There are more than 3,000 public notaries in Spain, and if you’ve ever purchased a property, you will have taken part in the signing of the deeds in a local notary’s office. It can seem a bit surreal, especially for British buyers, who are not used to the somewhat ceremonial aspects of the notary’s work. Closing a property deal in the UK can be a bit of an anti-climax. Each party signs the contract in their solicitor’s office, the money is paid, and you get the keys.
In Spain, it’s very different. Everyone gathers together to listen to a total stranger with an unmistakeable air of authority read out every clause of the escritura, (title deed) before requiring all parties to sign in front of him. It can all seem rather intimidating, but in fact, the notary is your guarantee that every aspect of your property purchase is legal, and that you understand what you are signing. The notary will also ensure that all the financial aspects of the sale are in keeping with Spanish law. The notary is your protector and your friend.
Spain Life Exclusive caught up with Francisco Belda Montesinos, a notary in Denia whose team have more than 70 years experience in the field of public service. Francisco’s personal business philosophy is simple:
When carrying out any public function, we aim to be synonymous with speed, quality, trust and flexibility. We are open and accessible in working to give our clients exactly what they need.
The Notary in Spanish society:
Notaries must complete a law degree and then do further training and take more exams before they are admitted to the national College of Notaries. They are independent businessmen, but at the same time, public servants, so they are highly respected by all sections of society, on a par with priests and Police, and way above lawyers and politicians when it comes to public trust and confidence!
Notaries perform similar tasks to some lawyers, but they are obliged to be neutral, and consider not only the best interests of all parties involved in a transaction, but also the legalities. For example, the notary will ensure that any debts attached to the property are cleared, and that all taxes liable from the transaction are paid to the Hacienda (Spanish tax office).
Although a notary does not normally advise clients, other than explaining anything that isn’t immediately clear, if a member of the team identifies a problem or something unusual about the case in hand, he will step in to clarify the situation.
Notary fees are fixed by law, so the price you pay for their services is fair, and equitable to the amount of work needed to complete your transaction.
What else does a notary do?
Notaries in Spain are probably best known for acting in property transfers, but they deal with a number of other legal matters, including:
- Wills and inheritance matters. A notary can even travel to a person’s home or to hospital if they are too ill to come to him. He can also declare the rightful heirs in instances of intestacy, if the deceased did not leave a will.
- Founding and dissolving business partnerships and registering companies according to Spanish law.
- Validating loans and mortgages, and making sure each party is aware of all terms and conditions, along with penalty clauses.
- Any form of Power of Attorney or proxy. Since 2015, you can even get married by proxy by a notary if one of the parties is unable to enter Spain because of visa or movement restrictions. Useful to know during the Covid-19 restrictions!
It’s fair to say that, in Spain at least, almost any impactful situation in public life – property transfers, loan agreements and finance matters, inheritance and wills, business agreements and more – can be undertaken by the notary. The office is regulated and respected, and the notary has no agenda other than fairness and legality for all transactions and all the parties to those transactions.
It is your legal right to choose your notary, so don’t be persuaded to go against your instincts, or reliable recommendations from someone else. Your chosen notary should be totally committed to offering high levels of service in a speedy, efficient manner, thus relieving stress for clients. You need to feel safe in their care, so make your choice carefully.