Occupancy Permits and buying houses in Spain

Estate agents clearly play an important part in the process of selling houses inSpain, however their influence is not always benign.  Indeed, all too often I encounter agents who are pushing their clients to buy properties irrespective of the advice of conveyancing lawyers and the requirement for them to have sufficient time to complete proper investigations of a property.  The latter always take time and must never be unduly hurried.

Recently, I acted for a purchaser who wished to buy a property but I found that the property concerned lacked an Occupancy Permit (sometimes known as a Cedula).  This is a very important document and I accordingly advised my client not to sign for the house until this was supplied by the purchaser.

Indeed, I said to the purchaser that she should only put the 10% deposit down for the house she wanted – once the Occupancy Permit was granted by the local town hall.

Within a very short time the estate agent involved was bullying the purchaser to pay the 10% – despite the lack of the Occupancy Permit.  He obviously thought that either obtaining this Licence was unimportant, that it was guaranteed or could be done extremely quickly.

In fact, not all town halls move quickly and obtaining an Occupancy Permit is not always a quick matter, irrespective of how hard a lawyer tries.  Furthermore, to state the obvious, getting an Occupancy Permit is not guaranteed and depends upon the status of the property concerned.  If the property does not fulfil certain criteria then the house will not be granted an Occupancy Permit and this might be a sign of some serious legal defects in the property – or future potential liabilities.

Sadly, the estate agent was clearly desperate to close his sale and continued to push the buyer very hard indeed.  Indeed, not just the seller.  I was told by the agent that if I advised my client to pay the 10% without the Occupancy Permit then he would send me further clients in the future.  This was, of course, an attempt at bribery and something that I have faced before.

In any event, you will not be surprised to hear that the property concerned was not granted an Occupancy Permit and the buyer, rightly, decided not to buy the property.

The moral of this story is obvious.  As a property buyer in Spainyou must resist undue pressure when it comes to buying a property.  Almost always there is a reason why the seller or an agent is pushing hard and, as I have said many times before, it is better to lose a really good buy than to purchase a deeply flawed property – that could cost you everything.

Carolina Just Miró