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Jim's Guide - What new residents need to be aware of

Posted: Mon Nov 18, 2019 5:04pm
59 replies4087 views16 members subscribed
jimtaylor

jimtaylor

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Posts: 5338

7050 helpful points

Location: Mudamiento

Joined: 2 Feb 2017

Introduction:

This guide is intended for those who wish to move to live in Spain or have recently done so. It's effectively a 'to do' list, and itemises topics that everyone should know about.

I suggest that you make yourself aware of all the information available on this forum. If you have a question, it's very likely that it's already been asked and answered, and for many of the topics detailed guides already exist:

Jim's guides - your complete guide to Spain

There is of course a lot of information available from other forums and organisations, but this forum is in my opinion the most topical and accurate (thank you Jan and Alex).

This is written pre-Brexit. After Brexit a few things will change and will require me to produce new guides as appropriate.

There isn't any particular order to the following, but I'm listing those topics which require you to take action first, followed by those topics about which you should be aware. To find out about a topic, first see if I've written a guide about it. If not, then search the forum and, if that doesn't produce results, then post a new topic asking the question.

Property Purchase:

If you've not yet bought a property, then I suggest you download and read the following:

http://www.registradores.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Guide-AIPP-RICS-RDE.pdf

To cover tax and other fees, you need to budget 10-13% on top of the price of a property.

Several estate agents may have the same property on their books, and they will enhance the price asked by the seller by as much as they think they can get away with. Try viewing a property when the seller is present, and ask how much he wants for the property. You then know how much the estate agent is asking as a fee and can negotiate accordingly.

Appoint your own lawyer - abogado - not the one recommended by the estate agent.

NIE:

This is a foreigner's identity number, and is essential for anyone who lives in Spain, and also for those who only have a bank account or property here.

Residency:

If you're going to live in Spain, then you are legally required to apply for residency. This requires you to provide proof of sufficient finances, and proof that you have health cover.

Padrón:

This is registration on the municipal register of citizens in the municipality in which you live. It's a legal obligation to register. You can only be registered as a permanent resident if you can prove that you've got the residency referred to above.

The padrón is often incorrectly referred to the electoral roll, which is incorrect. If you want to be able to vote in the local and EU elections, then you need to request this, and it's best done when you apply for the padrón.

Tax:

You become a fiscal resident in Spain in the first year in which you live here for 183 days or more in a calendar year.

If you move here after July 1st, then you have to pay non-resident tax for that part year.

If you move here before July 1st, then you have to pay resident tax for that year, and that tax is based in most cases on your total worldwide income.

You need to be registered with the tax office - Agencia Tributaria.

Both non-resident and resident tax are declared and paid in the year following that which the tax applies to.

Having submitted your first resident tax return, you then need to opt out of the UK Inland Revenue system.

Health:

If you're in receipt of the UK state retirement pension or an 'exportable' benefit, you can transfer from the NHS to the Spanish state health system.

If not, then you must have private health insurance pre-paid for one year and covering all eventualities including pre-existing conditions. Having paid PHI for a year, you can then opt to buy into the Valencian public health system, which may or may not be cheaper than PHI.

The only exception to the above is if you're working here and paying into the Spanish social security system, as this qualifies you for health cover.

If you're a pensioner in the Valencian region and your taxable income, as declared in a tax return, is below €18,000, then prescriptions are free.

If you're in the Spanish health system, you can make appointments online.

Banking:

You need a Spanish bank account as a resident. If you have your pension, or a regular amount above a bank defined limit, paid into that account, then banking should be free, apart from a possible annual charge for debit and credit cards.

Keep a UK bank account. If you close it, you won't be able to open a new one.

Driving licenses:

There is a period of grace, but you must exchange your UK license for a Spanish one. If you don't do so, you would have to take a driving license test in order to obtain a Spanish license.

Depending on the type of exchange you do, this exchange might involve first passing a medical test.

Wills:

You must make a Spanish will, otherwise if you die intestate then your estate will be distributed in accordance with Spanish law, which will not be what you want.

Don't pay a fortune to a lawyer to draw up a will - go direct to a notary.

If your UK will says it covers all your assets, without specifying that it only covers assets held in the UK, then this will need amending.

Cars:

Second hand cars in Spain are much more expensive than in the UK, partly because they deteriorate much more slowly and partly because Spain doesn't have the fleet market the UK does, which dumps thousands of cars on the market every year.

