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Do you need an updated NIE certificate to sell property in Spain?

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spanish nie number
NIE number. Click to enlarge

By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Director of Larraín Nesbitt Abogados
8th of December 2020

We published several years ago (in eight languages) a detailed article in SPI explaining  what a NIE number is and how to go about getting one. A NIE number is assigned by the national police and is yours for the remainder of your lifetime, it never changes. Many years ago, Spanish police issued them as an A4 sized certificate that had a three-month expiry date printed on them. Modern-issued NIE numbers no longer show ‘expiry’ dates.

At times notaries, on selling, demand a seller produces a new updated NIE number certificate. This is because they have seen the 3-month expiry date is (long) overdue and are asking for a ‘new’ updated copy. In truth, the ‘new’ certificate will bear exactly the same number and details as the former, the only difference is that there will not be any expiry date on it.

Imagine sitting the morning of completion at a notary’s office, surrounded by a group of anxious strangers, and feeling a knot at the pit of your stomach when the notary officer informs you the sale has fallen through because your NIE number is not accepted by the notary! Now imagine millions of euros are at stake. It can well happen. The sale needs to be postponed or else change over to another notary (not always possible when mortgage loans are involved, as is often the case).

Then again, some notaries, who are not prone to nit-picking, will have no qualms accepting an ‘expired’ NIE number certificate. They will find it completely unnecessary to re-apply for a new copy and are more than happy to accept an old one which shows a 3-month expiry date.

The problem is that sellers cannot pick the notary witnessing a sales deed. This is a right that belongs only to buyers, who are legally entitled to pick whichever notary pleases them most. One of the many disadvantages this poses to sellers, is that they are unable to know beforehand – often until it is too late in the day – which notary will be the one selected by the buyer. Meaning they cannot know if the selected notary will demand they update their old NIE number certificate, or not, on selling.

This can be easily preempted by your appointed conveyance lawyer on including a clause in the POA to attain a duplicate NIE number should the need arise on selling. Bottom line, in practice it’s a bit akin to playing Russian roulette; a seller cannot know for sure if the chosen notary will demand an updated NIE certificate, or not. It is the duty of your conveyance lawyer to plan ahead for this eventuality, and overcome any unforeseen obstacle.

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Article also published at Larrain Nesbitt Abogados (LNA): Do you need an updated NIE certificate to sell property in Spain?

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