If you are an expat interested in buying Spanish property, it is useful to have a general understanding of Spanish property laws, to ensure you avoid making a poor investment.

Of course, to describe the property laws of any country could fill volumes, so here we shall restrict ourselves to discussing the new Housing Law introduced in 2023 and the Horizontal Property laws in Spain and how they regulate the rights and obligations of property owners insofar as they affect the shared enjoyment of common areas in urbanisations or buildings containing apartments. As a result they impact most people who own property in Spain.

As a Spanish property lawyer, much time has been spent writing articles about other areas of Spanish law that affect property buyers in Spain, such as the property purchase process, property tax, the costs of buying property in Spain and the many pitfalls of buying property here in Spain, for which links are included so you can browse for further information.

1. New Regulations

The current socialist government in Spain, under pressure from its left-wing government partners have enacted new laws this year.

The new Spanish housing law - Law 12/2023 has, according to its promoters in the Spanish parliament the intention of giving effect to the right to adequate housing, contained in the Spanish Constitution.

It is particularly targeted at those groups considered to be vulnerable, typically those considered to bear economic vulnerability and its reach is broadly two-fold, impacting those areas where the State has an influence in the provision of housing stock - to increase the supply of affordable housing - as well as controlling rental prices which, along with property prices, have surged in recent years. The government's objective is to support those renting property in Spain, by restricting increases in rental prices in certain circumstances.

Therefore, for the purposes of this article, the main impact of the new law will be on rental property owned by Expats, with increased regulation of rental agreements that could potentially affect rental income for those involved.

2. Restrictions on Rental Prices in Stressed Areas and Large Landlords

It is to be noted that the new housing law regulations on increases in rental prices makes reference to areas considered 'stressed areas', or places where it is difficult to find a rental property at an accessible monthly rent. These are to be found not just in large cities but also in some tourist hotspots dotted around the Spanish Costas.

Another important distinction lies in the amount of rented property owned by the landlord - with any individual or organisation renting out five or more properties subject to greater obligations.

These two factors determine the application of the new law, such that, either a small or large landlord who has properties located in a 'stressed area' may only increase the rental prices each year by a new rate, as determined by the Spanish tax authorities., thus doing away with the previous system of increases determined by the official rate of inflation.

It is immaterial if the property is being rented to a new tenant, with the new rental prices tied to the previous contract.

In areas that are not considered to be 'stressed', only large landlords are impacted by this restriction, with the restrictions to be determined by regional authorities,

3. Other Changes

Other notable changes brought in by the new law are that the landlord must pay any Spanish estate agents bills for marketing the property - the tenant can no longer be made to pay this cost.

Additionally, new surcharges to the Spanish council tax (IBI) are to be levied on any properties left empty for extended periods of time. This will not affect properties that are used for periodic holiday letting or for the owner's own holiday purposes.

Finally, the new new housing law aims to provide greater protection against eviction for those groups of tenants considered to be vulnerable. Typically this would envisage elderly tenants, those with young children or with disabilities.

4. Tax Benefits introduced by the New Law

The new law attempts to take a carrot and stick approach by offering increased tax deductions for landlords. Unfortunately, these have not been specified, but in the draft law the government has stated a desire to offer up to 90% tax deductions, depending on the status of the tenants, with preferential tax treatment where the tenants are among vulnerable groups.

It remains to be seen whether the new laws will have the desired effect and indeed, the law could foreseeably be overturned in the near future, should the current Opposition party in Parliament win the next election.

However, as it may have an impact on expats buying property in Spain, it is certainly information worth having. If you are currently renting out a property in Spain, and have entered into a rental agreement with a tenant, a Spanish lawyer will be able to advise you on the impact of the new law.

The provisions of Law 12/2023 enter into force on May 26th 2023, except for those relating to tax incentives for landlords. For a fuller treatment of this topic, see property tax in Spain.

5. Horizontal Property Law in Spain

Apart from the new laws affecting landlords in Spain, an existing law that affects all home owners in Spain is the Horizontal Property Law. Here 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 a 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

6. The Structure

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 its 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 unit found within a building or urbanisation and which are capable of being utilised independently with its 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: 

  • The President and the Vice-Presidents, 
  • The Secretary,
  • The Administrator, and 
  • Meeting of the Community of Owners. 

7. The President of the Community of Owners Association


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. 

8. Secretary and Administrator

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 a local solicitor in Spain or other property expert is most of the time the best performing formula. All the officers of the Community must be named within a period of one year, unless the Community statutes establish a different time period. Administrator’s Functions

  • 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.

