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A Brief Tourist Guide to anyone contemplating retiring to Peniscola,  buying holiday property or working here etc.
                                                                            back to Main Page Index  
    Living  - Moving Here - Facts on Spain
Real Estate                 conveyancing, notary, land, valencian problem
Town Hall                     
    residence, empadronamiento, catastral, penalties,
Other Documents            
     passports, birth certificates, registrar
Banking      
               mortgages, direct debits, new accounts
Motors
                            
     legal requirements, re-registering, tax, MOT,
Health
& E111, E112            E111, private, local doctors, desplazados
Working -IVA (VAT)        
   earning money, black economy
Schools                   
 preferences, differences
Post                     
  restrictions
10 Leisure                  
  boats, fishing, skiing, winter weather
11 Food & Drink               Wine, Supermarkets etc


Note
One feature of Spanish administration is the ambiguity of procedures. A process that has worked well in one department, can work in a different one. In other words, you can be given different versions of requirements by different persons. For example, an employee at the town hall said my father could not have a certificate of empadronamiento as he was not classed as a resident. Another more knowledgeable employee gave him the document he needed. In this case it was to buy a Spanish car, residency is not necessary but some form of permanence must be established, a certificate of empadronamiento is all that is necessary. This document shows NIE or NIF number, and your address in Spain and a brief statement of circumstances regarding your length of stay in Spain.
N.B. All the information I give, is based on personal experience and actual procedures I have used, not something I have read from a Spanish publication.
1 Real Estate-Conveyancing
Property purchase differs in Spain in the following ways
a notary normally handles the preparation and execution of the ‘Escritora’ (deeds).
A solicitor can be used to oversee the transaction. The notary also calculates the taxes due and can deduct and pay them for you. The notary’s fees are based on price of property and are usually higher than solicitor’s accounts in the
UK.
Complicating the procedure, however, is the habit of under declaring the value of the property to save on taxes due on sale. This can cause problems when seeking a mortgage; you may have a shortfall to find, as the bank will only lend a percentage of the price declared. Non residents normally receive a reduced percentage
In Spain when one buys a property; one automatically becomes responsible for any debts outstanding. These can include-
    
Outstanding `catastral’ (equates to tax on rateable value of property) this is payable to the Ayuntamiento (town hall).
Outstanding Urbanización contributions (can be several years)
Any second charges or mortgages taken out on property. This information is available via the land registry.
Outstanding utility bills.
                                   
Any outstanding bills for repairs, work etc.
Outstanding, overdue payments, especially to the town hall, incur stiff penalties.
Land
When buying land especially with a view to build a property, beware of the following possibilities.
Is there a building already?
  ( permission is normally given to update an existing old building or replace it)
Is there permission to build a dwelling?
  (regulations vary; some authorities will give permission for only one dwelling.
Is the land protected by environmental law? (green belt etc)
Are there any plans to route new roads through the land?
Are the boundaries accurate?
Does the vendor own the land outright?
Buying land can be complicated and suitable advice should be sought.
The Valencian Problem
This a very strange concept for foreigners buying property to understand.
Developers can sequestrate part of you land legally if it used in a worthwhile development- theoretically this was meant to include cheap housing, civic properties etc. However this law has been abused by property developers and many people in the Comunidad Valenciana have part or sometimes all of their property. The developer can also levy charges relating to amenities provided in the development.
This does not seem to happen here, most cases have occurred in the southern end of the comunidad.
2 Town Hall (Ajuntamiento)
Residencias
Empadronamiento- a simple registration procedure, replacing the registration procedure at the local police station. This is now done at the Ayuntamiento. The authorities merely want to know who is living in the area. The possession of this document can make certain procedures simpler.
Residencia- more complicated procedure, designed for long term residents spending most of their time in
Spain. You have to show that you are capable of maintaining yourself financially of have a formal contract for employment. You also have to show you are married if your spouse accompanies you.
There are of course arguments  for and against residencia-
UK Social Security entitlements can be affected, strictly speaking you must be resident in the UK to qualify for e.g. sickness benefit, invalidity benefit etc. By claiming Spanish residencia you are classed as non resident by the Inland Revenue and Social Security in the
UK. If you continue to maintain a property in the UK, this makes it easier to spend long times abroad whilst still being eligible for the various benefits. With no property in the UK, the Inland Revenue could argue that your main residence being in Spain, you are classed as non resident.      back to this index

N.B.
Self employed persons can continue to pay their national insurance contributions whilst abroad. If declaring that you are abroad, you should pay class 3 contributions. However these only qualify you for pension credits and a widow’s pension for your wife should you be married. These class 3 payments do not qualify you for invalidity benefit
if the Social Security is aware you are living abroad.
(My father has personally has fallen foul of this situation, mainly due to the Social Security refusing to answer questions with a simple yes or no, and not corresponding in a simple understandable manner)
Many people claim non residency to avoid paying tax on any rental income they may have in the UK, consider this option carefully, it can backfire on you.

