What can go wrong if you do not have legal representation when buying or selling a property in Spain?


Posted and filed under General Articles of Interest, Legal Issues in Spain, Property in Spain, Property Purchase/Sale Service.

I still am surprised when I read posts on facebook on the forums and someone asks for a recommendation for legal help in buying or selling a property and there is always one who says, do it yourself it is easy!

Firstly, I am quite sure that most of the time that particular person has not actually done all the work in Spain required purchasing a property, nor can they speak Spanish, but I suppose that will never know for sure.

Of course, it is our business so we are going to say “yes, you should use someone professional and experienced to assist you with buying a property or selling”, but also for years we have seen and continue to see the problems when things are not done properly.

These are some of the things that can happen when everything is not prepared and checked properly with a full knowledge of Spanish procedures:

1) Firstly, unlike in other countries, do not pay a deposit or sign a contract until you have spoken to a lawyer or someone experienced in conveyancing and they have given you the go-ahead. When you pay the initial deposit and sign a contract, it is very difficult to get that back if you wish to pull out. When you are interested in buying a property see someone at this point to discuss assistance with the legalities.

2) If you do not have professional assistance, how can you be sure about all the sums required for completion? When we are acting, we prepare a proper breakdown detailing every expense, so that the buyer or seller knows exactly what funds are required from them.  No one wants to get to the Notary and receive a nasty surprise that they are short of funds… and it happens.

3) One of the main points to remember when buying a property in Spain is that unlike in the UK or other countries if there are outstanding debts, these go against the property, not the former owner. The most serious issue that can happen here is that at the Notary when signing for the property, you do not realise that the previous owner or builder´s mortgage has not been paid off.

This means that the new owner inherits that debt. At the Notary it is checked if any debts on the property and the Notary has to inform the buyer, but the problem here is when you do not understand Spanish or the Notary does not speak English, or there is so much going on that you are not really taking everything in, are you really going to understand that the Notary is letting you know that there is a mortgage or a debt on the property? Would you really want to risk something like that just to save legal fees…?

4) Again on the subject of inheriting debts, it is also possible to inherit other debts, not only the mortgage. It only has to be missed that the previous owner owed funds to suppliers, such as a large water bill or electric that a non-resident owner is hoping to avoid paying, or community fees, or council tax, etc. Everything needs checking thoroughly.

5) Something else that can happen if all the due diligence is not carried out is that when the owner gets the deeds, feeling pleased they managed by themselves with a translator perhaps, then they get the deeds and there is a different Finca number or cadastral reference than the correct one. Sometimes the amount of expense incurred when sorting out a problem far exceeds the original charge for doing things properly.

6) Another thing to consider when selling is if the seller is non resident, he does not pay his taxes and then later you become liable for them, never having realised that could happen.

7) Nowadays it is not so common but, in the past, some people have paid the full purchase price and never got the deeds so they are not even the owners. We are helping many people with Court Actions to resolve problems such as these.

8) If you are buying from a builder, for example, are all the Licences in place? Do they have the 10 years insurance? Do you really know what needs to be checked?

9) The Courts are currently full of cases whereby in the past people lost property deposits and the builder should have had a Bank Guarantee. All this really does need checking. Please never get carried away trusting a builder that his office can do everything for you, get separate legal representation, please…

10) Returning to that initial moment when you decide that you really want a property and want to secure it as soon as possible. Once again, please, be cautious. Get a professional to check that the seller really is the owner, before you pay a deposit. We had a client that put a deposit on a property prior to seeing us, and the land did not belong to the builder, nor did they even have a licence to build there.

11) If no one is assisting you, who is going to check the plans and fine details to see if the square metres coincide with the registered metres on the title deeds, or maybe you think you are buying everything and a storage room or garage has not been included?

We have known of a case (not dealt with by us until they came to us for help as the mistake needed rectifying) whereby the client ended up with the wrongly numbered garage (someone else´s) and we needed to go back to the Notary and do a transfer after a lot of negotiations and discussions with the other owner’s lawyers. All for a small original mistake. Some of these matters, particularly, when dealing with SUMA can, unfortunately, take a very long time to sort out, even years, which can be very frustrating for people, and even detrimental to them selling in the future.

12) Another very common one is a private swimming pool is built after the seller bought the property and they never registered it. Again this needs checking and resolving.