When buying a car in Spain, you have to pay for the change of ownership, and if you buy privately you have to pay transfer tax.

If you want to keep a UK registered car, then this has to be transferred to Spanish plates.

Vehicle road tax is levied by the municipality in which you live, and for the same car can therefore vary from town to town. Tax is charged to the person who owns the car on January 1st. You will receive notification in April or May.

Electricity:

Electricity supply contracts are significantly different than in the UK. You have to decide what you want your maximum kilowatt hours/amperage to be, and you need to be aware that the fixed charges form a considerable part of the bill. It's very easy to pay for more than you need, and it's also common to draw more power than you are contracted for, at which point the meter will trip the supply and need resetting.

You can change suppliers if you wish.

It's advisable to register for online access to your smart meter data, so you can see what your consumption is, and also so that you can reset your meter online.

Gas:

Although the installation of piped gas is increasing, this is mainly in densely populated areas, and everyone else relies on bottled gas. Even if mains gas is available, if your usage isn't high then it might be cheaper to stay with bottled gas.

Bottled gas is very widely available, and you just take an empty bottle and swap it for a full one. Home delivery is also possible, but you need to take out a contract with the supplier, which will be either Repsol or Cepsa.

Any gas installation needs to be inspected every five years, and a certificate - boletín - issued. If you don't do this, then any problem related to gas which involves you in making an insurance claim can lead to the claim being rejected.

Most people have portable gas heaters, and these are useful for taking the chill off in winter. Don't use them in unventilated spaces, as they produce carbon dioxide which can lead to headaches, and they also produce a lot of water vapour which can lead to damp and mould.

Water:

Unlike electricity, you can't change water supplier, and all those I know of only have one form of contract.

There are a lot of properties in rural areas that don't have a piped water supply, so these need water delivering by tanker. Even though you can choose to have potable water delivered, this is an unknown quantity and I don't know of anyone in this situation who drinks water straight out of their storage tank.

All utilities:

When buying a property, make sure that your solicitor arranges with the utility companies to do the transfers to yourself.

In addition, it will make life easier if you set up direct debits with all the utility companies.

It makes sense to register for online access to the utility companies.

Council tax:

Although utility charges are generally higher than in the UK, this is more than offset by much cheaper council tax, known as IBI.

The tax is charged to whoever owns the property on January 1st, and is not due for payment until the autumn.

In some areas the refuse collection charge is collected by companies other than the town hall; for example, ours is included with our water bills.

In Alicante province, the vast majority of councils delegate the billing and collection of IBI to an organisation called SUMA.

Refuse collection:

Properties in Spain don't have individual dustbins, and you aren't required to separate items that can be recycled.

There are large communal bins at the side of the roads. In some areas these are emptied every day, but in rural areas it may be three times a week. The majority of bins have notices on them stipulating when rubbish can be put in them, but the vast majority of people ignore this.

There are plenty of recycling bins, and in our area these are green for bottles, blue for paper and cardboard, and yellow for plastic, tins and milk cartons. There are a fewer number of bins for clothing - ropa, and a still fewer number of bins for batteries and used oil.

If you have a large item to be disposed of, you should ask the council when you should leave this out. However, if it has any potential value, then put it out and a white-van man will remove it.

Post:

The efficiency of the post office - Correos - varies a great deal between different areas. In our area (touch wood!) they're good, but only deliver twice a week.

The efficiency of the postal service isn't helped by the post-code system, as a post-code only identifies an area. Our post-code is for a large area, served by several different post offices. It is therefore essential when giving your address to include the name of the town where your post office is situated. For example, we come under Orihuela but our post is delivered from Rafal. When we initially used Orihuela as our address, a lot of mail didn't arrive or was considerably delayed, but when we replaced Orihuela with Rafal in our address, then that cured the problem.

If your property has its own letter box, then you know that Correos deliver there. If you live in a community then there will be a bank of letter boxes at or near the entrance to that community. Even some properties on the streets, where individual deliveries could be done, may have a bank of letter boxes somewhere on the street.

There are many properties in rural areas to which Correos do not deliver, in which case you would need to rent a box at the post office. Bear in mind however that the majority of official communications cannot be delivered to a PO box number.

