Expatriate Living in Spain
Be Careful Before You Buy a Property
Having lived most of my adult life in British Gibraltar, I had always been just a few steps away from the much revered Andalusian lifestyle, but it wasn’t until November 2005 that my family and I braved the move across borders which culminated in an experience none of us will ever forget.
It was the sight of the spacious newly built townhouse in San Roque’s quaint village, which had tempted my family and me into buying a property. The strangest thing was that by moving into a another country, only a mile away from our original abode, my family now had to cross the border back into Gibraltar each day to attend work.
We have found that working on the Rock and living in Spain, allows you to enjoy the Spanish lifestyle to the fullest, yet still obtain many other benefits, such as the healthy exchange rate from Sterling to Euro if you work on the Rock and are most likely to be remunerated in Sterling. NHS healthcare is available, standard English education, and of course, some of the British culinary treats which cannot be found in Spanish supermarkets.
Our new routine began the moment we moved in, and I can tell you, it is interesting. Each day we catch a bus to the footstep of the Rock and subsequently stop at traffic lights, to await the landing or departure of planes. Once the lights turn green, we endure a refreshing and breezy walk across the airport runway – a rek guaranteed to wake you up thoroughly before the day begins! Walking is best. Driving a car through ensures lengthy queues.
Even though we endure the strangest of journeys each day of the week, it is not a hindrance to the benefits of living in one country and working in another. Yet little did we know when we first moved to Spain, that we were about to hit a minor snag, that would turn into a major struggle which was to last almost nine months. Buyers Beware!
Purchasing in a new housing development is never easy. In fact, most expatriates should arm themselves with sound advice before attempting to part with their hard-earned cash, and that means enlisting a recommended lawyer who comes with good references. Unfortunately, my family and I jumped into a bargain deal only to find that we were left without electricity and water, and had to subsist on a developer’s supply for what was said to be only a “temporary” period.
We were simply allowed by all legal parties to move in without a ‘License of First Occupation,’ and there was no possibility of being able to obtain utility connections without the License being issued by the local council.
We filled buckets of water from a tap in the street, and fed an extension cable from a box positioned outside in the pavement, which allowed us only a precarious drip feed of power. As one of the neighbours had legal wrangles over his own property, the council would not issue the necessary license until all was resolved. Thankfully, my command of Spanish helped me to enlist the support and assistance of the local Spanish community, who were already well aware of these legal traps. Obviously, learning the language goes a long way in helping you protect yourself in a foreign country.
When buying a new build, you must ensure this document is available before completion of the purchase, and any promises of a forthcoming License “after” completion can be a mere trick to ensure a quick sale.
It finally took the intervention of a small documentary program on Granada TV some nine months later, before the council would finally allow the acquisition of legal utilities.
Despite the difficulties, I know that we made the right decision in moving to Spain. Instead of allowing anger to consume us, we put our faith in the people who expressed warmth and sympathy. We now enjoy the very best of a culture that welcomed us with open arms throughout our ordeal.
The License of First Occupation
For those wishing to buy into a new housing development in Spain, it is essential to check that the local council has issued this important document before completion of the purchase. This License is an official approval from the council, and states that the development is fit for occupation. No license means no prospect of a contract with utility companies who seek a copy of this document before providing their services.
More information on this essential document can be found at: