What are the challenges of navigating Spanish law without lawyers from the country? Well, there are many things one could say about the differences between Spain and Britain. In many ways, they relate to a deeper professional and cultural divide between both countries. While undoubtedly British expats are fond to recall their best moments in Spain, most of them can also remember one or two times when they felt completely surpassed by the nation’s unique approach to life.
Even if it seems hard to believe, sometimes the smallest differences have a huge impact in legal cases. From personal animosities to misunderstandings, law is after all conducted by people. We are all driven by assumptions and prejudices, and can sometimes be dominated by them even if we are not supposed to. For British expats using Spanish Bank Claims, there have been two key obstacles in the world of property, financial and real state law in Spain: the legal system, and (perhaps more importantly) the professional culture.
Two countries, two legal systems
Angloamerican films and TV that feature legal processes often have scenes where characters seek to “represent themselves” before court. Right or wrong (and it often goes wrong), these characters feel like the best person that can navigate their trial is themselves! These images are not so common in Spain. Unless you are a qualified Spanish lawyer (abogado), you should never attempt to deal with your own affairs in the country!
There are many Brits who have lived in the country for a long time, and have even dealt with complex situations in health centres or town councils. As a result, when the first news about Floor Clauses and other abuses emerged in Spanish media, they sought to take matters into their own hands to challenge Spanish banks. While many of them achieved a successful outcome, others should have stuck to TV.
The truth is the Spanish legal system is, like many other continental countries, based on legal codes and legislation in the style of ancient Roman law. Both public and private sector professionals who deal with the law spend decades trying to master the different legislative regimes across the 17 Autonomous Communities; not to add the growing body of European legislation!
Many other differences make it a challenge. The fact that you need to wholly argue your case the first time it is raised in court (demanda); rather than the simplified documentation used in British courts. Legal terms can also be confusing: procuradores, abogados, barristers, solicitors; they all fulfil different roles across both systems. Proceedings in Spain usually take place at a slower speed too and, while it is certainly growing, there is less of a culture of consumer rights and watchdogs.
It’s one thing to order at a bar; it’s another to speak Spanish in court
Fortunately, today’s culture of transparency makes it easier than ever to learn and conduct affairs online. There are plenty of “law blogs” and forums out there that could presumably help you make a good case; whether you were mis-sold “preferred” financial products, or your bank seems adamant on carrying out a foreclosure. If you have been living in Spain for a long time, perhaps you think your language skills are sufficient to build your case.
But there are still too many questions. What about all of those little, almost invisible differences, between the two nations’ professional cultures? For instance, what are the usual times for contacting banks? What is the right hierarchy in the organisation, who should hear your case? What are the expected timings for dealing with your case? Would you be allowed to appeal if you choose a particular course of action? What is the polite way of addressing a judge or another authority; are they even accessible?
The tourism boom in Spain has really benefited the country. However, it has also attracted many people who might not have the best standards. Perhaps, your local estate agent, administrator or “urbanizacion” accountant will be happy to help with your problems. Can you be sure of their good intentions? Even if they are good, are they completely aware of the costs and challenges of property and real state legislation across the country?
All of these questions have an easy answer. The safest way to buy, maintain and sell a property in Spain is working with a certified Spanish abogado, who is registered with the local bar or “colegio”. Best of all, Spanish Bank Claims has a multinational team, offering you the best of both nations’ legal systems; and professional cultures. Call them today to discuss your mortgage terms and find out if you are entitled to a claim.