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Buying Property in Ibiza. Denuncias

In this, the 5th article in the series, Phil addresses a specific Spanish legal term - Denuncias - and explains what you need to be aware of.

You have probably not come across this peculiar element of Spanish law. That said, once you have a property you will come across denuncias pretty soon and you need to understand what they are and how they work.

Denuncias are a common feature of the Spanish legal system. It is a phrase and system completely unknown in the UK.  Unfortunately the phrase is often used inaccurately and sounds as if the person who has been denounced is guilty of a crime. This is absolutely not so. A denuncia is a private criminal allegation against an individual, company, or other legal entity.

A denuncia can also be served on a person by the police, guardia civil or any state agency. When the allegation is made, the official drawing up the document - in most cases this is the local guardia civil – will only make the denuncia where there is some prima facie or preliminary evidence that a crime has been committed. In my experience this type of denuncia is rare.

To give you a couple of common examples

You might have a minor boundary dispute with a neighbour, perhaps regarding some shared access way that requires work. If you dispute ownership and decline to pay, your neighbor can issue a denuncia against you for what he or she feels is your share of the cost.  You should seek the help of one of the good property lawyers in Ibiza who can advise you on the boundaries and various responsibilities, which will be essential for your denial.

On the other hand, you might suffer water damage, due to a damaged valve in the mains supply in the street outside your house. If you are unable to resolve with the water company (Aqualia) direct, you might decide to issue a denuncia for the cost of your damages. It is almost certain that your insurance company will ask for a copy in the event that you decide to claim from them.

In Ibiza you would take your completed denuncia and hand it in on the top floor of the Juzgado (court-house). However, it is worth pointing out that the paper-based system is bursting at the seams. The office appears to be full to the ceiling with paper and harassed workers!

Unless you are reporting a serious issue, your denuncia will go into a huge backlog, which I have experienced at first hand.  That said, you should still consider issuing a denuncia through your solicitor as it forms part of a chain of evidence should your issue become more serious.  

In all cases where you have an issue that you think is grave enough, or could become grave enough, to demand damages or some form of censure, you should consult a solicitor immediately, perhaps using one of the reliable property lawyers in Ibiza (if your problem is directly related to your home). It also follows that if you are on the receiving end of a denuncia, you should seek legal advice immediately.

One final bit of advice - do not, under any circumstances, attempt to navigate your way through the minefield that is the Spanish legal system without professional help unless your Spanish is perfect and you are fully aware of the process.

Author Phil Dibbs is the man who walks his talk, having purchased his own property on Ibiza. His company, Hawkmoor Associates Ltd, is available to assist in an advisory capacity on property purchases in Ibiza.

Photo: Tamas Kooning Lansbergen

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