Friday, February 26, 2010

Another landlord not returning a deposit

Yet another client has come to us over a disputed deposit. It's a grimly familiar tale. They had paid over €3.300 as a deposit at the outset of the contract, were good tenants and left the place with adequate notice and in good condition. They were offered only a €200 of the deposit and a list of deductions and charges for things ranging from the reasonable (if picky) to the fictitious to the infuritation (cleaning when they had spend hours making the place spotless).

It seems like landlords have all the power in these situations and can make completely arbitrary and unfair decisions to rip off the tenants.
There is no cheap and easy way to avoid being ripped off but there are a few points that can be made:
No 1 is to protect yourself by documenting everything to do with the tenancy from inception, paying particular attention to rental payment trails, utility bills (and meter readings), maintenance expenses you or the landlord have paid.

Also the inventory of fixtures and furnishings is vital - make sure it is thoroughly checked at the outset and you notify the agent or landlord of any deficiencies or errors. Check and agree everything at the end.

When you leave the property do the rounds with the landlord or agent and discuss any claimed shortcomings at that point rather than wait for a dispute later on when you have no access to the property to prove the state you left it in. Videoing the property might be an idea.

If you still end up in dispute with the landlord after all this then it must simply be a try on on their part. A formal letter setting out your claim and threatening legal action can work wonders. If you suspect that the landlord is not declaring the rent for tax this is another point of leverage you can use.

If you have to resort to a lawyer a simple letter from a lawyer costs around 75-100€ from Advoco. (

Monday, February 22, 2010

The welcome flipside to global warming data foul-ups

Any body fed up with how sterile the global warming debate has become? Global warming scepticism has evolved from a few disparate voices raising doubts and asking questions to a full-blown political movement determined to convince the world that climate change science is a hoax and "expose the lies". For their part the climate change campaigners are foolishly trying to achieve the impossible: marginalise the "climate deniers" and monopolise world opinion with their view that only drastic emissions cuts by the world's governments can save the world. Copenhagen and recent dodgy data stories have shown the folly of this - they will never conclusively win the argument and governments are as far away as ever from making meaningful cuts. At least the recent run of bad results for the climate change camp may prompt them into a change of strategy and new goals. I put together some ideas for how they should change their ways in an article I published today:

More dodgy global warming data? Good | Alrroya

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fleecing satellites

One irritant about living in Spain is having to rely on huge satellite dishes for our TV. Southern Spain is right on the edge of the satellite footprint for Sky and Freeview and a 1.1m dish is required to get a sufficient signal. Even then it has to be perfectly aligned and some bad weather can interrupt your signal (normally when an important football match is on).

But we should count out our blessings I suppose as at least for most of the time we have TV just like at home. This reliance on satellite does of course mean there has long been an army of tradesmen specialising in satellite sales, repairs and installations. They are mostly one man bands and of varying quality and trustfulness. With the bad apples it's not so much a case of not knowing their stuff but not being reliable and sometimes taking advantage. I got a phone call recently from a distressed Brit who had just been ripped off by a cowboy satellite man. His picture had gone on the blink and the man convinced him he needed to buy a new set top box and charged him 170€ for a Freeview one. It worked OK for a while but just before Xmas last year went on the blink just as his grandkids arrived expecting their fill of CBeebeies and seasonal films. Naturally enough the John Wayne of the satellite dish world failed to show up or even answer calls. My caller asked another satellite man to take a look and he realised at once that the dish simply needed realigning and fixing in place to improve the signal. The original joker had simply wanted to sell an unneeded box for an inflated price (about 300% mark-up).
It's hard to know how to protect yourself in this situation. The said cowboy advertised prominently and had been active in the area for some time and was still a rip-off merchant. If you can't get a personal recommendation perhaps contact a British estate agent or letting agent for an opinion as they deal with these engineers all the time and won't put up with monkeys taking the mickey. If anyone living in the Baza area wants the name of the man to be avoided let me know. I never did work out what that song "Sleeping Satellites" was about.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gold price

I am doing a bit of moonlighting from my day job with Advoco. I have always been interested in economics, investing and politics and often publish little pieces on an amateur basis but recently I was asked to start a weekly column by Alrroya, a Dubai-based business portal. I kicked things of with an examination of the gold price which has been moving quite a lot recently (up, then down, now back up a bit).