Police:

If you need to report a crime, you have to make an official statement - denuncia, and you need to provide the number from that report if you make an insurance claim.

There are three different police forces serving the community in Spain. Some of the autonomous communities have their own police forces, and there are other more specialised forces like customs and port police.

Local police:

Known as the Policía Local or sometimes Policía Municipal. They work for the town hall and only have limited powers like enforcing bylaws, controlling traffic (e.g. school runs), and parking. They will however help or point you in the right direction if you approach them about something outside their remit like crimes.

In our area at least, they are very lenient where parking is concerned - annoying so at times. If they were paid commission on fines they generate, then they would be very well off!

Guardia Civil:

This is the oldest of the police forces and is organised as a military force. As far as their responsibilities to the public go, they police rural areas and towns with less than 20,000 inhabitants, and they also police the motorways and highways, as well as border entry points. If you suffer from a crime then it's the Guardia to whom you should report.

Random traffic checks on the road are permitted and fairly frequent, although most of these are simple checks to see if you're wearing a seatbelt or using a mobile while driving. If you're stopped, smile nicely and say good day, and you will probably be waved on.

They also enforce environmental and conservation laws, including those governing hunting and fishing. If you're fishing and a member of the Guardia approaches you with a sub-machine gun slung over his shoulder, don't be alarmed - he just wants to see your fishing license.

National Police:

Named El Cuerpo Nacional de Policía.

They are mainly responsible for policing urban areas with a population over 20,000, handling general law enforcement, criminal investigation and public order, judicial, terrorism and immigration matters. They also have riot squads.

They are responsible for the enforcement of immigration law, refuge and asylum, extradition and expulsion. They have a large civilian staff, and it is these whom you have to visit to apply for an NIE or residency.

Emergency services:

The European equivalent of 999 is 112. Calls to it are free, and can be made with a landline or mobile - even if that mobile is locked or has no credit on it.

Calls are taken by telephone operators, not specialists, and you can request to be transferred to an English speaker.

The operator will then transfer your call to the relevant emergency service.

Because the 112 operators are not specialists, if for example you call to report a fire, you won't receive any advice about the steps to take whilst you are waiting for the fire-fighters to arrive.

If you call from a landline, then caller ID will enable them to see your number and, hopefully, through that to identify your location.

If you call from a mobile, then the emergency services have the ability to identify your GPS location.

In many areas you can also call direct to the service you require, albeit the calls are not free:

National police: 091

Local police: 092

Guardia Civil: 062

Fire-fighters (Bomberos): 080

Medical Emergencies: 061

Carrying proof of identity:

It is a legal requirement that any foreigner in Spain must at all times carry documentation proving their identity, issued by the authorities of their country of origin, and you must be able to produce this on the spot if so required by the police.

Because UK citizens don't have identity cards, that means carrying your passport. May officials will accept a notarised copy of a passport, or even a photocard driving license, but they aren't obliged to do so.

In addition, and even many long-term residents don't know this, you are also legally required to carry documentation proving your situation in Spain, which means carrying your residency certificate.

Insurance:

If you want to terminate an insurance policy, the law states that you must give one month's notice of doing so. Some companies will allow less, but they aren't obliged to do so.

Car insurance includes recovery of the car if you break down. You ring your insurance company, tell them where you are and where you want the car taken, and they will send a transporter to remove your car - a grúa. Be aware that a grúa may have only one passenger seat, so fight among yourselves to decide who gets a lift and who is left in the pouring rain!

Car insurance does not cover roadside assistance, although if you offer him an incentive the grúa driver might try to fix minor problems. If you want the equivalent of RAC or AA etc, you can join an organisation like RACE.

When you first take out a vehicle insurance policy, you normally also receive an accident report form - Declaración amistosa de accidente, or Parte Europeo de Accidente. If you're involved in a bump, and both parties agree on the circumstances, then you both complete the form and each send a copy to your insurance company. This makes the settlement of claims much easier and faster. If you're a technophile, you can also install an app to do the report.

I suggest that you familiarise yourself with this form, in case you ever need to use it. And carry a biro in your car!

Car essentials:

When you buy a car you will receive its two principal documents, the Permiso de Circulación (equivalent of a log book), and technical inspection document. For older cars this latter is a Tarjeta Inspección Técnica de Vehículos, and for newer cars it's a print out of the electronic record, a Tarjeta eITV. These two documents must be carried in the car.

