If you buy a property in Spain, it’s very likely that you’ll have to join a homeowners’ association, known colloquially in Spanish as ‘la comunidad’.
A property owner within a building (such as a block of flats) or complex of properties in which there are shared facilities, must, by law, become a member.
In general, this doesn’t entail much. Your involvement in the ‘comunidad’ can be as big or as little as you want it to be. But, as a minimum, you have to pay a monthly fee.
Who runs the homeowners’ association?
The running of the community is done collectively, mostly on a volunteer basis with one member filling the role of president (sometimes there is a treasurer too) on an annual basis.
Within your ‘comunidad’, you may discover that there is an individual, normally with a lot of free time, who is always entrusted with the role. Or, you may also find that there is an election each year and the interested candidates are put on a ballot.
However, most of the time, this is a job that no one particularly wants to do. In this case, the presidency may pass from owner to owner on an annual rota. If you live in a block of ten apartments, for example, you may find yourself the president once every ten years.
However, if this isn’t practical, it may be decided, by majority vote, that a ‘gestor’ (or administrator) should be hired to do this. But this does come at an extra cost for everyone.
The function of the ‘comunidad’
The ‘comunidad’ is responsible for the smooth running of the building or complex and works in the interests of all its occupants.
It’s mostly responsible for drafting and approving the annual budget, taking into account things such as bills for the communal utilities, insurance, maintenance and cleaning costs – and contracting professionals to carry out these jobs throughout the year.
However, the “comunidad” will also hold periodical meetings (often monthly) at which any issues between residents can be discussed or proposals for improvements can be made.
The community president is always a useful person to know. If you ever encounter any issues with neighbours or the facilities, they are best placed to help you.
Paying community fees
The vast majority of properties in Spain are sold freehold. This means that you own them outright. However, if you live in a shared building or in a complex with shared facilities, you only hold a portion of the freehold.
The budget to care for these shared areas, therefore, is divided proportionally among the owners according to property size.
Each member must pay a monthly service charge, normally by direct debit.
Community fees can vary massively but are normally somewhere between 30 and 120 euros a month.
Factors influencing costs
The cost of your monthly ‘comunidad’ fees depends a lot on the facilities that your building or residential complex has.
If the community has a swimming pool, gym facilities, sports courts, gardens and garages, this will all need looking after, cleaning and maintenance. Likewise, if it has security or a concierge, they will need to be paid a salary. Therefore you will need to pay more.
However, if you live in a block of flats with just a shared corridor and elevator, your costs will be a lot lower.
That said, elevators are a major expense. They significantly increase the cost of electricity in the communal areas and also require a good maintenance contract to ensure no one gets stuck inside or that it doesn’t break down for several days at a time.
Another major factor influencing community costs is insurance. Of course, the older the building(s), the higher the insurance costs.
Extra work and future projects
The annual community budget will always run a surplus. This is so that this can later be used for larger projects such as building renovations or to cover unexpected costs not covered by insurance.
For example, every five to ten years, the community may decide that the facade or corridors are looking a bit shabby and need painting. For projects such as these, the surplus can be used, rather than asking each owner to pay for it.
However, when the surplus doesn’t cover the costs, this is when a ‘derrama’ is required.
This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, the community has a meeting and decides, again by majority vote, on the action to take. Next, three quotes will be requested before the community decides which to go for and the cost is divided between the property owners (usually in instalments over a long period, in addition to your community fees).
When buying a property, it’s important to find out the monthly community fee and if there is a ‘derrama’ currently in place or if there are any upcoming for which you will be expected to pay.
In most cases, these works are necessary and may even be beneficial to you in the long run. For example, if you’re buying a fifth-floor apartment in a building with no elevator and the plan is to install one, this will add significant value to your property in the future.
Also, some communities comprise several hundred properties. So, when the cost is divided between them, the sum may be quite small overall.
How much are community fees in Spain?
Community fees can differ enormously. The numbers can affect your decision on whether to buy a property or not; this is why it’s important to know how much they are beforehand.
Fees can be as low as 10 euros a month in a scenario such as in an apartment block without a lift, where someone takes up the role of president for free and where residents take turns cleaning the communal areas.
By contrast, they could be as high as 300 euros if you live in a high-end development with state-of-the-art spa and sports facilities and on-site security and concierge.
However, on average, community fees in Spain are around 40 euros a month.
Get your dream Spanish property with Micasamo
The concept of the ‘comunidad’ may seem strange or unfamiliar to you, but it needn’t be scary.
At Micasamo we help you at every step of the journey. We provide an end-to-end service including a free consultation with legal, financial and residency advisors, relocation advice, property consultancy to establish the right fit for you, exclusive viewing trips and ongoing first-class after-sales service and more.
If you’re excited by the idea of relocating to Spain, the Micasamo Team is there to help. To get started, just send over an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, let us know what you’re looking for and we can make an appointment at the time that suits you to discuss your house-hunting requirements.