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Overseas holiday home owners warned to make sure they pay their bills

The Perez Legal Group said that some owners don’t realise that they own local rates and can find themselves facing a large bill if they haven’t paid.

They cite a recent example of a couple from England who own an apartment in Marbella and were shocked to discover that they owed the town hall €11,000 in unpaid municipal rates and taxes and were on the brink of having their property embargoed.

They had not made arrangements to receive bills and other post from Spain and were unaware of their mounting debts.

‘It may seem an obvious statement, but it is important to keep your affairs in order. You would be surprised how many individuals and businesses slowly lose track of things such as accounts, taxes, rates and the accompanying paperwork. It’s a bit like climbing a slippery slope and once you start to lose your footing the chance of sliding all the way down becomes ever greater,’ said spokeswoman Raquel Perez.

‘For that reason it is best to stay on top of things and to do this you need to know what your basic rights and obligations are, what is owing to you and what you owe others, including the authorities. When you own a property abroad you must bear in mind that it almost always comes with its own running and administration costs,’ she explained.

She pointed out that in Spain the property has to be registered and certain property taxes and rates are payable on an annual basis. The latter includes utilities such as water and electricity, but also municipal rates for services such as rubbish collection. In Spain these are known as IBI and Basura.

‘You might think that I am stating the obvious here, but it all depends on being well informed, and unfortunately not everybody who owns property abroad is,’ she added.

She explained that town councils generally put a property under embargo as a means of getting through to owners, but it is impossible to sell, rent out or take out a loan against a property under embargo.

‘It didn’t take our team long to find out exactly what was owed, and in the process we uncovered some other outstanding debts as well. Had the amount been under €6,000 we would have been able to apply for stage payments, but in the end the couple paid the full amount off in one go and cleared their names. From now on they will be sure to stay on top of their affairs in Spain,’ said Perez.