The Land Registry in Spain
The Spanish Land Registry (Registro Catastral) is an official database that lists the owners of individual properties. It should be updated every time a property is sold and changes hands, thus protecting ownership rights and avoiding the possibility that a property could be sold twice.
Though it is not legally binding to do so, it always makes sense to enter your new property in your name on the Land Registry. This is especially prudent in southern Spain, where an estimated 300,000 homes face an uncertain legal status as a result of planning issues. Entry on to the land registry avoids later confusion by clearly recording your new home’s pertinent details.
In the first instance it is the Title Deeds (Escritura) that confirms you as the owner and therefore guarantees your property rights, but as the information recorded on the land registry is more detailed and includes such elements as the boundaries of your property, its size and dimensions, ownership history and any outstanding charges that may be attached to it, this is an important additional source of legal security.
The system has become increasingly advanced and secure in recent years and has come a long way to address the confusion regarding land and property rights, which long characterised rural areas. It is therefore an increasingly important reference for lawyers, homeowners and new buyers. However, the system works best when it is universally applied, so homeowners and buyers are encouraged to register their properties.
As lawyer Adolfo Martos explains, having your home registered with the ‘catastro’ provides essential protection for homeowners: “If the house is on the land register, ownership cannot be challenged. Changes in the ownership status of a property will only be granted by the registrars upon proof of a sales transaction between the existing (registered) owner and the buyer, as documented in the new title deeds.”
The Land Registry also provides useful nuggets of information to those looking to buy a new house, including a detailed description of the property and its accompanying features, the land boundaries and coordinates, ownership history, a description of the Title Deeds (and if the property was acquired through purchase, auction or donation), as well as any outstanding charges such as mortgages, loans, embargoes or conditions of sale.
When you are interested in buying a property, your appointed lawyer will use the Land Registry information to verify that the property does indeed conform with what is being offered for sale, and importantly, that you are not inheriting any debts from the previous owner.
For those obtaining a mortgage, however, signing up to the land register is obligatory.
In 2011 a land registry information service was launched to help prospective overseas buyers of land and property in Spain. For a small fee – around €30 – it provides a land registry report in English (if required) that confirms the legal status and identifies the details of any possible legal problems associated with the property you are interested in.
For more information, see the english section of registradores.org.
Originally published in October 2012, updated by Adam Neale July 2018
By Adam Neale | Property News | July 20th, 2018