Living on a complex in Tenerife
Complexes in Tenerife are governed by the Law of Horizontal Division (Ley de propiedad horizontal) – there are links to the Spanish law, and an English version, on the links page. It seemed to me, though, that it might be useful to itemise on one page some of the questions I’m most often asked. If anyone has any other questions that aren’t covered in the following, please do post them in the comment box below and I’ll transfer them into the post and give an answer at the same time.
Q: Can I have an animal on a complex in Tenerife.
A: Spanish law legislates against loose animals in ALL places, and this includes communal areas of complexes. Moreover, Spanish law is only ever concerned with owners, so by default, only they have an automatic right to keep pets on complexes: tenants may do so, but only if their contract expressly permits it or, at least does not prohibit it. The law requires any pet, however, to be kept on a lead in communal areas. This applies to cats as much as dogs.In a nutshell: it does not matter at all whether a community has rules about animals because the issue is covered by Spanish Law.
Q: What can we do about an horrendous problem with dog noise? Can we modify the statutes to restrict the numbers of dogs people have? Must they be registered/can they be left unsupervised for hours on end/can people have as many dogs as they like? Is there any legal redress for owners who are disturbed by dogs barking day and night?
A: First of all, the issue is one of disturbance, and there is no need (nor ability) to revise the statutes because there are rules in the Law of Horizontal Division against nuisance. This is additional to whatever internal rules your community has (internal rules are different to the LHD and the statutes). So you will already have rules concerning the problem. The problem is enforcement. (Please also see the answer above on dogs in general on complexes).
Whether the dogs are registered, the number of dogs that someone has, the length of time they are left, all of this is nothing to do with the community, I’m afraid. All that concerns the community is the level of disturbance and nuisance caused … unless it’s a case of animal cruelty, which is how a dog left all day on a balcony is likely to be classified. In such a case the police need to be called, and will attend.
In terms of noise problems, the community could introduce a fine system, or it might be constructive to create an informal owners’ interest group against dogs, and all contribute to hiring a lawyer to approach the Ayuntamiento’s environment department (which is the place to start): in my experience they only listen to lawyers. This is probably the most effective response to a situation that will have the sympathy of many, I suspect.
Q: Are community fee debtors precluded not only from voting at the AGM but also from standing for election as officers?
A: The only thing community debtors can’t do is vote. Presumably they won’t get too many votes if they do stand for office!
Q: Can a president be elected without his/her consent?
A: Yes. If no-one agrees to stand for election, then an owner can be co-opted.
Q: Does the committee have any legal status?
A: No. Every owner on a community is a part of that community, and a committee is simply a mechanism to streamline the management.
Q: Can I build a brick outdoor cupboard on a shared wall?
A: No, at least not without 100% agreement from the community, and planning permission from the Ayuntamiento. This is because you are talking about a permanent fixture.
Q: At what age is a child able to use a smimming pool unaccompanied?
A: The law specifies that niños must be accompanied, and these are defined by Spanish law as 13 or under.
Q: What can a community do about perpetual debtors?
A: The agenda of every AGM should have an item authorizing the president to take legal action against defaulters, plus the authorization for him/her to use whatever legal assistance necessary to do this. This then allows the community actually to take action. There is little that can be done outside this legal route, however, and despite being widely rumoured, a community cannot deprive a defaulter of their rights to communal facilites, e.g. swimming pool.
Q. I disagree with the minutes of our last AGM and think they’re wrong. No-one is prepared to do anything about this. What can I do?
A: The minutes must be signed by the President, first of all, so if they are not as you remember, this needs to be addressed with the President in the first instance. If you get nowhere, remember that the minutes must be approved at an AGM/EGM, so if there are issues, make sure they are raised at that point before they are approved.
Q: The President keeps telling my children off just for playing. They must be allowed to play, surely? Isn’t the President harrassing us?
A: Unfortunately, the fact is that children are generally not allowed to play in a complex. Obviously, if the children are quiet it’s likely that no-one will complain, but the children have no actual rights to play. From the point of view of a complex, those who are disturbed by children are the ones being harassed, not you. Remember that the principal functions of a complex are basically the management of the community and communal areas, and usually, there is no designated play area. Complexes in Spain are not child friendly, which is why so many children in Spanish areas tend to play in play parks.
Q: How do I call an Emergency General Meeting?
A: You need a petition by owners representing more than 25% of the voting power, presented either to the President or administrator.
Q: Does the administrator have to be a specially qualified person?
A: An administrator can be any owner, or anyone professionally qualified as an administrator.
Q: What course of action can be taken when urgent work needs to be undertaken and there is no money in the community kitty?
A: There will need to be a derrama, a one off charge levied to pay for the works. These payments are divided by the original coefficients assigned to the apartments, though a community can vote to allow them to be divided in equal parts among the properties.
