Getting a Power of Attorney
Under normal circumstances, appointing a Power of Attorney (POA) isn’t a service required by every British person buying property in Spain, but recent happenings have shown just how valuable it can be to all non-resident buyers.
Since the end of January, Brexit and the countdown to the end of the transition period has disrupted the application process for NIEs and residency permits, mainly in areas popular with expats. To add fuel to the fire, Coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown has slowed things up further, so that in most cases property transactions have been put on hold or in more advanced transactions it has become difficult for completion to take place.
A simple way to minimise the effects of unprecedented events like these is to appoint a POA – and it’s possible even now, thanks to the ability to organise this from the UK.
POA, the basics!
Usually, appointing a POA suits British buyers who for practical reasons are unable, or simply unwilling, to travel backwards and forwards to Spain to complete the various stages of the purchase process.
Instead, by way of a POA they give legally approved authority to their independent Spanish lawyer to act on their behalf throughout their property transaction. Typically, this enables lawyers like us at Sun Lawyers to apply for your NIE, open your Spanish bank account, sign your purchase contract, and oversee completion at the notary’s office – in short, carry out all procedures leading up to completion and beyond without you needing to set foot in Spain. Naturally your lawyer should liaise with you at each step along the way. As the buyer, all you will need to do is arrange a trip out to Spain on a day that suits you to collect the keys to your new home.
Even after completion, there are ways that your lawyer can help you. When the new Title Deeds for your property are available at Land Registry (this doesn’t happen immediately on completion day), they can collect the document for you. They can also liaise with
Utility Companies organise changeovers or new connections, and set up Direct Debits for all your bills, including council tax. You may also wish to give them power to handle your tax affairs in Spain or, if moving over permanently, apply for your residency permit.
Setting up POA
After discussing your specific requirements with your lawyer, the first step in the process is the drafting of the POA document. Lawyers prepare these regularly, so this should be relatively straightforward. The document will outline the primary Powers that you are granting your lawyer, i.e., for the purchase of a property, with clauses detailing any specific activities you need to give them. Crucially, the content will contain safeguards to protect you in the unlikely event of fraudulent activity and ensure that your lawyer is given no more power than is necessary.
Everything agreed, the next step is making the POA document effective under Spanish law. For this to happen, you need to sign and have it legalised by a Notary. This is a simpler process if you’re in Spain – your lawyer can arrange and escort you to one of their local notaries.
Thankfully, it can be done from the UK, but involves one extra step. In our case, as your appointed lawyer we would locate a British notary close to your UK home and send them the POA document for you both to sign (note, there will be proof of ID and address requirements). Because this notary is in the UK, the signed POA document needs to be legalised for recognition in Spain. This is done by sending it to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London or Milton Keynes with a request for an Apostille, which is a type of authentication certificate, and pre-payment for the service. You can arrange this yourself on-line or your notary will arrange it for you. Your Spanish lawyer then needs to be sent the original documentation for the process to be formerly completed.
Get ahead of the crowd
Preparation is key with a property purchase. Once the current Coronavirus pandemic is over and life gets back to normal, we anticipate a rush of new clients to Spain. This means you are likely to find yourself in competition with other buyers, not just from the UK but all over Europe and beyond. Granting POA to your lawyer now, thereby enabling them to start the process of obtaining your NIE and opening a Spanish bank account for you, would certainly give you the edge over less prepared buyers.