13) When selling (which it seems to be more common for people to think they can do themselves), who is going to calculate your Capital Gains Tax, maybe your 3% retention is paid in excess and you are entitled to a refund, but you never get what is due to you, because you were unaware of the calculation or how to apply for your refund.

There are many more instances, but please do not think that you should not be buying a Spanish property.

Far from it, these days, everything should go through properly and there should be no reasons for concern. You wouldn’t try at home to buy a property without professional help, so please do consider the risks in taking shortcuts in Spain and employ a professional to assist you with buying your home in Spain? Spanish Solutions are very happy to assist you with any questions or concerns that you may have. Contact us for any queries on: enquiries@spanishsolutions.net


  • Chris

    Does a Spanish apartment need to be registered in the new owners name and what could happen if it wasn’t ?

    • Amanda Thomas

      Dear Chris, This is extremely important – to see after all the funds are paid for a Spanish purchase, the deed from the Notary showing the transaction completed but also a few weeks or a month later the final deed showing all taxes paid and the purchase registered in the Land Registry. We have solved cases where the transfer to the new owner’s name was never done at the Notary, then also ones where the transfer was done but it did not get registered at the Land Registry. What could happen if not, is that the person whose name the property is in could borrow against it, and default and the Bank start to repossess the property (happens a lot). So it is essential a professional like our team are involved in the purchase and check that all debts are cleared at the point the property is fully paid for. Otherwise it could be disastrous. Do contact us by email if you have other questions or here. With kind regards.

  • Rich

    Is it safe to buy a house (about 20 yrs old & occupied) on a plot of rural land (cadiz area – Near Arcos De La Frontera) if the land has a notarial deed but the house does not?

    • Ian C.


      this is ian here-I am just replying based on my 20 years of real estate experience rather than any legal advice.
      Our lawyer, Pedro is off today as it’s a holiday however I thought it important that I reply quickly.
      Under no circumstances is it safe to buy a property with no deeds until our lawyer or another qualified lawyer has seen the paperwork.
      We can help, first, we need to be in contact and we’ll take a look then.
      Be particularly careful and there is no hurry despite what the selling party might tell you.
      Its a holiday weekend so nothing will happen for a few days.

      Let’s speak next week,



  • Amanda Thomas

    Rich, Just to add to that, what you would need to do is insist that the house is legalised and put on the deeds through your lawyer prior to purchase. Ian is right. Kind regards Amanda

  • John Nolan

    We purchased an apartment in Spain 2 years ago but were not advised of the registration payment of nearly 14 k which as yet has not been paid .We do not rent the property and only use it on holidays.We do intend to pay but cannot afford at present .Will we be liable for late payment charges .

    • Jane

      Hi John

      I am unsure what you mean by registration payment, can you explain further?

      Kind Regards


  • Evelina.

    Hi Dear,
    Is it safe to buy from agencies in Spain , can I trust them? Or have to find some legal advice my self to check deed and is the apartment free of debts. Is there any taxes for non-resident to pay every year just because you own it?

    • Jane

      Hi Evelina

      We cannot comment on all Spanish agencies but certainly if we do your conveyancing we would check all of this. Please get in touch and we can provide a quote abnd tell you all the details of our service.

      Kind Regards


  • c.symonds

    I sold my property & it was signed off by the Notario as having no debts as is usual.I closed my Bank account & returned to UK.Now I have received a utility bill of 40 euros.Such a small amount I would pay if I had a euro account.But I haven´t & am worried that this could be repeated if I did.

    • Jane


      You should speak to the company who did your conveyancing as they should have held back money for any late bills.

      Kind Regards


  • Mike Boone

    So if the previous owners have not paid, say, EUR 40,000 of their mortgage, the new owner will be liable for it? Is this true?

    • Amanda Thomas

      Dear Mike, As we advise in Spain debts can be inherited with the property as they are linked to the property. It is absolutely essential everything is done properly when buying (and selling) by professionals, as when it is not, that is when we see the legal problems. Kind regards

  • Scott graham

    Hi. We have just purchased a property and found a few problems with its condition. We were advised what was going to be left behind but they took something we think they should not have done. Also there are a couple of cracked windows and some mould on some walls. The seller informed us that all of this was visible and reflected in the price. I can carry out the necessary repairs but was wondering if the previous owner could be held liable?

    Thank you

    • Amanda Thomas

      Dear Scott, We are sorry to hear this. You need to contact the company assisting you with the purchase. I hope it can be resolved. Kind regards

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