One of the unintended consequences of Brexit is the fact that a little-known Spanish law is now being enforced with British people buying property in Spain. The law, which was introduced by Franco in March 1975 and a corresponding Decree of February 1978, means that in certain circumstances British people buying property in Spain now have to obtain military permission before they are allowed to buy in Spain.
In fact when the law was put into place it didn’t apply to just British buyers, it applied to anybody who is not Spanish. When Spain joined the EU in 1986 this no longer applied to members of the EU due to the need to treat all European citizens equally. Now that we are no longer members of the EU this law now applies to British buyers again.
Here we break down some of the issues.
1. What does the law say? The law says that if you are buying a property in a militarily sensitive area then you have to apply for permission from the military before you are allowed to buy. Equally you will also need to get Military permission if you are carrying out other activities in those areas of Spain such as taking out a mortgage, registering other charges or constructing property. It also says that there is a maximum percentage of foreigners who are allowed to buy in that area. The percentage ranges from zero percent to 15%
2. Does this law apply to the whole of Spain? No it doesn’t, it only applies to areas of the country which are strategically important to the military. This is typically the borders and the islands. In fact the law is quite specific about where the borders of the militarily sensitive areas are.
Roughly speaking the areas of Spain that are affected by this law and which would require you apply for military permission if you are buying in as a non EU national are;
• All the islands of Spain
• An area around Gibraltar
• An area around Cadiz
• The border with Portugal
• The border with France
• The Spanish territories in Northern Africa (Ceuta and Melilla).
3. Why have such a law? Essentially these types of laws have been put in by countries to make sure that there is no co-ordinated attempt by foreigners to take over physical control of an area by buying up large percentages of properties – essentially a legal occupation of the land through the back door. That might sound quite extreme but remember that the law was brought in in 1975 and the world was a very different place back then. It is also worth remembering that Spain is not unusual in having such a law and that many other countries including Turkey, Croatia and Cyprus have all had similar laws which either apply to the whole country or to certain politically or militarily sensitive parts of the country (normally near borders).
4. What is involved in making an application for military permission to buy in Spain? The process isn’t as scary as it initially sounds. There is no military interrogation using a chair and a spotlight! In fact there is no interrogation or interview at all. Quite simply an application is presented to the Military along with a copy of your passport and your criminal record and then the military will do their background checks on you using that information. In due course the Military Permission decision is issued. That permission is then presented to the Notary when you sign your Title Deed (Escritura) for the purchase.
5. How do I obtain my criminal record? You can get a Police Certificate which sets out whether you have a criminal record or not. Details of how to obtain this can be seen on the ACRO website - https://www.acro.police.uk/police_certificates.aspx
6. How long does this take to get military permission in Spain? This will depend on how busy they are, how many applications they have to deal with and how complex your application is. Sometimes it can take 2- 4months but typically it can take up to 6 months.
7. Will this put off buyers? We don’t think it will. It doesn’t put off people from buying in other countries with similar laws so why should it put off people from buying in Spain? If you are in a hurry to buy it might make you buy in a different area but apart from that all this law does is add an extra bureaucratic step to the process and make things last a bit longer
8. What happens if I am refused military permission to buy in Spain? First of all, it is important to understand that this is unlikely, despite what you may have read in sections of the press. Unless you are a member of an organisation that is considered to be hostile to Spain and are on their “watch list” then the granting of military permission to buy in Spain is generally a formality. In the unlikely event that you are refused then it means that you cannot buy in that area of Spain but in theory could still buy elsewhere where you do not need military permission to buy.
9. Can I protect myself against the possibility of refusal during the purchase process? Yes, of course. We are used to drafting contracts where the purchase is conditional on you obtaining military permission and where the completion date is timed with the issue of such permission.
10. Can I get around the requirement to obtain military permission by setting up a company? Unfortunately not. The law already anticipated that people might want to do this and if you buy through a company and that company is controlled by somebody who otherwise would have had to apply for Military Permission to buy then that permission is still required.
Whilst this sounds rather complicated it really isn’t. It is normally just a formality that takes a little bit extra work and takes a bit more time but nothing more than that. As part of our standard purchase process we would identify whether you need to apply for Military Permission. If you do need military permission, we would guide you through that process.