Most property sales in Spain are straightforward provided that someone has checked all the paperwork in advance. But occasionally, something comes up that can delay or even derail your purchase.
Here are five potential Las Palmas property pitfalls that have come up in the last year (I sold 20 properties in the city in the last 12 months).
Derecho a vuelo: Can anyone build above you?
If the property you own has a flat roof, or is lower than the surrounding buildings, you have to make sure that nobody has an active ‘derecho a vuelo’ that lets them build on your roof. You need to check the escritura for the whole building rather than just the one for your property.
If the property does have an active derecho a vuelo that you buy with the property, it can cause problems getting a mortgage with some banks.
On the positive side, a property with a derecho de vuelo included in the price can be a good buy as you can add an extra floor and increase the value of your home.
- This problem actually affected my own property purchase in April 2017. ING Direct refused us a mortgage because of the building’s derecho a vuelo, and we had to delay the signing until everyone who owned the derecho a vuelo agreed to come to the notary on the same day.
Outdoor areas: Who owns your terrace?
Everyone in Las Palmas wants outside space and this often comes as a flat area of roof attached to flats and apartments. However, you have to watch out as there are different types of access rights.
Some property owners just absorbed communal roof spaces years ago and use them as their own. This means that the communidad can take the terrace away at any point in the future.
A legal right to use a certain area of outside space is called ‘uso y disfrute’. It means that the roof is still owned by the communidad, but that you have the right to use it as you see fit (within local planning laws and the communidad regulations). However, the communidad remains responsible for maintaining the roof (waterproofing, etc). ‘Uso y disfrute’ rights must be recorded in the statutes of the communidad to be legally valid.
If you own your outside space completely (it is included in the square metres in the deeds), then you are responsible for maintenance and repairs that affect other neighbours or the common areas of the building.
See this article about rule changes that mean most buildings can now put gardens on their communal roof spaces.
Rental rules: Has your communidad restricted rentals?
If two-thirds of the members of a building’s communidad vote to ban tourist rentals in the building then they have a legal right to do so. This is rare but it is always worth checking if you plan to rent out your property on a short-term basis. You need to see an up-to-date copy of the statutes for the building’s communidad and make sure that alquiler vacacional hasn’t been banned; it’s rare but it does happen.
Local planning: Is your property in a development area?
Like all big cities, Las Palmas occasionally extends roads and has to demolish houses to do so. Future plans must be published in the plan urbanístico and are accessible at the Town Hall or Ayuntamiento. For example, the strip of houses at the back of Guanarteme barrio is likely to be demolished within the next 10-20 years to make way for an extension of Mesa y Lopez.
Changes can also benefit a buyer if they add value to a property: For example, Mesa y Lopez between the Plaza de España and the naval base will soon be pedestrian and this will benefit owners in the area.
Inheritance: Does the seller have complete rights to sell their property?
Spanish inheritance law has a way of complicating sales made due to inheritances. Often, several siblings or cousins own a portion of a house and they all have to be present on the day you buy the property at the notary ( I recently sold one flat with 15 owners in the room when the deeds were signed). Sometimes, one of the inheritors moved abroad (Venezuela seems to be a popular destination) and has to be tracked down before a sale can go through.
Another potential pitfall is caused by owners who married ‘en gananciales’ and subsequently divorced. Spanish law requires both people who bought a property to sign off on the sale, even if they have been divorced or estranged for decades.
Even if people are still happily married ‘en gananciales’, they both have to sign when their property is sold.
Avoiding Las Palmas property pitfalls
The best way to avoid any potential pitfalls when you buy a Las palmas property is to have someone with lots of local experience helping you to go through the procedure. I’ve sold dozens of Las Palmas apartments and know exactly what to look out for. Even if something new comes up, I’m there to get it fixed. Best of all, my services don’t cost you a cent as sales commission is paid by the property seller.