The Law of Horizontal Ownership

Unless you are purchasing a detached property within it's own private grounds, many purchasers will find themselves a member of a Community of Owners. This will almost certainly be the case for people purchasing an apartment.

The law covering the legal rights and obligations of property owners is contained in part of the Spanish Civil Code and is called The Law of Horizontal Ownership (Ley de Propiedad Horizontal). This law covers and applies to detached properties, terraced properties and also to developments of apartments where the ownership could be interpreted as vertical as well as horizontal.

Usually there are parts of the buildings that are jointly owned, or communal areas such as gardens or perhaps swimming pools, and in the event that the owners share the cost of maintaining and servicing these facilities, then there is 'horizontal ownership' and The Law of Horizontal Ownership will apply. This law enables a 'Community of Owners' to run democratically in accordance with the wishes of the majority of owners.

To be legal all Communities must have their own regulations and each part of the community property should be defined to show sole ownership by individuals and what parts all community members jointly own.

Each owner in the community has 'a share' dependent upon the size of the owner's dwelling in comparison to others. This share is called your 'cuota de participacion' and is important as it determines how much you will have to pay for the cost of maintaining the common areas, such as gardens, walkways, swimming pool and for providing the essential services such as remuneration for gardeners, receptionists, etc. Generally the more comprehensive the facilities and services the community offers, the higher the community fees are likely to be. Generaly, community fees are an inexpensive method of maintaining the fabric of your property and resort facilities.

The rights and needs of the owners are represented by the creation of an Owners Association. This association ensures the 'smooth running' and upkeep of the community. A President and Administrator are elected annually together with a committee of owners. A General Meeting is held each year where the business of the community is debated. On the agenda will be the setting and approval of a budget for community fees for the coming year, to appoint or re-appoint an administrator, to elect a President for the coming year and to action any other matters which have been raised by the committee or owners.

It should be noted that Spanish Law is 'very keen' on enforcing the obligation of each owner to contribute his share of Community expenses. As a member of your association it is good advice to take an interest in your community, and take care of your property and investment by attending meetings and using your vote.