We recently assisted a client who was buying property in Spain – specifically he wanted to buy land in Spain – but was concerned about the impact of Spanish law as the land was situation in the green-belt and where there was a cabin which he intended to convert into his habitual residence. Unfortunately he carried out the purchase without the assistance of a lawyer and after signing the property deeds before the notary public and submitted it for registration in the land registry, one of the neighbours decided to exercise their right of withdrawal and acquire the property instead of the original buyer.
Is this really possible? If so, what is the deadline to exercise the right of withdrawal? If the plot of land was in regular urban land, would there a right of withdrawal? Many questions such as these were raised.
According to the relevant Spanish Legislation (art. 1.523 Civil Code) a right of withdrawal is granted to all the adjacent owners of a plot for sale on green-belt land, subject to certain conditions, for example, the plot should be a maximum 1-hectare in size. This right cannot apply if the plot for sale, and the one owned by the neighbour exercising the right of withdrawal, are separated by streams, ditches, ravines, paths, roads or any other property easement right. Also, the right of withdrawal cannot be exercised between urban plots or urban + green-belt plots. It only operates between green-belt plots.
The adjacent owner has nine working days to exercise the right of withdrawal counting from the day that he/she has knowledge of the purchase or alternatively, nine working days to exercise the right of withdrawal counting from the day when the purchase is duly registered in the Land Registry.
In every real estate conveyance relating to the purchase of land in Spain, the expert opinion of a lawyer should be sought to avoid such issues arising prior to any payment and it is not advisable to leave such matters in the hands of a real estate agency since they do not have the professional training to deal with these types of issues; nor the legal knowledge to prevent them; and on top of that in the situation described, greater expense was incurred by the client since he paid the real estate agency and subsequently had to contract a lawyer to defend his interests.
If you plan to buy land in Spain, make sure to contact an English-speaking lawyer before making any payment. A lawyer will ensure the purchase is safe and can even save you money as the lawyer will usually be able to provide independent advice on matters such as how much to offer on Spanish property.