Eviction And Complaints
Harry King retired from corporate life in Britain to live in Spain. He would do so all over again if faced with the same decision, and now lives in Alicante. He is the author of a number of books including Going to Live in Spain, Buying a Property in Spain and Buy to Let in Spain.
EVICTION AND COMPLAINTS
Under what conditions can an owner regain their property and evict a tenant? Failure to pay the rent, damage to the property, using the property for immoral purposes, subletting unless agreed in the contract and causing a serious nuisance to the neighbours are some obvious reasons.
Assuming the contract and law states a rental period is finished, a landlord will also have difficulty evicting someone who chooses to stay. Common abuse takes place with holiday rentals where tenants have signed up for one month and then simply remained in the property without paying any further rent.
In all cases a court order must be obtained against the tenant. Six months later, a landlord is able to obtain an eviction order, but the tenants have lived rent-free for that period. The court will issue a judgment against them for the amount of rent owed, but by then they will have simply moved on. Spanish landlords are reluctant to go to court due to this delay and often take matters into their own hands by forcefully evicting a tenant.
Occasionally a landlord may have to deal with a complaint from a tenant. Acknowledge, investigate, make a decision, reply and take remedial action if applicable. If it is valid put matters right, informing the tenant and giving an expected timescale. Otherwise, state no action is required and give the reasons. Complaints may come from sources other than a tenant. In fact they may be about the tenants.
A tenant of a property can also complain to a Tourist Office in the province or town where the property is located, provided the property has been registered in the first place. The Tourist Office will often side with the landlord provided all the necessary procedures have been adhered to. Complaints from longer-term tenants are usually addressed to the Oficina Municipal de Information al Consumidor (see Chapter 12) which is the consumer information office, directed by regional government to deal with consumer problems such as rents.
BUSINESS IS BUSINESS
Renting property is not democracy in action. It is a business. It is important for an owner to strike the right tone in a relationship with a tenant or letting agent. It should not be arbitrary or dictatorial. The customer may always be correct but the owner has to be in charge and how the tenant, agent or tour operator is handled will largely determine what happens to a property.
The owner sets the tone. The tone may vary depending on the tenant market. If the business is well run, it will be because the owner knows how to run it smoothly and how to communicate, giving a clear set of guidelines and expectations. Let people know what is to be done for them as a landlord and what is expected of them in return.
What tenants are told about a property is part of an education programme. Some landlords want their tenants to know that they are dealing with a large, powerful concern. In some cases the landlords do not even want the tenant to know who the owners are. They prefer to have the tenants think they are dealing with a management company. This way there is an organised management programme and the tenants have to fit into it. Everyone gets treated the same way. Other landlords want their clients to know they are dealing with a friendly individual who will look after all their needs at the drop of a hat, particularly if they are paying top dollar for a luxury villa with a pool in the summer season.
Setting the tone in any business involves dealing with people. Property problems are almost invariably people problems. Apartments do not break their own windows or doors. Buildings do not draw on the walls, or put holes in the carpets. Tenants do not do this, either, unless they think that they can get away with it. Properties do not cause problems. Buildings just sit there, quietly minding their own business. Sure, houses and other types of property are quite capable of producing anxiety. Roofs leak, sewer and other pipe lines break, paint wears off and lawns need periodic cutting. Then there are fires, floods, blizzards, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and all the other possible calamities beyond the property owner’s control. But tenants are the main source of problems that an owner will encounter.
While timeshare has its critics, leaseback, a system found in large up-market developments, does not. It is a clever scheme in which it is possible to buy a property at a substantial discount of around 40 per cent in return for agreeing to occupy it for only a few weeks each year and to lease it back to the developer for the rest of the time to be let to holiday tenants. The developer also retains responsibility for maintenance and managing the property. This arrangement lasts for a period of ten years after which the owner gains full, unrestricted ownership. The owner, not the developer, is registered in the escritura at the full price, not the discount price.
For someone aged around 50 wanting a holiday home and ten years later a permanent retirement residence, this is a good option. It is much better value than timeshare and outright occupation.
Co-ownership is an arrangement whereby ownership of a whole property is shared between several people, who divide up the time they use it each year at fixed times (rather like a timeshare). The names of all individuals involved are entered in the escritura as joint owners. These schemes are offered by developers who stay in charge of ongoing property management for a fee.
Other co-ownership arrangements can be set up privately by groups of people who, by banding together, can afford to take on a much larger property than they could ever pay for on their own. The financial share of ownership need not be equal. If any co owner wishes to sell, the others normally have right of first refusal. The property can be owned by a company in the form of shares.
FURTHER READING AND INFORMATION
Harry King, Buy to Let in Spain. Oxford: How to Books. The Spanish way of doing it!
Liz Hodgkinson, The Complete Guide to Letting Property. London: Kogan Page. The English way!
Robert Irwin, Buy, Rent and Sell. Maidenhead: McGraw Hill. How they do it in the USA.