While Marbella has retained its status as the main driver of the Costa del Sol property market, the town received unwelcome headlines after thousands of properties were left in legal uncertainty by a November 2015 Supreme Court ruling annulling its 2010 Urban Plan (PGOU). This situation has led to some potential buyers becoming wary of completing their purchase as they became unsure of the status of the property they intended to buy. Fortunately the majority of real estate in Marbella is perfectly legal, so we thought it important to give you a brief guide to questions you should ask when buying a property in Marbella in order to set your mind at rest that the property in question is entirely legal.
- Who is the owner? Make sure that the vendor is indeed the registered owner. This can be done—inexpensively—at the local land register. Remember, if there is more than one registered owner then they must all sign the relevant paperwork.
- Is the property debt-free? Debts can be tied to the property and on purchasing a home you could be taking on the responsibility for paying these. They can include IBI (local council tax) and community fees, or even personal taxes, inheritance fees and other debts that can be lodged against a property via an instrument know as an In addition, any unpaid mortgage will also remain upon the property to be paid by the new owner. For this reason check with the Land Registry to ensure that there are no debts registered on the property, obtain up to date IBI receipts and check with the community that all its fees have been paid up. Utility receipts should also be requested to ensure the home you are interested in is entirely free of liens.
- Was planning permission given and if so does it hold up under the current PGOU? This is the thorniest problem in Marbella as some properties that were granted planning permission by the town council have had it revoked. The 2010 PGOU offered a pragmatic solution that has since been rescinded. Ask at the town hall if the property’s planning licence is in order and make sure that any extensions, swimming pools etc. were built with up-to-date permission. You can also check whether the property falls under the currently valid PGOU—which dates back to 1986—at the SITMA website.
- Are any other certificates required? Just because a home has planning permission this does not mean that is the end of the matter. Most importantly a property should have a First Occupancy Licence (licencia de primera ocupación). It provides evidence that the home is officially recognised as a dwelling and can be viewed as an indication that planning permission has been legally granted—although it should not be the only check. AN EPC energy performance certificate should also be obtained.
- Do I need a survey? For stand-alone villas a survey is advisable to ensure complete peace of mind, although it is not a legal requirement. Should you want a mortgage you will almost certainly need one.
The above checklist is the basis to ensuring your Marbella purchase is straightforward and entirely transparent. Altavista Properties would always recommend the use of a reputable lawyer or professional advisor to make sure all paperwork is presented in good order—and of course we ourselves are more than happy to offer more detailed and knowledgeable guidance to our clients. We can help put you in contact with professionals known to us for many years who have outstanding reputations for their integrity and efficiency. Please contact us for further information.