If the car is old enough to need an ITV (MOT), the windscreen sticker must be stuck on at the top nearside of the windscreen, and any old stickers must be removed. There is also a paper counterpart for the ITV, and this also must be carried in the car. If your car needs an ITV, you aren't allowed to drive if the ITV has expired - not even to a test centre.

In addition you must carry two reflective warning triangles, and if you break down you need to display these, about 50 metres from both the front and rear of the car - although you don't need a triangle at the front if you break down on a motorway or dual carriageway.

And finally, if you break down on an inter-urban road, you must put on a high visibility jacket - chaleco reflectante - before you get out of the car, as must any passengers. They're cheap enough, so you might as well have one for every potential occupant of the car, and carry at least one of them where you can reach it.

It used to be the case that you had to carry spare bulbs and, if applicable, spare driving glasses, but that no longer applies.

ITV:

As I said in the preceding section, this is the equivalent of the UK MOT. The difference is that the tests are carried out at specialist centres, and you control the car during some of the tests.

The result of a test will be an unqualified pass, or one of three other defect categories. See my ITV guide for details of these.

Driving Regulations:

Driving Regulations change frequently and you need to try and keep abreast of these.

Unfortunately there isn't a Spanish equivalent of the UK Highway Code. There is however an English translation of the legislation, translated by volunteers (of which I was one). You can read it online here:

https://spanishtrafficlaw.es/

or you can download it here:

https://n332.es/2018/12/03/spanish-traffic-law-free-ebook/

A word of warning. You need to get used to the fact that many Spanish drivers are terrible. They don't signal, and you will definitely get carved up on roundabouts. Drive defensively at all times.

Traffic offences:

If you receive a driving fine, then in most cases you get a 50% reduction of the fine if you pay within 20 days.

If you weren't the driver at the time, you can report details of the driver at the time of the incident and have the fine removed from your name.

You can register with DGT - the traffic authority - so that you get email notification of any fines incurred.

The penalty points system is different to that in the UK. When you first get a Spanish license, you are given twelve points, and with a clean record for a couple of years this goes up to fifteen. If you commit an offence that involves a fine and loss of points, these are deducted from the points you've got.

Television:

The only really effective way, in my opinion, is a suitable satellite dish to get all the UK Freesat channels.

If you browse through the sub-forum which includes TV, you'll see that only a small percentage of members are happy with other ways of viewing UK TV.

Internet:

Similar to the above, you need a wired connection to ensure good service.

Electronic certificate:

This is a hobby-horse of mine, but if you get an electronic certificate, then this will make it much easier to manage the numerous bureaucratic procedures you have to deal with. You will be able to do things from the comfort of your home instead of having to make personal visits.

Aircon:

Even if you aren't using it, running aircon units every month will help to prevent problems.

If you're buying new, get one that both cools and heats.

Swimming pool:

If you have a property with a pool, then the odds are that this will be totally new to you. Maintaining a pool isn't just a matter of keeping the water topped up. Read my guide to the subject.

Wood burner:

If you have a property with a log fire or pellet burner, or think about getting one, then again there is a lot to be aware of. Again, read my guide.

Miscellaneous:

If you wish to make a living will or grant a power of attorney, then go direct to a notary. This is much cheaper than using a solicitor, and even if you used a solicitor you'd have to go to a notary anyway.

If you want to reduce the cost to your survivors of your funeral, then consider donating your body to science. This costs €1000, much cheaper than a funeral, and you will be helping the next generation of doctors and surgeons.

If your UK mobile is locked to a provider, it will probably be easier to get it unlocked in the UK before you move here and get a Spanish SIM card. Depending on the area where you have your property, you may find that only one operator has a good signal in your area.

To transfer money from the UK, your bank will be the dearest option, and it's cheaper to do transfers through an intermediary. My personal preference is Transferwise, but other people have their own favourites. Most banks impose a charge if you transfer more than €50,000 in one go.

Final word:

I've tried to cover most topics, but must have missed some. However, I hope that I've given you a starter for ten. Enjoy Spain!


RayD

Posted: Tue Nov 19, 2019 10:15am

RayD

Legendary helpful member

Posts: 5170

3956 helpful points

Location: Catral

Joined: 6 Jan 2016

Posted: Tue Nov 19, 2019 10:15am

You could add a warning about Brit on Brit scams. 