If you are not sure as to how much time you will be abroad, continue with the class 2 contributions and maintain your
UK residency status. There have been cases of people being told to have their medical treatment abroad, if they are classed as Spanish residents!!!
You could also be liable to income tax in
Spain. The taxation system can be very complex and you should take suitable advice from  accountants in Spain and in the UK.
3 Other Documents
Passports can be renewed easily here via the embassy in Madrid.
Birth certificates for children born here can be more complicated, especially if the parents are not married.
Should you lose or have a passport stolen, the consulate in
Barcelona will issue emergency documents, however you have to go in person to do this.
Wills
Some solicitors in the
UK will tell you your UK will is valid for your Spanish property. In fact you will get conflicting opinions from all sides. The British Embassy in Madrid advise that a separate Spanish will is necessary to cover your property here. The position on inheritance tax is unclear and should be checked thoroughly by suitable professionals.                                                      back to this index
4 Banking
                          
Banks in Spain have received severe criticism in the past, it was possible have monies withdrawn from you account without your consent. This practice has virtually now ceased but banks are still known to do this. Tradesmen have presented an invoice to the bank and the bank has paid it. An insurance agent tried to extract a second year’s  insurance premium from my account although I had disposed of the vehicle.
Beware of some investment propositions- I was assured by my bank that interest would be paid gross, without any tax deductions. However the bank retained some of my interest, saying it was reclaimable against my
UK tax assessment. This arrangement may or may not suit some people. Beware!!
I personally do not have a current account; I use a savings account
(Libreton) from which bills are being paid directly, monies transferred etc. These accounts pay a nominal interest and are cheap to maintain. The book is also a complete record of all transactions etc.
Should you sell a property here, it is advisable to close or empty you current account, as later utility bills can be deducted from your account, should correct procedures not be followed for transfer etc.
6 Motoring
Cars in
Spain are cheaper than the UK, road tax is less, insurance costs more, the ITV (MOT) is very similar. Repair and servicing costs tend to be cheaper and diesel cars are a more economic proposition.
You can buy a Spanish car with or without residency. Without residency, a certificate of empadronamiento is necessary (obtainable from town hall).
If you are driving a Spanish car, you must apply to the motor vehicle department (Castellón) for a Spanish stamp of approval to be added to your
UK licence. New plastic licences still need to undergo this procedure. The situation is still onclear. It is anticipated that, future new licences will be incorporated into the EEC system and carry any details of traffic offences incurred in the UK and also in Spain. (i.e. show details of drink driving bans in both countries)
You can also reregister a British car in
Spain, this can be expensive and somewhat complicated. Import tax levied depends on age, value, and horse power rating of car.
The local police don’t seem too bothered if you have your
UK car here permanently, however legislation is rumoured to be changing for EEC citizens spending extended periods abroad with their car. However if your UK car is here for an extended period, it must be UK legal, ie current MOT and road tax, this can affect any insurance claim you may have.
It is advisable to insure your car here fully comprehensively, many Spanish and immigrants ride about with no insurance whatsoever. The Spanish police seem to be very lax at times in enforcing the law of the road, e.g. crash helmet rule abuse. They do however enforce purges at times for seat belts, speeding and breath tests.
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7 Health E111 and EHIC
The E11 is now obselete and replaced with the European Health Insurance Card.
The EHIC is normally valid for three to five years and covers any medical treatment that becomes necessary during your trip, because of either illness or an accident. The card gives access to state-provided medical treatment only, and you'll be treated on the same basis as an 'insured' person living in the country you're visiting. Remember, this might not cover all the things you'd expect to get free of charge from the NHS in the UK. You may have to make a contribution to the cost of your care.
The EHIC also covers any treatment you need for a chronic disease or pre-existing illness. You need to make arrangements in advance for kidney dialysis and oxygen therapy.
It is stressed that that this form is only for visitors to Spain only. If you are deemed to be living permanently outside of the UK, the EHIC is invalid.
Make sure that you stress that you want to be treated under the EEC E111 reciprocal agreement or you will be charged for your treatment.
Indeed any ongoing complicated conditions should be thoroughly researched before leaving the UK.

