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The Spanish Lawyer Online
The Spanish Lawyer Online

Antonio Flores’ Blog

Thoughts about laws and regulations which affect foreigners in Spain


Archive for January, 2016

Madrid Courts Rule in Favour of British Investors Against Spanish Banks

January 29th, 2016

shutterstockSpanishPropertyDevelopmentBanco Popular, BBVA, Banco Mare Nostrum and Valencian Building Society S.G.R. have been ordered to pay over 2 million Euros, plus interest, to 40 British investors represented by Lawbird Legal Services.

The rulings were received on the same day and refer to investors who had paid large deposits on off-plan properties in El Pinet, in Alicante, and Costa Palatinum, in Murcia.

Court number 1 in Madrid wrote the following arguments on deciding the outcome:Banco Popular had issued two bank guarantees, one for 19 mm Euros and a further one for 4.4 mm Euros.

  • S.G.R. had too issued a guarantee for 5 mm Euros.
  • Banco Pastor had offered the developer a counter-bank guarantee which, according to the Judge, amounted to a collective policy to insure off-pan deposits.

For its part, the Appeal Court in Madrid (Section 25) held, in support of the investors, that:

  • A recent Supreme Court ruling had concluded that for the 57/1968 Act to apply, the off-plan property should be used for family living accommodation purposes, whether temporary, accidental or circumstantial. This includes “touristic apartments” as they are to be used by the owners as holiday homes, irrespective of their use as an investment for the most part of the year.
  • The developer had voluntarily submitted to the 57/1968 Act by producing a general bank guarantee that specifically referred to the Act.
  • Off-plan property buyers in Spain have an “inalienable right” to have their off-plan deposit underwritten, rights that cannot be waived by banks who, having issued a collective insurance cover failed however to grant individual policies to buyers.

 Banks have been ordered to pay the Courts the designated amounts, or face enforcement proceedings.

Both rulings are available to readers who so request a copy (less information deemed confidential at Lawbird’s discretion).

Litigation, Property , , , ,

Tenancy Agreements in Spain: the 11-month property rental contract

January 20th, 2016

This title of this post infers the existence of a type of residential rental contract that lasts for 11 months, no more but no less. And to a certain extent, if you had just landed in certain parts of Spain and you’d met up with property professionals (real estate agents mostly) there would be no reason to not believe that an 11-month contract –short term or holiday rental- is distinct from a 1-year plus contract –long term-.

At the same time, there appears to be an informal network of non-legal practitioners who are routinely consulted by people with legal problems and have, by reiteration, created parallel pseudo laws (and even case law) that, quite simply, do not exist in real life. And the 11-month contract is one ‘legislative’ creation of these “Costa” lawmakers as it does not exist as a standalone contract type. 

The following bullet points will help understand the current situation with urban rental contracts:

  • There are only 2 types of urban rental contracts: residential rental contracts and non-residential rental contracts (which includes short term/holiday lets, commercial, etc.).
  • Duration of residential rental contracts can be freely agreed between the parties. If the agreed term is below 3 years, the contract will be automatically extended on expiration of contract term unless the tenant submits notice of termination of contract with at least 30 days.
  • The above rule is mandatory and cannot be waived by the parties by private agreement.
  • Many residential rental contracts are disguised as short term, and consequently many short term contracts will be treated as residential by the Courts.
  • The Spanish Supreme Court has stated that irrespective of the name given to the contract or the term agreed by the parties, if the tenant had a requirement for a habitual and family domicile to take care of his/her permanent and essential needs (and that of the family), the contract will be deemed residential and therefore the 3-year rule will apply.

Likewise, the short-term nature of the contract refers to not the duration but to the reason and purpose of occupation of the property, it being determined by its brevity.

Means to prove that a short term contract is in reality a residential one are, for example, the tenant(s) having a job wherever he/she lives or running a company, children’s school enrollment, registration with the Town Hall (‘empadronamiento’) etc.

Property , ,

Unregulated IFAs (Independent Financial Advisers) and Unauthorized Insurance Companies

January 4th, 2016

Much has been written about unregulated IFAs operating in Spain. In 2012, The European Commission was considering setting up an ombudsman to help expat victims reclaim against these firms and the Spanish regulators -the CNMV (financial investment) and the DGS (insurance) – regularly post warnings about unregistered operators.

The CNMV is particularly proud of its achievements in the supervisory arena. Its website boasts the following: “Spain enjoys a modern, efficient regulatory and surveillance system, but we must continue working to perfect it. Our regulatory and surveillance system is among the most advanced in the world, and the CNMV is determined to maintain its quality.”

Whatever the surveillance system the CNMV is working on to perfect, its methodology has failed to prevent the activities of not just unregulated IFAs but also, unauthorized insurance companies.

Let’s take the example of Old Mutual (former Royal Skandia), a FTSE100 company “overseeing 319.4bn assets under management for more than 16 million customers worldwide (as at 30 September 2015).”

In Spain, Old Mutual operates via the companies Old Mutual International Life Ireland Limited (Dublin) and Old Mutual Wealth Life & Pensions Limited (Southampton), the only group companies authorized by the DGS. On the Costa del Sol, Old Mutual is known for it has been offering a life assurance policy called “Executive Investment Bond” (EIB), a bond that has incidentally lost millions to investors.

Yet for some reason, the EIB is being offered in Spain through IFAs by Old Mutual International Isle of Man Limited, a standalone company registered in the IOM but not ‘passported’ -meaning not registered in regulatory jargon- into Spain to offer any product, whether insurance or financial. And the same applied to its unauthorized predecessor Royal Skandia Life Assurance Limited (based in IOM), which too offered the “Executive Investment Bond”.

For its part, article 4.2 of the 2004 Insurance Supervisory Act states the following:

Insurance contracts and other legal arrangements subject to this law signed or agreed with an unauthorized entity, or an entity whose authorization was revoked, will be null and void. A person that having entered into a contract with it will be under no obligation pay the premium and will have a right to obtain a refund of any paid premium.

Corporate lawyers are always quick to point out that registered entities forming part of a group of companies are autonomous and separate from each other, regardless of whether they share common brand or names. To this extent, Old Mutual Isle of Man (and Royal Skandia Isle Of Man) should have been registered in Spain and where not, all of its contracts could be null and voided by Spanish Courts.

Companies, Corporate Law