The majority of people who buy a house or apartment in Tenerife will find themselves a member of a Community of Owners. The law covering the legal rights and obligations of Owners is contained in part of the Spanish Civil Code called the Ley de Propiedad Horizontal, the Law of Horizontal Ownership. This law applies to separate houses or terraced properties and also to developments of high-rise apartments where the ownership could be said to be vertical as well as horizontal.
Whichever parts of the buildings are jointly owned, or where there are gardens or swimming pools common to all, and when owners share the cost of maintenance and services, then there is "horizontal ownership" and this law applies. It enables a Community to run democratically in accordance with the wishes of the majority of owners and is 'government of the people by the people for the people.'
The law requires that every Community should have its own regulations, setting out what parts of the Community property belongs solely to individual owners and what parts are jointly owned.
The share belonging to each owner in the common property will be clearly stated, dependent on the size of each Owner's dwelling in comparison to others. The share of each owner is called his "cuota de participación" and is important in that it determines how much he will have to pay towards the cost of maintaining the common property, such as roads, gardens, walkways and swimming pool, and providing the necessary services such as the wages of gardeners, cleaners, reception staff, refuse removal, etc.
An Owners' Association is created to co-ordinate the smooth running and upkeep of the development and to represent the needs and rights of the owners. A President and Administrator are elected together with a committee made up of owners and a General Meeting is held each year to clarify or establish new rules and regulations, to appoint or reappoint an administrator, to approve a budget for the coming year, to elect a President for the coming year, and to deal with any other matters raised by the committee or owners.
Because it takes time to organise a meeting of owners and often many of these services are required immediately for the benefit of all, the developer normally hires the administrator for the first year, who in turn looks after the running of the complex until the first Annual General Meeting. If during this time his performance has been satisfactory, then he would normally be reengaged until the next A.G.M.
It must be remembered that Spanish law considers that the obligation of each owner to pay his share of Community expenses is an obligation superior to all others. Community Fees payable by Owners are dependent on the type of development and standard of upkeep desired. Spanish law provides the answer to practically every problem that is likely to arise in a Community, but owners must look after their own interests by attending meetings and voting.