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Are we, as buyers, liable for payment of unpaid debts left by the current owners of a property?

Property Law

Antonio Flores Vila

8th of July 2001

Q. We are thinking of buying a property in southern Spain. Please advise if we would be liable for any outstanding debts left by the current owners. Also as english buyers, will we be better off with a Spanish or English lawyer to help with the sale? Thank You.

Brighton England

    A. If you buy a property in Spain with debts which have not been paid by the seller, the property will then be liable for them. Not all debts have this facility attached. Some, like electricity or water, are never claimed by means of litigation and therefore the property is not at risk, but you will be cut off, which becomes a serious problem.

    Others, like community fees or council rates, do come associated with the property if they are not paid on time. The procedure, in the case of unpaid community fees, is quick and a notification on the notice board on the common area of the building or on the notice board of the community administration office is enough to proceed with the seizure of the property and sale at public auction.

    A competent lawyer will have these debts checked out to ensure payment, or will withold, from the purchase price, a sum enough to satisfy creditors, whether it is the Community office, Town Hall, a bank (mortgage creditor), water or electricity companies, the plaintiff of a claim brought against the current owner etc.

    Regarding your second question, I would suggest you engaged a solicitor/lawyer practising and registered in Spain, regardless of his nationality. It would obviously be convenient that he spoke English, in order to ensure a smooth communication between lawyer and client.

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