Gold price: Paulson versus Roubini | Alrroya

I am now working on next week's piece about global warming. It is fun doing articles but somewhat pressured coming up with the ideas and hopefully good enough writing. Anyone with any suggestions for topical business or politics stories and issues for me to write about would be most welcome.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Busy, busy - Spanish Tax season looms

It's all tax at the moment. Lots of enquiries responding to our Spanish Tax Advice page. I think it is the time of year, even though the actual deadline for annual tax returns here is the end of June. Once New Year is firmly out of the way you tend to feel it's time for a big push to get some unpleasant jobs out of the way; and it doesn't get much more unpleasant than sorting out your tax affairs.

But like most jobs you put off (cleaning the oven, bathing the dog, thank you letters) it's not so bad when you get on with it. And there's that lovely feeling of having achieved something when you get it done.

Being nice people at Advoco we have taken steps to ensure that the tax reporting season (May and June for residents, later in the year for non-resident property owners) is not too painful. For a start we have published a guide to whether or not you need to do a tax return:

Also we are aiming to contact clients before the mad rush in May to get everything together well ahead of time. If you are not registered for tax in Spain we are taking care of that by post so you don't have to go to your local Tax Office. Otherwise we are doing as much as possible by email so you can do everything from home and at your own pace. We are also trying to make payments possible without going into the bank.

Enough of the sales pitch; in future posts I'll publish some info about what sort of things you have to declare, allowances you get and the rates you will pay. Right, back to answer some of those emails.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Now everyone can buy property safely in Marbella

It's the nightmare scenario - you buy a house or apartment in Spain through a legitimate estate agent and hire a lawyer to do all the checks, but down the line you are faced with a demolition order. Your dream home is demolished without compensation because it was illegally built even though you appeared to have done everything possible to make sure it was legal. This has happened to a few people and thousands of other Spanish property buyers have been threatened with this outcome causing untold amounts of stress and worry. How can this happen?
It's a complicated tale but essentially if the local Town Hall has corrupt officials (many do) and they are prepared to give the go ahead to build on land where they shouldn't, it may appear that a development is legal only for the regional government to overrule the local decision and declare the build illegal at a later date. They often press for demolition even though the property owners are innocent and have no redress against the developer who has gone bankrupt or the officials who are in jail.
Is it possible to protect yourself from illegal build scandals like this? Yes, but you need a good lawyer who is prepared to go the extra yard to check whether a development is legal. Just seeing that the development was approved by the Town Hall is not enough. Did the Town Hall have the right to approve the development? To find this out you have to go to the area's land use plan called the PGOU (Plan General de Ordenacion Urbanistica) which sets out perhaps every 10 years (the duration of the plans varies) how the municipality's land can be used - areas that can be built on or industrialised and areas that must be left green.
Up until now Marbella has been a cesspit of problems of these kind due to super-corrupt politicians including the notorious Jesus Gil whose PGOU was never even agreed by the regional government in Seville and left up to 18.000 properties technically illegal. Finally after years of haggling a new PGOU Marbella was agreed at the end of January this year. This retrospectively legalises most of the illegal builds but leaves the status of a few hundred up in the air.
The significance from a future property buyer's point of view is that now we have a firm point of reference against which to test the legality of a developer. Good Spanish property lawyers should not need to be told to check back to the PGOU if any doubt whatsoever exists over the legality of a development but forewarned is forearmed, if you are buying in Marbella be sure to remember the four letters "PGOU" and ask your lawyer about them.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Video guide to Spanish residency application

I have had my first go at producing a video - a two part guide to completing a Spanish residency application (see below). The videos are designed to allow anyone to make a Spanish residency application without having to employ anyone to help. They go through the process step by step and explain how to fill in the application form which, being in Spanish, is a major obstacle to many.

The guide only covers simple applications for EU citizens and dealing with Spanish police stations can still be daunting so we will continue to offer our full assistance service for NIE and residency applications here -

There is also a non-video guide here:

Any requests for more videos? (on boring topics like this. I'm not Steven Spielberg)

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