Your Rights to Make Changes in Your Home in Spain After Covid

Your Rights to Make Changes in Your Home in Spain After Covid

Covid has undoubtedly transformed life everywhere in the world. Not least in the workplace and as a result, many people are considering adapting their properties to suit their new priorities. But some of these transformations may require permissions from your Community of Owners. In this article, we look at your rights to make changes in your home in Spain after Covid.

Necessary changes after Covid

Many people have had to reinvent themselves and/or transform their business to adapt to the new normality. In some cases, these adaptations include changes to a structure or function of a home.

Most homes and premises businesses in Spain are subject to the horizontal property regime (Ley de Propiedad Horizontal/ LPH in Spanish). This legislation governs when you can do to a building when it forms part of a complex and is run by a Community of Owners.

The regime includes specific regulations that means, in principle, any action that involves a modification of the common elements must go through a prior community agreement. Modification in this case ranges from the relatively straightforward process of enclosing your terrace or changing the use of a communal element.

Buying property in Spain? Take independent legal advice to ensure you make a safe purchase.

Can I Carry Out Work On My Property?

For any work that takes place behind your front door, ie only within the space that belongs to you solely and does not form part of any communal element, you must inform the President of the Community of Owners.

For any work that affects communal space (outside your front door) or elements of the façade, for example, you may need permission from the Community of Owners.

In some cases, the regulations for the Community include the provision for a certain type of work such as fitting and enclosing your terrace with windows. If your Community has such a clauses, you do not prior permission from the Community of Owners to carry out the work.

Can The Use of The Property Be Changed Without Permission From The Community of Owners?

You may be thinking of changing your home into an office to allow you to work from home. But do you need permission for this or is there any paperwork involved in the change.

Both Spanish law and Case Law mostly determine that you can change the use of a property as long as the change is in accordance to provisions in the title deeds and Community of Owner statutes.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that a description of a property does not mean that its use is limited in any way. According to Case Law, the new use is not limited provided that it complies with the Community of Owner rules.

Does That Automatically Mean I Can Make Changes To Communal Elements?

No, neither refurbishing a property nor changing its use gives you the right to carry out modifications to common elements. To do this, you need permission from the Community of Owners.

Need to sell or buy a property in Spain after Covid? Read our checklist to avoid all the common mistakes.

Can the Community of Owners prohibit one owner from doing what has been consented to another?

If you’re planning to carry out a modification that another owner has already carried out – for example, enclosing your terrace with windows or installing an air conditioning unit on the façade – the following applies:

Case 1: The Community of Owners approved the other owner’s work at board meeting level

In this case, our legal understanding is that the Community of Owners cannot prohibit work that it allowed previously even if it were just for one specific owner. However, we always advise that it’s best to avoid an interpretation of previous approval so it’s advisable to get an agreement from the Community of Owners giving permission for the work or not.

Case 2: There is no agreement but the work has been carried out

This is the case presenting the most conflict. Bear in mind that if the Community of Owners has not given its consent to work, it can force you to undo the work at any time and return the communal element to its original state.

The only exception to this is if the work can be considered as tacitly consented or if it was carried out at least five years beforehand. In these cases, there would always be a doubt as to whether the Community of Owners could act against it.

Case 3: The Community of Owners has expressly or tacitly authorized some work in common elements, for example, the closing of terraces, but the work being carried out is another

In this case, Case Law admits that if the same work has been authorized beforehand, identical work cannot be prohibited. But if your work is of a different nature, you need permission from the Community of Owners.

Best Course of Action

Unless owners (previous or present) have carried out identical work to yours, we always recommend you request permission from the Community of Owners. This will prevent it from forcing you to return the element to its original state. And it’s always safer to challenge an agreement than to let time elapse without knowing whether if the Community of Owners could force you at any time to undo the work carried out.

Take Expert Legal Advice

If you have a question about Community of Owners regulations, get in touch with our expert legal team for a free consultation. Remember, the right advice now will save you time, money and stress later on.

Maria Luisa Castro

Director and Founder
María founded CostaLuz Lawyers in 2006 and is the Firm’s Director. María is registered Lawyer number 2745 of the Cadiz Bar Association and is licensed to practice in all areas of law throughout Spain. Working closely with her team, María has developed the firm into one of the most highly regarded and trusted Spanish Law Firms acting for English-speaking clients with legal problems in Spain. We’re here to help. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation, initial legal orientation.
 

