The costs of buying a property in Spain have been well documented (but it’s typically 11 to 14 per cent, for the record). What many people fail to consider in the excitement of buying their dream home in the sun are the costs of being a property owner. The key to avoiding surprises is to make sure that your independent Spanish lawyer advises you of the estimated running costs before you commit to purchasing a property.
Keep on top of utilities
The most difficult aspect of paying your utility bills in Spain can be arranging for the accounts to be set up in your name. Unless you have good conversational Spanish we recommend asking for assistance from your adviser with this step.
As in the UK you can expect to be charged for the usage of water and electricity, but you may also pay a separate standing charge. Utility companies in Spain will not take payment from an overseas account and so you will need to set up a Spanish bank account to make sure your bills are paid on time.
Even if you do not use the property all year round you will be obliged by the utility companies to set up payment directly from your bank account. By maintaining sufficient funds in your bank account you will ensure that the supply is not disconnected while the property is not in use. Arranging for reconnection can be very time consuming and costly, as failure to pay utility bills ultimately results in the meters being removed altogether.
IBI: annual local taxes
IBI is a local charge in Spain that is similar to council tax in the UK. The letters I.B.I. stand for Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles, literally an immovable property tax. Depending upon where in Spain your property is located you can expect to pay this expense either once or twice per year. IBI is based upon the rateable value of your property and is paid to the local town hall. In some areas the cost of refuse collection (basura) will be included with the IBI, in others it is a small separate charge.
You will receive a bill for IBI followed by a payment document, and usually you will be provided with a timescale in which payment must be made. If you do not make payment of your IBI then the town hall may charge penalties and register a charge against your property in respect of the debt you owe. It is therefore advisable that you make arrangements for the payments to be debited directly from your Spanish bank account in order to avoid missing payments.
Community fees on developments
If you own a property in Spain that is part of a development then you will be obliged to pay community fees. Community fees are paid by all property owners within the development towards the maintenance of the communal areas - swimming pools and gardens, or maybe an access road. Owners of properties with more extensive facilities - such as golf courses or spas - can expect to pay higher community fees. Details of such fees will be found in the documentation that was signed when you purchased the property, and the timing of such payments depends upon the community: monthly, annual or quarterly.
It is important to note that in communities with a large number of long term debtors, the other community members will eventually pay a higher fee. You should ensure that your adviser considers the minutes of the most recent annual general meeting of the community in order to receive a clear picture of the community’s finances, and issues that are affecting the development.
If you do not pay your community fees it is possible that the community could take legal action to recover the debt that could result in a charge being registered against your property and you may be refused access to facilities. Arrange for the payments to be made automatically from your bank account to avoid falling behind.
Non-resident’s income tax
As the owner of a property in Spain but as a non-resident of Spain, you will be liable to pay non-resident’s income tax. Even if you do not rent it out you will be required to submit an annual return. You can expect to pay an annual tax that is calculated on the basis of the rateable value (valor catastral) of the property. The tax payable will usually be very low, based on a taxable amount of 1.1 per cent of the rateable value, taxed at the rate of 19 per cent.
If you do rent out the property then you will be required to submit quarterly returns declaring the income received and the expenses you have incurred in each quarter. You can expect to pay quarterly tax upon the net income earned at a rate of 19 per cent, taking into consideration deductible expenses.
What about Brexit?
The only expense of owning property in Spain that may be affected by Brexit is non-resident’s income tax. The rate for non-EU citizens is currently 24 per cent as opposed to 19 per cent. However the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU have not been negotiated yet - and so it is possible that this changes (for better or for worse).