A Spanish lawyer is warning that property owners who rent out their homes should ensure that they understand the legal process in case they need to evict a tenant.
An increasing number of British owners in Spain have been renting out their properties because they are unable to sell them because of the economic downturn or because they want to make an income from their holiday home.
They though can become the victim of tenants who stop paying or who damage the property.
Raquel Perez of Perez Legal Group, recently won just such a case in which the tenant had been renting a villa in Elviria, Marbella, but stopped paying during a period of five months and showed no signs of resuming payment.
Fearing damage to her property the distraught owner turned to Perez Legal Group to file a case for eviction on her behalf. ‘Many home owners believe this is a straightforward case in which the law will automatically take the side of the party whose property is suffering damage, but since rental agreements are essentially commercial transactions the law has to protect the rights of tenants as well,’ said Perez.
‘For this reason the process is not quite as straightforward as one might think,’ she added. After the lawyer submits the petition for eviction, a date is set by a judge for the parties to appear and state the case before him or her. ‘The tenant seldom turns up at such a hearing but it allows the facts to be presented and provides the material from which a verdict is made. In most cases the situation will be unambiguous enough for the judge to grant the order of eviction and set a date when the eviction is to be enforced. Police officers will be present to reduce the chance of any escalating conflict, though quite often the tenant will have left by now,’ she explained.
‘Either way a court appointed agent will be present to assess the property and provide a full report of any damage to it. It is important to note that the landlord has no rights of access to the property during the entire process, from the moment of lodging the case until its conclusion,’ she added.
However, a proactive lawyer can normally get the process completed within a month. In the case of Raquel’s client, the agent’s report confirmed a total loss of €20,000 suffered by the landlady, and the recommendation was that having now obtained the eviction of the tenant she sued for the loss incurred.
‘As this is a separate process a second case has to be submitted, but first your lawyer should check whether the former tenant has any capital, assets or likely means of paying the debt should the court decide in favour of the claimant. The checklist includes bank accounts, property, shares or other significant assets, also including mortgages. If the search comes out negative a reputable lawyer will advise against further proceedings, though if there is any chance of obtaining at least partial recuperation of losses they will keenly proceed,’ said Perez.
She believes that many homeowners who enter into the rental market are not fully aware of the commercial and legal framework underlying rental transactions. ‘They approach the process as proud home owners keen to earn some extra revenue in what they hope will be a relationship of mutual respect and benefit with the client. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way,’ Perez said.
‘The majority of rental agreements are concluded satisfactorily, but a significant percentage falls prey to the many potential snags that can occur. These include poor maintenance or even outright damage to the property by tenants, unpaid bills and ultimately the need to evict troublesome occupants that are in danger of becoming squatters,’ she added.
‘But rental properties can be a good source of income or an excellent way of financing a property purchase that will provide a welcome nest egg in the future, However, to make it work and protect yourself from abuse or breach of contract on the part of the tenant it is important to approach the matter as a business and prepare things properly,’ she concluded.