lifeguard etc.);
- Maintenance of lifts;
- Insurance for the communal elements.
Did you know? Communities of owners must provide full accounts of income and expenditure every year. These must be available to all owners and you should receive a copy after the Annual General Meeting (AGM).
How much are community fees?
Community fees in Spain range hugely from one community of owners to another. In older buildings with few services you may pay as little as €100 a quarter; in high-end developments, on the other hand, you could be liable for over €1,000 every three months.
The amount you pay depends on two factors – your share of the communal elements and the services provided.
To calculate how much you own of the communal elements, the square meterage of your property is taken into account. This is then applied as a percentage of the total area to give your share (cuota de participación in Spanish). Obviously, the larger the property, the higher the share and community fees. Your cuota de participación also determines your voting rights – owners of larger properties have a higher percentage of the vote.
Services within a community of owners range from little more than cleaning services and lift maintenance in an older apartment block to a comprehensive range of facilities such as a gym, pool and 24-hour security in high-end developments. Obviously, the more services you receive, the higher community fees you pay.
Did you know? The percentage of your share is stated on your title deeds. You might also want to read our article about the buying process.
Who decides how much owners pay?
Every community of owners has an annual budget, based on previous annual expenses. The budget for the forthcoming year is agreed at the AGM and each owner pays the amount that corresponds to their cuota de participación.
Did you know? Payment periods for community fees depend on the individual community. Some charge monthly or quarterly while in others you may make bi-annual payments or exceptionally, receive an annual bill.
Can community fees change?
In theory, community fees can change as often as agreed at the AGM as long as a majority of owners votes in favour. In practice, most fees rarely go up above inflation every year since few owners are in favour of paying more!
Did you know? If you own a garage space and/or storage area within the community, you are also liable for community fees on these.
Are there extra community fees?
Occasionally, communities of owners have to carry out extra maintenance or modifications to the communal elements because of safety or legal requirements. For example, recladding a façade or installing a ramp at the entrance or a fence around the pool. There’s also essential periodic maintenance such as painting the façade or replacing the tiles in the pool.
This work is not usually included in regular community fees (unless the community of owners has a reserve fund) and is generally paid for in extra installments. For example, three extra payments a year from each owner.
Did you know? Community fees are just one annual fee associated with owning a property in Spain. We have also written an article on other annual expenses.
What about previous community fees?
When you buy a property in Spain your lawyer will ensure that it is free of all debts and encumbrances. These include outstanding community fees. If the seller has debts with the community, your lawyer usually deducts the corresponding amount from the purchase price or ensures that the debt has been settled before you sign the title deeds.
Did you know? The seller is obliged to present a certificate from the Community of Owners stating any outstanding debts at the time of signing the title deeds.
What happens if an owner doesn’t pay?
Spanish law acts swiftly when an owner falls behind on community payments. Once non-payment is detected, the community of owners will first contact the debtor to request payment as soon as possible. If this does not happen, the community issues a court demand for payment. Should this be ignored, an embargo is placed on the property. In extreme cases, the community of owners can request forcible sell of the property at auction in order to receive payment for outstanding debts.
It’s best to set up payments for community fees via direct debit at your bank in Spain. This ensures prompt and efficient payment. It is also a good idea to make periodic checks to ensure you are up-to-date with your community fees.
Did you know? Owners with outstanding debts on community fees may attend community meetings but they are not permitted to vote or have any say in proceedings.