What You Really Need To Know About The Communidad de Propietarios

Laura Leyshon is an experienced Las Palmas de Gran Canaria estate agent

Almost all property owners in Las Palmas are members of a Communidad de Propietarios but I notice that a lot of foreign or non-resident owners don’t engage with them.

It is important to know what is going on in your building or complex, so here is my guide to how communidades work in Las Palmas.

What is a Communidad de Propietarios?

All buildings or complexes in Las Palmas with more than three properties must have a communidad association. This communidad de propietarios is a legal entity with its own tax ID number. It is responsible for the upkeep of common areas, and decides the rights and obligations of property owners (within the limits of Spanish law). It also levies a monthly fee that covers community costs, and it has the right to vote for extra payments for exceptional costs such as façade work, lift repairs, etc. Communidad members and vote at meetings and make its decisions.

Who sets the rules of the Communidad?

The rules for communidades are laid down in Spain’s Ley de Propiedad Horizontal. This governs what a communidad can and cannot decide, and the rules all communidades must follow. A commuidad cannot make decisions that do not follow Spanish law. For example, it cannot ban pets from an apartment block. However, it can vote to stop future owners from using their property as a Holiday Let.

How is a communidad de propietarios structured?

Every property owner gets one vote per property but there are rules in place to stop a majority owner from dominating a communidad. A communidad must have a president and a secretary chosen from amongst the owners by vote. Most communidades pay an external administrator to handle paperwork and accounts.

For more details about how a Communidad is structured, see this Spanish Property Insight article.

How do I join my communidad de propietarios?

You automatically join the communidad when you buy a property in a building or on a complex. It is your responsibility to make contact with the communidad and organise your monthly contributions. Do this by communicating with the current president of the communidad.

How are communidad fees and derramas decided?

The monthly communidad fees are decided by vote during the annual general meeting. They can be modified at subsequent extraordinary general meetings throughout the year. The fee is normally enough to cover all general costs with a small surplus for minor repairs required throughout the year. Exactly how much you pay depends on the size of your property and the total quota of the property it occupies.

What happens if I don’t pay my communidad fees?

If you fall behind with commuidad payments or derrama contributions, you lose the right to vote in communidad meetings. In theory, a communidad can take you to court to reclaim unpaid fees and even oblige you to sell your property. This is very rare and easy to avoid but it is allowed within Spanish law.

How does the communidad affect property buyers?

If you buy a property you are legally obliged to pay any communidad debts left behind by the previous owner dating back up to four years. This is why all sale contracts contain a clause stipulating that the property is free of charges and encumbrances.

Before you buy a property it is vital to read the current statutes of the communidad. The statutes that apply to you are the ones registered with the Registro de la Propiedad on the day you purchase the property.

It is also wise to talk, or get your estate agent to talk, to the president of the communidad to find out how the communidad functions. Some have large deficits caused by non-payment of fees and derramas. The president can also tell you what future work is required and how much this is likely to cost.

Note that owners sometimes choose to sell rather than pay large derramas that they know are imminent but have not yet been voted on. If you have any doubts, ask the seller to provide the minutes of previous communidad meetings to see what has been discussed.

How are things decided in a communidad?

A communidad has to have an annual general meeting and other meetings can be called when an issue needs to be voted on. All community members must be informed of an upcoming meeting and provided with an agenda. It is your responsibility to make sure that the communidad can contact you to inform you of upcoming meetings and provide you with the agenda. Spanish law only requites that property owners be informed of an extraordinary meeting on paper in the letterbox of each property. If you are away, or non-resident, make sure  that you are informed by email or post so that you can organise a proxy vote.

Some votes need to be unanimous to pass, while other requite a majority (three fifths of the owners’ assessed quotas).

Each meeting must be minuted and the minutes approved at the next meeting. These minutes are available to all members.

Do I have to go to communidad meetings?

You don’t have to attend but it is wise to go, or at least check the meeting schedule in advance. You can authorise a neighbour to vote on your behalf. If you don’t attend or organised a proxy vote, you have no say in the decisions made by other communidad members.

My communidad meetings are chaos, what can I do?

Many communidad de propietarios meetings seem, especially to non-Spanish members, to be a long, loud and unstructured argument. However, the Spanish are inherently democratic and it is widely accepted that everyone can have their say at communidad meetings. This often makes them long and feel unproductive even though decisions are made in the end. Much depends on the efficiency of the administrator and the president.

If a decision cannot be reached it often gets deferred until the next meeting. This is a problem if there is an urgent problem that needs to be fixed. To avoid it, suggest that authority to make the decision be delegated to a couple of people so that it can be made as soon as possible.

If your community is actually dysfunctional, you have the option to ask for a change of leadership. Ask for it to be included in the agenda for the next meeting (in writing).

If I rent out my property, who pays the communidad?

This has always been the responsibility of the property owner. However it can be negotiated and another arrangement include in the rental contract.

Laura Leyshon from Las Palmas Property

My name is Laura and I am a resident estate agent in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria city. I specialise in luxury and beachfront property and have been a realtor in Las Palmas for ten years. If you have any questions about buying a property in the city, please get in touch…

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