Viewers of this post may initially be lost with the title of it, but will soon know what I am writing about. As we say in Spain, there is a lawyer and a doctor in each family, even if no member of it has finished high-school, given the abundance of advice you tend to get from some family members when you have abdominal pain or you are about to sign a rental agreement with a tenant.
In the Costa del Sol, and definitely in the rest of Costas, many foreign individuals seek advice for legal issues, but they use neither traditional legal advisers nor less formal legal sources. Instead, in the majority of cases (reportedly three quarters!) they obtain advice from family and friends, and from a broad range of non-legal professionals, including professionals working in many other fields who are known to the information seeker. They also have the habit of roaming through expat forums with the hope of getting the answer they wish to listen, and which rarely conforms to reality (unfortunately). Thus, there appears to be an informal network of non-legal practitioners who are routinely consulted by people with legal problems and who have created a parallel case law which is simply wrong.
You will know what I am writing about when you read some the beliefs spread in our Costas during years of pseudo-legalese innuendo, hearsay and gossip in bars and pubs, “chiringuitos”, Christmas Dos and other socializing events appropriately lubricated with abundant booze. Lets start with a few:
Spanish Wills & Inheritance
- Die without a will and the Spanish Government will snap up everything: this is a classic I must have clarified at least 999 times. NO, Spanish law does not say this, it says that if you die without a will then you die intestate, in which case your personal national law applies, and only if no inheritors turn up will the Spanish Government ultimately claim ownership (someone has to!). As an example, according to Hubert Bocken and Walter de Bondt (Introduction to Belgian Law) most Belgian married people with children die intestate and therefore Belgian rules will apply, with usufruct rights passing to the heirs. This will happen too to any Spanish property or asset owned by a Belgian national because his/her law says so.
- My English will is not valid in Spain: it is perfectly valid but it needs to be translated, legalized and the authorship confirmed by the Spanish Courts. Of course, it better include Spanish or worldwide assets because otherwise it has not relevance. The best option in this case is to obtain grant of probate by the Courts that can then be legalized and translated for its use in Spain.
Spanish Rental agreements
- My tenant is not paying, I will change the locks: FORGET IT, you can end up in the gallows for this because it is trespassing.
- My tenant is not paying; I will cancel the electricity and water supplies: CAREFUL, doing this is punishable under the Spanish Criminal Code as it is considered to be coercion and/or harassment.
- My landlord has not made some repairs I have asked him to do so I am deducting the repair costs from the rent. NO, if you do this you can get evicted. Rent has to be paid every month, religiously, and if you want to ask him to carry out remedial work on the property you have to notify him formally. They are 2 separate issues and cannot be mixed up because the law has established this.
- I have an 11 month contract which I am told is short term and so I will be able to kick the tenant out on expiration of the term: FALSE, all residential rental contracts can be challenged and extended up to 5 years, optional for the tenant and mandatory for the owner. A registration certificate with the local Town Hall will suffice to invoke this.
- My contract is in German so it is not valid: A very common fallacy. Any document which can be translated by a registered or certified translator or interpreter is valid in a Court of law.
More to come on my next Post!