We received this email from a Euro-resident in Spain last week:
“We have been living in rented accommodation ever since we moved to Madrid 8 years ago, simply because prices here meant we couldn’t possibly afford to buy a flat. We found a lovely top-floor flat, within walking distance of our work, shops, parks, cinemas, belonging to a women who earns a living from renting out several flats she owns in Madrid. She lives in the same building, and we have always had a good relationship with her and, during the past 8 years, we have made the attic into our home, changed the floor, put heating in, decorated, changed the bathroom….. All at our own initiative because we understood that this was going to be our home for a long time. Our 2 girls were both born here. Four years ago we purchased a small house near Cadiz which we use for holidays and rent out to family and friends. We decided to do this rather than buy somewhere in Madrid because we love our flat so much.
Last week to our horror, the flat owner told us she had put our atico up for sale and we had 3 months to find somewhere else to live. The original contract we signed states that either party has to give notice of 3 months, but we assumed this was just a formality and she has always said that we could live in the flat for as long as we wanted. Is there anything we can do to stop her from selling the flat, or have we acquired any rights during the 8 years we have lived here?”
The answer to the first question is no, you cannot stop her from selling her property, unless a clause in the contract you signed 8 years ago specifically gives you the right to do so (this is very improbable). If however, as seems likely, the contract makes no reference to any possible ownership rights of the tenants, and simply mentions a 3-month eviction notice, then the owner has complied with her side of the deal.
The answer to the second question is yes, you have acquired a very important right as tenants: the right to buy your home in the event of the owner putting it up for sale.
In Spanish this right is called “el derecho de tanteo y retracto“. The first part “tanteo” refers to the fact that a tenant has the right to buy the property he/she is renting and should be given preference over any other potential buyers. The second “retracto” refers to the right of a tenant who discovers that his or her rented home has been sold to a third party, to re-purchase the property from the third party at the same price.
According to Spanish law, all property owners must give their long-term tenants 30 days notice if they decide to put their rented property on the market. In theory this gives tenants time to either find a new home or negotiate a purchase price with the owner and buy the property themselves. If the property owner fails to give the 30-days notice, then tenants can resort to their second right and purchase the property from the new owners (which is one reason why it is very important, if you are a buyer, to find out the exact conditions of any property you decide to purchase in Spain).
In your circumstances we suggest you try to negotiate a deal with the owner of your property based on your right, as long-term tenants, to have preference over other potential buyers. The fact that you have a good relationship with her should work in your favour. And you will have to decide whether you love your home enough to sell the house you have bought in Cadiz and use the money you make on it as a down payment.