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Property management fees in Spain: Liability for Non-payment

Each property owner, by virtue of being an owner, and from the moment that, upon acquiring a home or commercial property in the relevant building or urbanisation the owner becomes part of the horizontal property regulations, the obligation to pay the common costs arises, “…it not being the case that failure to make use of any service provides exemption from the corresponding obligation,” (Article 9.2 Ley Propiedad Horizontal)

Therefore, the fact that a particular common service is not used, does not remove the obligation to pay for the supply of the service, for example, the use of a lift. Accordingly, any individual decision, for example non-use of a property does not relieve the property owner of the obligation to pay their proportion of the property management fee in full. Likewise where the service functions poorly, the obligation continues to exist, the correct response being to demand that the service functions as it should.

Subjective Liability

Where a property is being sold to a new owner, the debtor responsible for making the payment of any outstanding property management fees is the owner at such time as the obligation to pay the bill arises. As a result, while the the Community of Owners may take action against the current owner of the property, the liability, subjective and moveable, remains with the original owner-debtor.

In addition, from the provisions contained in Articles 9.1 e) and 21 of the LPH (Horizontal Property Law) it can be stated that the liability of each owner to contribute to the joint costs of the community of owners does not cease, once they have arisen, for the simple fact of transmitting the property to a third party.

Limited Liability

The current owner, who was not around at the time that the original obligation to pay the community fees arose, shall have their liability for prior debts accrued limited in terms of the amount that they must pay, equivalent to the the costs related to the previous three years (until the reforms in this area of the law brought about by Law 08/2013, the limit had been one year) as well as any debt accrued in the current year to date; qualitatively, the new owner’s liability is limited to the property located in the urbanisation in which the debt was accrued, and cannot attach to any other properties that they own. It is clear that this double restriction on the extent of the debt transmitted may be justified on the basis that, despite the transfer of the title to the property, there is a continuing liability on the part of the previous owner.

As a result of the above, in the case of debts owed by the owner of a property to the Community of Owners,  the property in the particular urbanisation may potentially be seized to repay the debts.

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