Q: Do the officials (e.g. President), have to be owners?
A: The President must be an owner, but the secretary/administrator does not. They can be the same person. If they are not an owner, the administrator must have a particular professional qualification.
Q: Who establishes how much the community fees are and on what grounds?
A: The community fees are set at the amount agreed for the budget at the AGM. This sum is then divided among the owners according to their coeficient, i.e. their percentage share of the community. This coefficient is determined as part of the building licence procedure before apartments are ever sold, and then should appear in every annual statement of accounts.
Q: Is there is a time limit after an AGM for the minutes to be signed off’ and circulated?
A: The minutes must be signed by the President and the Secretary within ten days of the AGM, though the law does not mention a deadline for distribution.
Q: Our AGM minutes are in Spanish. Is this the law?
A: The law doesn’t say anything about this, and Spanish is naturally the default language, but the community can, at an AGM, decide to make them available in other languages.
Q: How do you get people to keep quiet and behave properly? Is this a duty that the President performs?
A: If the nuisance is just to one or two neighbours, it is up to those neighbours to sort it out directly as an issue between neighbours, because each owner is a part of the community. If the disturbance is greater than this, though, then the president should be contacted with a view to organizing police involvement. The fact is, though, that all owners form the community, and it is up to the community as an entity to enforce decent behaviour. This means that any owner can, and should, enforce standards, and is entitled by law to do so – indeed expected by law to do so. The President is not the “complex police”, but a legal figurehead.
Q: If debtors don’t pay, won’t they just get away with it when they sell?
A: No. Their community fees must be paid up to date or whoever is doing their buyers’ conveyancing won’t be able to get the required certificate from the administrators saying they are not in debt. Their unpaid community fees will be registered as a debt against their properties and will need to be cleared before a sale is notarized. At that point, they will either have to pay them before the notary will allow the sale to go through, or they will be deducted from the purchase price. Either way, they will pay then if they have not paid before.
Q: Our administrators refuse to do any work to supply TV for anyone who isn’t Spanish. Can they do this?
A: By law, communities have to provide national Spanish TV channels, and anything else is entirely optional. It is not a matter of discrimination against anyone of any nationality, just a legal requirement to provide basic TV coverage of the main channels in the country we are, after all, in! So yes, your administrator is correct, but your interpretation of what s/he said is not.
Q: Is there any legal time limit that questions can be put forward to the agenda before an AGM.
A: Yes, there’s a deadline to give an issue to the administrators for inclusion on the agenda. I’m not certain what that is, but think a week – the administrators will be able to confirm for you. Of course, if you miss a deadline, then you can bring an issue up under “other business” at the end of the meeting, but for an important matter, that’s not desirable because meetings are often running out of steam by then.
Q: How much can the President spend?
A: Technically, the president can’t spend anything without agreement from an AGM or EGM. In practice, this is unworkable, so it is informally understood that he/she may spend on a day-to-day basis on items essential for the running of the complex, provided these expenditures are of a modest nature. The extent of this freedom is undefined, but 10% is reasonable. Non-urgent and unnessary items are most certainly not included in this figure, and the commissioning of expensive artwork would certainly require prior approval from owners. Unless, of course, a previous AGM has formally agreed such a freedom.
Q: What can we do about multiple owners who can outvote us every time?
A: Votes in an AGM are counted two ways – first as quota, but also individually, and in this second vote multiple owners count as just one member of the community along with every other owner. If there is no way of reconciling the two types of votes, then it goes to Court for an independent judgement. I have known many owners group together to take their own lawyer to such meetings to ensure they run as they should, particularly where there are possible conflicting interests in those who are running the meetings.
Q: Can debtors be named and shamed?
A: The only time debtors can be announced and publicly displayed is in the call to an AGM, where they and the amount they owe have to be listed in order to determine who has a right to vote at that AGM. AGMs normally coincide with the end of communities’ financial years (different to the Spanish tax year which is always Jan-Dec), and so AGMs are when a community’s financial year closes and its accounts are signed off – inevitably, then, this is the only time that the community can determine who is actually “in arrears” in a legal sense. The list can only be published, in individual communication to owners and on the public notice board, at the call for an AGM. There are many communities, however, who forget to take such notices down so in effect they are they on display the whole year.
Q: How much notice must a president give of an AGM?
A: Six days.
Q: Can I alter the external appearance of my terrace, or build an extension on it?
A: No, this is in complete breach of the conditions of living in a community as part of the Law of Horizontal Division which you signed when you signed the escritura to buy your apartment. You cannot alter the external appearance at all, and any works (e.g. installation of sun blinds) must conform to complex standard designs, and have communal approval.
As I said at the top of the page, if there are any other questions, please post them in the comment box below and I’ll transfer them into the post and give an answer at the same time.