Not every brit is your friend and a lot of of them prey on newcomers to Spain who are likely to employ them because of the language barrier.

I got caught several times in my first 6 months in Spain and it cost me a fortune.

jimtaylor

Posted: Tue Nov 19, 2019 10:27am

jimtaylor

Original Poster

Legendary helpful member

Posts: 5338

7050 helpful points

Location: Mudamiento

Joined: 2 Feb 2017

Posted: Tue Nov 19, 2019 10:27am

Good point Ray. I've added it to the list of revisions to do.

QuentinB

Posted: Tue Nov 19, 2019 1:47pm

Posts: 6

7 helpful points

Location: Catral

Joined: 18 Nov 2019

Posted: Tue Nov 19, 2019 1:47pm

Hi...hopefully this reaches Jim. Just want to thank you so much for all your hard work. Myself and my partner Nikki have had so much conflicting info.... really really appreciate this. Thank you... we have only moved to Realengo just a month ago having now left the UK for good. 

Very kind regards

Quentin B

jimtaylor

Posted: Tue Nov 19, 2019 2:34pm

jimtaylor

Original Poster

Legendary helpful member

Posts: 5338

7050 helpful points

Location: Mudamiento

Joined: 2 Feb 2017

Posted: Tue Nov 19, 2019 2:34pm

You're welcome, Quentin, and thanks for the thanks!

I hope you settle in OK, and that all goes well for you both.

SopFlo

Posted: Tue Nov 19, 2019 6:32pm

Posts: 9

8 helpful points

Location: Rojales

Joined: 7 Apr 2018

Posted: Tue Nov 19, 2019 6:32pm

Hi Jim - Thank you so much for all the helpful information you have published on this forum we have really appreciated it.  If we  need to know anything I always look up your information first - it has saved so much time and energy.

We have been here 2 years now but we are always finding out something we didn't know!

QuentinB

Posted: Wed Nov 20, 2019 6:56am

Posts: 6

7 helpful points

Location: Catral

Joined: 18 Nov 2019

Posted: Wed Nov 20, 2019 6:56am

Jim... thank you for your reply. We have the NIE and the Padron so now the Residencia. Hopefully this will not be a problem, I will read up on your post, i haven't got to the bit about the Residencia just yet.

Absolutely the best post on staying Spain. Finding it really difficult to get Spanish lessons, though.

Anyway will stay in touch with the forum. Very kindest regards, thanks for the hard work.

RayD

Posted: Wed Nov 20, 2019 10:05am

RayD

Legendary helpful member

Posts: 5170

3956 helpful points

Location: Catral

Joined: 6 Jan 2016

Posted: Wed Nov 20, 2019 10:05am

Quentin there are Spanish lessons run by the ayuntamiento. My wife and I did them for 2 years and they are excellent.

You register at the ayuntamiento and the course is called 'Español para Extranjeros'. The lessons are in the Centro de Formación, next to the Centro de Salud and cost 20€ a month, with a 20€ registration fee. It's run by the EPA (Escuela para Adultos) which is basically further education.

The teacher is Spanish and most of the students are Dutch, Belgian, French etc with only a couple of English. The common language is Spanish. It's a course for ALL foreigners learning Span ish and is good fun and everyone gets on well - including social events.

There are 2 levels, basic and intermediate.

QuentinB

Posted: Wed Nov 20, 2019 9:28pm

Posts: 6

7 helpful points

Location: Catral

Joined: 18 Nov 2019

Posted: Wed Nov 20, 2019 9:28pm

Thanks so much for the reply. We will get on to this as a matter of urgency as this is something we both set our minds to doing, long before we got here.

This forum has been amazing and a big thanks to all of you for your time.

Suenshad

Posted: Fri Jan 10, 2020 10:24am

Posts: 13

3 helpful points

Location: Monte Zenia

Joined: 18 Nov 2019

Posted: Fri Jan 10, 2020 10:24am

Wow Jim that's amazing. I'm aware of some of the information but the bulk of it is new to me and very helpful. It'll take me some time to absorb it all but thank you very much for that. Wow there's a lot to ponder on. I'll start 1st thing tomorrow as its now teatime here in Oz and i generally get a bit fuzzy. Thanks again. That's brilliant. 

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