We often get asked if a property is leasehold or freehold - those terms as such don’t exist in Spain. Effectively all individual properties are owned outright, but when you buy a house on a community, you own your house but the communal areas are owned by the community, which is all the owners together. The laws governing how communities are run are known as the Horizontal Laws and all communities have to be run according to these laws.
So what does owning a house on a community mean? First, it doesn’t suit everybody. The strictness of community living varies greatly. For instance, I know a community where all the air con units must be out of sight (so low down on balconies/solariums etc), all sun blinds are a particular colour and the pool is closed during siesta time, (when it’s hottest and you most want to use it!).
Our community is much more accommodating; you can have sun blinds in whatever colour you like, the pool stays open all day and if you want air con units you put them where it suits you. We also have a very understanding attitude to glazing in a terrace or changing your terrace tiles if you wish to do so. So although there are laws governing how a community is run, within that, the community itself decides the details.
On our community there are monthly ‘committee meetings’ and anyone can ask for a particular matter to be discussed and dealt with, but a committee run community is not common and brings its own challenges.
Every community has an unpaid President, elected at the annual general meeting for a one year period and usually a resident. There is also a paid Administrator, usually a legal firm. The President does have total authority which can get interesting if they don’t talk to people!
However they can only act within the law and the administrator is responsible for overseeing that side of things and the financial matters, such as collecting the community fees. A community may be as few as 4 or 5 properties or may stretch to hundreds, but 50 to 100, sharing one or two pools, is quite common. Fees will be dependent on the amount of community facilities so vary from around 400 euros to 800 euros per year (golf courses are a lot more).
Dave and Bev Townsend have two homes, their main one in Norwich and a second home in Playa Flamenca in south Costa Blanca, Spain which they also let as a holiday rental www.house-by-the-pool.com. They run a property finding business offering a free service for those seeking to buy a property in the Costa Blanca (Alicante) or the Mar Menor area of the Costa Calida (Murcia) www.SpanishDreamProperty.com. Bev has family in Spain and they intend to move there full-time in a couple of years.