Most people are surprised to learn that Spain has two property registration systems that co-exist side by side. This means that a property is registered (or at least should be) in two different places, each one holding different information about the property. Unfortunately however the two bodies do not share information with one another terribly well which can lead to complications.
British people are used to dealing with one local Land Registry which holds all of the information about a property. When the time comes to sell in the UK the vendor’s solicitor will apply for a copy of the information held on the property register and send this to the buyer’s solicitor. This is not the case in Spain where the buyer’s lawyer should check with each of the two registries, and it is a good idea to check yourself (whether you are selling or not) if only to make sure that the correct information is held by each registry.
The Catastro – If you are paying your IBI tax (sometimes mistakenly referred to as Suma tax) then your property’s catastral reference will appear on the IBI receipt. From this reference number you will be able to obtain a catastral certificate which will tell you the property’s boundaries, its physical layout and its exact location. The certificate is cheap to obtain and will provide you with a plan as well as a full description of the property . You can get it for free on internet. In addition, the Catastro deals with the official valuation of a property and holds the valor catastral which is the sum upon which your IBI bill is calculated.
The Registro de la Propiedad ( Land Registry) – This registry holds information confirming the details of the registered owner as well as the charges/debts which are registered against a property. Many people think that an escritura in a person’s name is proof of ownership – it is not. Only an up to date ‘Nota Simple‘ obtained from the relevant land registry is confirmation of ownership, and will show if the property has a mortgage registered against it amongst other things. Once again the cost of obtaining a Nota Simple is tiny compared with the value of the information it holds.
Property has exchanged hands on the strength of a Nota Simple (or less) for many years in Spain although this is gradually changing and foreign purchasers are thankfully becoming better informed. It is still quite often the case however that a buyer will be encouraged not to worry about the Catastro records and many different reasons will be given. Do not be put off and ask to see them. For example, we are currently dealing with a transaction where the plot size mentioned on the property’s escritura is almost 1,500 m2 greater than that stated at the records held at the Catastro office. Fortunately for my client this will be brought into line when the new escritura is signed at time of sale but the discrepancy might not have been noticed if a search of the Catastro had not been made.
We are sure your property is fine although it doesn’t cost a great deal to check, we invite you to do it.
The information provided on this article is not legal advice, simply transmits legal issues.
White & Baos
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