There are still many buildings and complexes in Spain with a large number of homes, premises and parking spaces still in the hands of their developers. This situation is much more common in coastal resorts where there’s an abundance of holiday homes. In these cases, who should pay community fee debts when properties haven’t been sold?
The person responsible for community charges is the owner and therefore, in this case, the developer is obliged to pay the fees for the upkeep and maintenance of the communal services and facilities in the building or complex. This includes extra charges approved by the community, for which the owner is liable until the property is sold.
This means that any clause included by the developer in the community statutes stating he is not liable for community fees is null and void. Such a clause would give the developer and future buyers an advantage and negatively affect the rest of owners who would have to pay higher fees.
They would not be legally liable to pay these according to Article 9.1 in the Community Properties Law (Ley de Propiedad Horizontal in Spanish). This article outlines owner obligations to contribute to all general expenses to maintain the property and any services, charges and responsibilities that are shared by all owners.
It’s worth pointing out that Article 9.2 explains that even if an owner doesn’t make use of particular service, he is not exempt from paying costs towards it.
Lastly, if the developer isn’t up-to-date with payments, a situation that usually have grave financial consequences for the community, he or she loses his right to vote at meetings. This is the same for all owners who owe community fees. This allows the rest of owners to come to necessary agreements over taking legal action.
It’s particularly interesting to note that a new owner is liable for community fee debts for the year to date and for the previous three years (four years in Catalunya). Buyers interested in purchasing a new build should therefore demand that the developer provides a certificate stating the property’s debts.