Possession: why you should never allow a seller to remain in a property post-completion

Advice on property possession / Photo by Maria Ziegler on Unsplash
Advice on property possession / Photo by Maria Ziegler on Unsplash

This article is our follow-up to our recent article, Possession: why you should never hand over your house keys before completion – 12th March 2020.

Congratulations, you finally bought a house in Spain and you are all giddy at the thought! It is an exciting moment for a buyer. However, some devious sellers take advantage of a buyer’s good faith at this moment of weakness requesting to remain in the property post-completion only “for a few days” until they sort out some matters.

If you are buying property in Spain, you should never allow a seller to remain in the property after you complete at a Notary - ever.

The excuses given are all assorted (preferably tear-shedding ones that build rapport appealing to lofty values, which always work best on gentle souls):

  • “It is now the summertime season and for the life of me I cannot find affordable alternative accommodation” (I’m skint and homeless, have pity on me).
  • “I’m elderly and only need a couple of days to sort out some admin paperwork and I will be off in a jiffy” (I could be your father, you know).
  • “My pet Bungo can’t stand hotels. My vet says he needs fresh grass and sunlight for a few more days until I book my flight back to the UK” (you do care for animals, yes?)
  • “I’m undergoing medical treatment; I need more time before I can move out” (I’m old and sick, have pity on me)
  • Other.

The fact is that some shrewd cookies, after selling a property, have no intention whatsoever of leaving the property they have just sold you. And why would they? It is all advantages for them to (over) stay in it:

  • They have just been paid for the property, so they are sitting on a pile of cash. It’s not as if they are cash-strapped.
  • They don’t need to pay a rental, because they ALREADY have the possession of the property, YOUR property.
  • They don’t need to move in their ‘stuff’, it is already there.
  • Any unpaid taxes or bills, they will not be responsible for, it is the new owner who is liable for them.
  • And God forbid the new owner stops paying the taxes, changes the locks or shuts off the utilities as he may find himself being criminally prosecuted by the vendor (coercion and/or illegal trespassing).

Some vendors abuse their position, and besides cashing in on the property, they get a free pass on a free rental, all scot-free.

Buyers naively think they can just waltz in and change the locks to the property or shut off the utilities. Well, they are in for a rude awakening on how law works in Spain. The vendor can file a police report (denuncia) and the naïve buyer can be remanded into custody for illegal trespassing and or coercion. This is because the vendor only handed over the title to the property, NOT the possession.

If a buyer wants to vacate an abusive vendor, he will be forced to hire a litigation lawyer and go through a full-blown eviction procedure at his own cost. These, on average, are taking 6 to 9 months in Spain. So, for the next 6 to 9 months the vendor avails himself with free rental and his lifestyle continues just the same as it was (well, with a few extra zeros in the bank and without having to pay any bills or taxes). Not bad, eh? Win-win.

Bottom line, don’t be a muppet, never allow a vendor to stay in a property after you buy it. Always demand possession on completing before a Notary Public. No house keys, no completion, period.

It all boils down to possession.

Pro-tip: NEVER allow a seller to remain in a property after you sign the Title deed at a Notary Public. Ever. You must always DEMAND the house keys and full possession at the time of completion before a notary. Settle for nothing less. You're welcome.

Possession is nine-tenths of the law.”  Scottish expression.

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