As of tomorrow, Monday the 29th of March, UK residents have what the British government calls a ‘reasonable excuse’ to justify foreign travel if it has anything to do with the purchase, ownership, and sale of property.
That gives all Spanish property owners, and potential buyers, a reasonable excuse to leave the UK for Spain, but unfortunately, Spain won’t let you in on these grounds.
Starting on Monday, and lasting until June 30, you risk a fine of £5,000 fine for leaving the UK without a reasonable excuse as part of the government’s plan to control Covi-19. What is a ‘reasonable excuse’? The full list of excuses is published at gov.uk here, and the ones related to property are broad enough to cover pretty much any property-related travel to Spain.
According to Regulation 8, Schedule 5, ‘Reasonable excuses to travel outside the United Kingdom’, clause 7, you can travel abroad for the following:
Where it is reasonably necessary for P to leave the United Kingdom to undertake any of the following activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property—
- visiting estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes;
- viewing residential properties to look for a property to buy or to rent;
- preparing a residential property to move in;
- moving house;
- to visit a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property.
So, you can leave the UK for anything to do with house-hunting abroad.
And if you own a property abroad, you have a reasonable excuse to visit it to prepare it for rental or sale.
As an owner, I imagine simply providing proof of your ownership, like a copy of your title deeds (escritura) or a land registry filing (nota simple) will enough to justify your claim of a ‘reasonable excuse’. How can any border official dispute you plan to rent or sell your property?
Anyone looking to buy abroad might want to create a house-hunting file with a property shortlist, correspondence with agents or developers, and other documentation to back up your claim to a ‘reasonable excuse’.
It sounds like good news for estate agents and developers hoping to sell to British clients this year, but it could also lead to an increase in fake enquiries and inspection-visits by tyre-kickers with no intention of buying. That all comes at a cost, so property professionals might need to be more careful than usual about qualifying enquiries from the UK this summer.
Stanley Johnon Clause
The British press are calling this loophole the “Stanley Johnson clause” because the PMs father used his property in Greece as an excuse to break lockdown rules last year.
The opposition are arguing it is elitist, with Andrew Gwynne, Labour MP, telling The Guardian: “For hardworking families facing the prospect of missing out on summer holidays, it will stick in the craw that the government has inserted a ‘Stanley Johnson clause’ to Covid rules that allows people to come and go if they have property abroad. It seems it’s one rule for them and another for the rest of us.”
The truth is though, anyone who can afford a holiday abroad can use the property clause as a reasonable excuse if they don’t have any qualms about doing so.
Will Spain let you in from the UK?
Will you be allowed into Spain? Only if you comply with another set of rules at the Spanish end, explained at the Spanish government Spain Travel Health website, and have a reason accepted by the Spanish authorities as explained by the British FO here and by the Spanish foreign office here. At the Spanish-end, property related matters are not an acceptable reason for now.
Article updated with Spanish entry requirements 29-mar-2021