9. The Annual Meeting

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. 

10. Common Ownership

Upon buying a property in Spain in an urbanization, the new owner also becomes the owner of a fraction of the common areas of the complex. The common areas are split into hundredths and each owner has a specific number allotted to them, typically according to the size of the property that they own in the complex. 

Of course, with ownership comes responsibility and there is an annual fee to be paid in order to maintain all the common areas and amenities. The fee paid by each owner corresponds to the number of shares in the complex that they have been allotted. The number of shares that have been allotted to each property can be discovered by checking the title deeds of the property. 

11. Meetings

When buying a property in Spain, then the legal responsibilities of the owners may often end at the boundaries of their residence. However, it is more usually the case, especially in Spain, that the property, whether an apartment or a detached residence, is located within an urbanization. 

The owners of property within residential complexes that provide shared amenities for example a porter service, lifts, swimming-pools and grounds maintenance etc. are responsible financially to maintain those shared facilities. 

To manage such matters, each building complex or urbanization has a Community of Owners, which will have a President and a Secretary and will hold meetings each year to discuss and decide on issues of mutual interest regarding the maintenance of the community fixtures and amenities. 

There are a number of important aspects of this responsibility, and to make sure that new owners of property in Spain are aware of these issues. Each Community of Owners is regulated by the 'Ley de Propiedad Horizontal' legislation of 1960, as revised by legislation in 1999. The annual general meeting held each year is when the officers of the community are elected and when they must provide the yearly accounts which describe in detail how the fees have been spent in the previous year and the budget for the following year is set. 

The basic objective of the annual meeting is to decide on all the most important questions that impact on the organization and functioning of the community. Six days notice must be given to each owner regarding the holding of a general meeting. 

The decisions of the meetings are taken by a vote, with each owner's vote being weighted according to the number of shares they have been allotted in the community. A simple majority is normally sufficient for most decisions, and if an insufficient number of owners attend the meeting to provide that majority a second vote may be held half an hour later that only requires a simple majority of those present. 

The decisions reached must be written down in minutes, and a summary of the decisions must be sent to each owner for it to have effect in law. If an owner has an objection to any decision, they must formally protest within 30 days. 

12. Obligations of the Community of Owners

The community of owners is obliged to carry out the building work and repairs necessary from time to time to adequately maintain the fitness for purpose of all buildings, with particular regard being hard to structure, safety, accessibility and habitability. 

Any owners who object to or delay the carrying-out of such repairs can be held personally liable for any administrative penalties suffered by the community. The community is also required to carry-out alterations necessary to provide access to the building for any disabled person or persons over seventy years of age who are living there, where the cost does not exceed the amount of three months' community fees. 

A common issue that can affect communities of owners is the failure of one or more of the owners to pay the annual community fee. It becomes the responsibility of the community to pursue such debtors, eventually via the courts if necessary. Before getting to that point, the community must have reached the decision to deal with the debtor at a legally convened meeting and have communicated this decision to the debtor-owner in the prescribed manner. 

13. Owner's Obligations to Private Property

Each property owner may make those alterations they consider appropriate to their property as long as no alterations are made to the common structure of the building, nor any detrimental impact on the properties of the other owners. 

Property owners may not carry out any activities (or professions) within their dwellings that are prohibited by the statutes of the community of owners or which may be described as dangerous, damaging or detrimental in general. Any other owner may formally complain to the President of the Community of Owners about any such activity, whereupon the President shall request the immediate cessation of all such activities before initiating legal measures approved by a meeting of the community of owners. 

Each owner should also maintain their property in a good state such that no damage is caused to other properties as a result of failure of any installation in their property. ¡

14. Owners Obligations Regarding Common Areas

Any area of the building or urbanization that is not reserved for the exclusive use of the individual owners is by definition a common area, available for use by all. Common areas are normally one of four possible types:

  1. Physical structures (foundations, pillars, floors, façades)
  2. Installations, Conduits (Electrical installations, Guttering)
  3. Community Areas (Swimming-pools, playgrounds, gym areas)
  4. Service Areas

Each property owner has the right to use and enjoy common areas of the building or urbanization in common with the other property owners. However, they may not alter any common area and if there is an urgent need to repair a common area this should never be undertaken privately but communicated to the administrator of the community. 

Property owners must consent to access to their private property where necessitated to carry out work necessary to maintain common areas. Should the community vote to install common telecommunication equipment, they may not insist that those owners who voted against should pay a proportional part of the cost. However, should those who voted against the installation decide at a later date that they wish to benefit from it, then they may do so by paying the requisite amount with legal interest added.

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