I’m looking to buy in Spain but have heard scary stories that if the previous owner had debts they will pass to me. Is this true? If so, how do I avoid this kind of situation?

It is true that in Spain debts that are secured against a property – for instance a mortgage – become the new owner’s liability unless they are paid off before the property changes hands. However this will only be a problem if the new owner is unaware of the debts ascribed to the property at the time of committing to buy. The debt in itself is not necessarily a problem but being unaware of the debt when you sign a purchase contract can be a very serious problem. There is a simple solution for avoiding ‘unexpected’ debts. Have your lawyer check the ‘nota simple’ (the record of the property in the land registry) before committing to anything. The nota simple will show if there is any debt secured against the property. If you sign a private sale contract before signing the public deeds the contract should state any outstanding debt on the property. And finally your lawyer should request another nota simple from the land registry just before you sign the public deeds before Notary. All good lawyers should do this as a matter of course and this protects from you taking on any unwanted and unexpected debts when you buy property in Spain

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About Mark Stücklin

Mark Stücklin is a Barcelona-based property market analyst and consultant, and author of the 'Spanish Property Doctor' column in the Sunday Times (2005 - 2008). He can be reached by email on ms@spanishpropertyinsight.com.