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Catastro/Land registry

“Catastro” is the institution which consider the properties for maps, drawings, plans, and for Council Tax purposes.

“Registro de la Propiedad” and the “escritura” may well confirm the ownership of a property, and the conditions of this ownership, like who owns the property, in which percentage, if is there limitations or charges (like mortgage, public auctions, Tri¡bunal disputes,e tc), the Catastro details will give you a better understanding of the boundaries of the property (usually in a visual form) and, size and description of the property.

But, when you complete the building of a house over that land, then you must inform the Catastro (Council Tax authority), that over that land now there is a “house”, with determinate specifications. This is to confirm the Catastro that, where before there was only land, now there is a house. This process is called DECLARACION DE OBRA NUEVA (DON) (Click here for more info). If you do not do it, you can have future problems.

There are areas in Spain (like Andalucía and Murcia) in which the notary, when declare a new house over a pre-existing land, they send the deeds to the Catastro to inform about the modification. So, once you have the deeds of the DON in the land registry, the job is finished in this way. But, in other areas, like Valencia region, once you present the deeds of the property with the DON to the land registry, you must bring a copy of the CFO (Certificado Final de Obra) , and the Building license to the Catastro, in order to inform them that, over the land, there is now a house. If you do not do it, they will contact you in the near future to provide them with these documents.

Once the construction is duly inscribed in the Catastro, the job is finished, and soon (Well, sometimes 1-2 years), you will start to receiving the bills from the Council Tax.

The catastral records for many properties are out of date and inaccurate. The Catastral system has been used to formulate the value of properties and therefore to fix the taxable level on each property. For many Spaniards the avoidance of tax is a national past-time and many of them failed to update their Catastral details for fear of paying an increased level of tax.

This updating of the Catastro was always a voluntary system so anyone who failed to update their property in the Catastro (and therefore saved on the tax due) was doing nothing wrong. In many cases nowadays, you will find Spanish owners very reluctant to update their property in the Catastro and it is very difficult to persuade them otherwise.

So, as well to consult the land registry records of the property, it is always highly recommendable to consult the catastro to check how the property is inscribed and recorded. Your Spanish lawyers will include this as part of the seacrhes.

Main differences between Catastro, Registro de la Propiedad (land registry) , and the escritura (title deeds)

The Catastro is a secondary system set up within Spain to deal with the ownership, description and boundaries of all property in the country. mainly, in the Catstro the information recorded about the property is where is located in the maps, whcih is the size of the construction, whcih are the boundfaries, and the coordenates, etc.

The other system which many people have heard of is the Registro de la Propiedad which concentrates on the legal ownership of a Spanish  property and whether there are any charges on the property (be that a neighbour dispute, a mortgage or a right of way). In the land registry we will find the following infromation:

  • Who is the owner of the property: How many, in which percentage, and the way in which the property is owned.
  • A description of the property: Area, region, and zone
  • Where is the property placed
  • What is the “history” of the property: Hiow the land was created, when, who were the previous owners, historically, etc.
  • Which elements are considered in the property:How many rooms, toilette, size of the buildings, etc.
  • Limitations and charges: If the property is puclib auction, or embargo, or seizure, or expropriated, or with a mortgage, or debt, or a right of access by a neighbor, etc.

So the main difference between the English Land Registry system is pretty obvious immediately – there are two separate arms in Spain (which are not linked to any helpful level) so the information on one hand may be correct but the other isn’t.

So, what are the main differences between the two systems? Well, the main one has already been answered because the Registro de la Propiedad confirms the legal ownership of a property as well as (with the production of a Nota Simple) confirming the charges etc.

Many buyers in the past have considered the escritura (title deeds) as the most important document to check before buying a property (and this is certainly one of the documents to see before committing to a purchase) but what the Registro de la Propiedad will tell you is what is known publicly about the property – it is fair to say that if a property is not registered at the Registro then there ought to be a lot of caution shown before committing to buy it.

So, in theory both, the Spanish Catastro and the Spanish Land Registry, should be joined and connected, and the information contained in one should be the same as contained in the other. In fact, the Spanish system is doing big efforts to connect both organisms, and it is already done in urban areas like cities, or big urbanizations.
The problem usually comes from rustic and country areas in which is very difficult to “coordinate” the information recorded in both cases.

Ideally, the system should be perfect if the information contained in both institutions could be condensed in only one, as in other countries. As always, to cotnract the services of specialized Spanish solciitors, will clarify you all these concepts, and the way they form part in the complicate process of Spanish conveyance.