In this and subsequent articles we will be detailing various aspects of the Community of Property Owners – as regulated by the Horizontal Property Law – a fundamental institution in Spain that exists to regulate the rights and obligations of the individual owners of properties in a building or within a number of buildings included in single community or urbanisation. In particular, I will lay out:
- The structure and office holders
- Rules that regulate meetings and decisions taken by the Community of Neighbours
- Liability for Community payments and unpaid instalments
The Structure of Communities of Property Owners
In Spain all Communities of Property Owners are regulated by legislation, specifically Ley 24/1960: Horizontal Property Law, except in Catalonia where such communities are regulated by the Catalonian Civil Code. In addition each ‘Community’ can have it’s own statutes, though these must always respect the legislation.
A Community of Owners is formed by the entire group of owners of homes, commercial properties and any other unt found within a building or urbanisation and which are capable of being utilised independently with it’s own exit either to a common area within the building or urbanisation or to the public highway.
The structure of a Community of Owners may be described as follows: a) The President and the Vice-Presidents, b) The Secretary, c) The Administrator, and d) Meeting of the Community of Owners.
The President must be one of the property owners and is elected either by ballot or by a draw of lots. The person elected may be excused from the office only by providing appropriate reasons before a Court of 1st Instance. The President is the legal representative of the Community both in and out of Court. The office of Vice-President is optional and should the Meeting of the Community of Owners decide to name one, then the process is the same as for electing the President.
The roles of Secretary and Administrator may be exercised by the President, except if this is prohibited by the Statutes of the Community or if the same is agreed at the Meeting of the Community of Owners. The Secretary and Administrator may be the same person or different people, and need not be one of the property owners. Therefore, a professional such as a Registered Estates Administrator or other business dedicated to this type of activity may be named as being responsible for these roles. Practice teaches that external management by local Property Law experts is most of the times the best performing formula.
All of the officers of the Community must be named within a period of one year, unless the Community statutes establish a different time period.
- Safeguard and ensure the proper functioning of the property and it’s installations.
- Prepare the Community running costs for submission to the Meeting of the Community of Owners.
- Attend to the maintenance of the building, undertaking any repairs that are urgently required.
- Overseeing any works that need to be carried-out, including payments to workers.
- Acting as Secretary to the Meeting of the Community of Owners if no-one else has been designated for this task.
Functions of the Meeting of the Community of Owners
- Appoint the officers of the Community of Owners
- Approve the accounts and the income and foreseeable costs
- Approve any proposed refurbishments to be carried out
- Approve and update the Community Statutes and any Rules of Living in the Community
- Decide any other matter of interest to the Community
In this way, while the Community of Owners operates day-to-day through it’s President and it’s Administrator, really it is the individual property owners, meeting together who make the decisions and who have the ability to make agreements on behalf of the entire Community. In the next article we will discuss the Community Meetings and how decisions are taken that impact all of the owners in the building or urbanisation.