However with a recent EHIC, you can register with local doctor should you need regular checks.
In Peñíscola, you can make an appointment for later that morning or the following day.
If you are a resident you can register at a surgery, provided you have obtained the ID card that is available with your NIE or residencia
, you are then treated in the same manner as a Spanish national.
In case of serious ailments most people go directly to hospital and the service is
generally good.  I have my reservations about any complicated procedures or treatments at this hospital. My family have experience of this.
There is a private service “Alianza” with a hospital at Tortosa and further 
hospitals in Barcelona. This service is not expensive.
7-
Business
Anyone can work or operate a business in
Spain, provided-
They have an offer of a contract from an employer, the employer paying social security contributions.
Self employed people also have to pay the relevant contributions, register for IVA if applicable, and obtain necessary permission to operate their particular type of business.
Social security payments are very high in
Spain, and it is not as easy as operating a similar business in the UK. You will need to consult a Gestor before starting , he will advise you of any recent changes in procedure. We also can offer you advice, but one should be very thorough before embarking on such ventures.
The authorities come down hard on social security evasion, high penalties and stiff fines can be expected. Also your property can suffer an “embargo” (a charge levied against your property, i.e., you cannot sell your house without repaying any fines and penalties applied.)
However often a blind eye is often turned regarding very casual work, but any business of any size and turnover should register and follow the appropriate procedure.  Beware!!!                                    
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IVA (VAT) Spanish operates a black economy beyond belief. Most monies taken, especially for labour orientated services, are not declared for VAT purposes. Should you require an official invoice, e.g. for an insurance claim, you should tell them this and ask for IVA to be added and you will pay it.                    
8-Schools
Schools broadly fall into a similar category as the
UK, there are several British children in schools in Peñíscola & Benicarló.
The Cons
olación is a Catholic school in Benicarló, largely taught by nuns and was said to be the best school for primary children in the area. There are quite substantial sums of money to pay for books and teaching aids.
Schools open mornings only in June and there are much more holidays taken in
Spain (Fiestas, Fallas, local holidays etc)
Valenciano is being taught widely as well as Castellano & English.
9 Post
There is no registered post as such in
Spain, between the UK and Spain. However “certificado” is usually quick and reliable (equates to recorded delivery). I have lost one parcel containing valuables coming from the UK.
Companies such as Seur will for a price guarantee delivery of their service.
Many people use “apartados” if their mail is delivered in an irregular manner. These are rented, numbered, post office boxes. However, financial some institutions will not accept and PO box as a valid address
Should you want any mail to be sent directly and held by the local post office, address to e.g. Your Name, Lista de Correos, Correos, Peñíscola etc. The post office however, will return the mail to sender after a given period.   
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10 Leisure
    
Boating
to pilot a boat over 15HP, you need a locally approved license or certificate. International Master’s certificates are recognised, however it the smaller boats that are the problem. It is possible to qualify for licences locally, however all instruction is given in Spanish. See www.pescaebro.com  on the Delta for boat hire and fishing restrictions.
Fishing
To fish from a boat you will need permission, this is not usually given. Fishing from the shoreline is quite legal and is a widespread sport.
           
Skiing
The
ski resorts at Andorra are some 4-5 hours away by car, and are reliable, however these are very busy at the weekends. The hotels near the resorts offer good value, and the food generally in  Andorra is very good. (Andorra, however is not part of the EEC and the EHIC medical treatment does not apply here.)
If you stay for example in Les Escaldes, you have the choice of resorts to ski, night life & shops, but have the 30-60 minute drive to the resorts. Andorra has gone some way to reducing the road congestion to and from the ski resorts, there are extensive new cable cars and lifts at Encamp, Soldeu, El Tarter & Canillo. These interconnected slopes offer very varied skiing.
In Spain, La Molina & La Massana are somewhat unreliable, the same is true of Les Angles, Font Romeu and Err, in France. The resorts in the Ariége valley (Ax les Thermes) also suffer the same unreliability.
The further ski resorts in Val de Aran, Panticosa offer good skiing.
There is a small resort near Teruel, but it is very unpredictable.
Winter Weather

Spain is the second most mountainous country in Europe, and the interior during winter suffers frequent snowfalls. The inland roads can be treacherous.
Frosts are rare on the Mediterranean coast south of
Tarragona. The Pyrenees can also be very unpredictable during winter. 
The border crossing at
Andorra into France can be very hazardous during bad conditions. Candanchu (Col de Somport),  Sallent de Gallego and Tunel de Bielsa can also be difficult. The Vielha Tunel (Val de Aran) route is normally passable easily. Avoid ski resort areas at weekends.          back to this index
11 Food & Drink
Nowadays, shopping in
Spain is much like anywhere else in western Europe, and somewhat cheaper. Supermarkets, hypermarkets including French based companies are everywhere in populated areas. Food production is largely still provincial but considerable amounts are imported to meet the summer demand. Beef (Argentina)  and Lamb (New Zealand) supplement local production. Chicken continues to be good quality and value.
Mediterranean fish tends to be of the smaller varieties. Hake is caught in the
Atlantic, salmon of course is imported along with gambas and calamares. Spain however is still the cheapest place within western Europe to live.
Drink
Spain does produce reasonable quality wines at affordable prices, there are however some indifferent wines served to tourists. Rioja is usually reliable and there are also some good rosé riojas. Any Tempranillo based wine is usually good value. Penedes now is an important centre with Cava (Spanish style champagne) and coloured wines produced there.
Valencia also a volume producer and La Mancha produces wine in the Valdepeñas area; these tend to be stronger and heavier wines. The police however are becoming more breathalyzer conscious with random tests at night      back to this index