5 thoughts on “Your Rights to Make Changes in Your Home in Spain After Covid”

  1. Good afternoon,
    During Covid we had to move away from our property in Spain. The house has an outside garden and car port which is visible from the street and in fact persons are able to walk from the street right up to our front door and windows. Outside the house, on either side are two brick walls. One which separates the house from the house next door and the other which separates the community garage entrance from the house. the front of the house is completely exposed to passers by. We decided to seal off the boundary of the house from the main road so that the house would be secure.
    The wall was completed ensuring that it preserved the exact same esthetic in height, shape, colour and materials. This was done 3 years ago after the community had not objected prior, nor was there any discussion, to a neighbour constructing a wall to separate her garden from the garden next to her nor did the community object to an owner closing her two gardens with iron fencing and locked gates. Similarly two owners had not got permission to throw down a pilar to enlarge their terraced garden and which altered the building facade and building modifications to the roof terraces of apartment blocks have been going on for years with no community approval.
    The new president now wants me to bring down the wall.
    Do you think he is correct?

    1. Maria Luisa Castro

      Hi Richard,

      I would need to see pictures of the wall and of other properties with no wall, also statutes of the Community of Owner. I am contacting you by email.

  2. Greetings

    Thank you for the amazing information. My topic may be a bit different. My community has a roughly €650.000 level of default due to owners and associated businesses not meeting their financial obligations. We never seem to reach a sufficient vote within the community to pursue this debt. Unfortunately since the community is so far in default it makes selling my property difficult. I would never have purchased it if the prior president was truthful about the community status. Are there personal avenues that private owners can pursue when defaulters prevent the sale of our units even if the community cannot achieve a quorum to move forward with legal action?

    1. Maria Luisa Castro

      Hi Alex:

      I understand your concerns regarding the community’s outstanding debt and how it affects individual unit owners, especially when they are up-to-date with their payments.

      According to the Spanish Horizontal Property Law, actions against defaulting owners must be agreed upon by the community, which makes individual actions challenging. However, here are some potential avenues to consider:

      Convening an Extraordinary Meeting: If the regular meetings do not reach the necessary quorum, you could try calling extraordinary meetings specifically to address this issue. Persistence and frequency might lead to more owners attending or delegating their vote.

      Sensitizing Owners: Given the severity of the problem, you might want to make owners aware of the implications of inaction. A high debt level can devalue all properties in the building or development, which could motivate more owners to take action.

      Seeking Mediation: Although the community cannot take legal actions without agreement, it’s possible to seek mediation or some out-of-court conflict resolution.

      Review of Bylaws and Internal Regulations: It’s advisable to review the community’s bylaws and internal rules. Sometimes, there are additional measures or sanctions that can be applied to defaulting owners, beyond legal action.

      Consider Professional Management: If the community doesn’t have a professional administrator, it might be beneficial to hire one. An experienced manager might have effective strategies for handling debts and getting owners to meet their obligations.

      Debt Restructuring: In some cases, it might be possible to come to agreements with defaulting owners to set up payment plans. This isn’t an ideal solution but can be a way to recover at least part of the debt in the short to medium term.

      Consider a Price Reduction: If selling your property soon is a priority, you might want to consider reducing the selling price to make it more attractive, given the community’s financial situation.

      I understand that being up-to-date with your payments can make this situation especially frustrating.

      Best of lucks!

    2. Maria Luisa Castro

      Dear Alex:

      Thank you for sharing your situation. It’s indeed a challenging scenario when community debts impact individual property owners.

      In Spain, when the community of owners faces issues like the ones you mentioned, there are some avenues for individual owners to explore:

      Convocatoria de una Reunión Extraordinaria: If you haven’t already, consider trying to convene an extraordinary general meeting (Reunión Extraordinaria). You mentioned issues with reaching quorum in the community. Still, according to the Spanish Horizontal Property Law (Ley de Propiedad Horizontal), if a certain percentage of owners or ownership stakes request it (which varies depending on the specific matter to be addressed), an extraordinary general meeting can be convened. This meeting can be used to discuss urgent matters, like pursuing debtors.

      Legal Action as an Individual: While the ideal scenario is for the community to take collective action, as an individual, you could potentially take legal action against the community itself for not taking appropriate steps to collect debts, especially if it’s affecting your property value and ability to sell. However, this is a more contentious route and might not be the first recommendation.

      Mediation: Another less confrontational option before resorting to legal action is mediation. This can be an avenue to bring together different parties, discuss the ongoing issues, and potentially find a solution that benefits everyone.

      Disclosure During Sale: If you’re looking to sell your property and are finding it difficult due to the community’s debts, you might consider offering potential buyers a reduced price that factors in a percentage of the community’s debt or find other incentives to make the sale more appealing.

      We will be pleased to offer to you our terms and conditions for assistance on this.

      Best regards,

      Maria L. de Castro
      General Director
      Costaluz Lawyers

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