Spanish lawyers are as good as any, but everyone has heard urban legends regarding property scams and rip-offs in Spain. To avoid potential pitfalls, you can get a recommendation from a trusted source, check for qualifications or find a law firm where you’ve already established their reputation.
Getting a recommendation
Nothing beats getting a personal recommendation from someone who has been in your shoes. If you don’t already know someone who has made the move to Spain, then it’s sensible to visit your preferred region to do a little digging. Talk to other expats and see if anyone has had a good customer experience with a local firm.
Beware of recommendations from online forums. Because people do not have to declare who they are it’s very difficult to tell if the person giving you advice is a concerned citizen or someone with a vested interest in gaining your trust. However, reading impartial reviews online can help.
Where possible, use an independent recommendation rather than one from a real estate agent or property development company. As Peter Esders from Judicare suggests in our podcast, this is because it’s highly likely that the recommended firm is more invested in protecting their financial relationship with those involved in the sale of a property rather than in your interests as the buyer. If you are coerced or contracted to use a particular law firm, then get third party references from other customers who have worked with them before you sign anything.
When it’s impossible to get a friend or acquaintance to give you a sensible reference, then your home country’s local consulate may be able to help. Find the one closest to the region you’re buying and contact them to see if they have a list of local lawyers or law firms they recommend.
The British foreign office has a list of English speaking lawyers on their consulate website, North America lists lawyers in Barcelona and Madrid on their embassy website and the EU have a ‘find a lawyer’ portal on their website.
Check out their credentials
Spanish lawyers specialise in different areas of law, and a recommendation from a government source may not be specific to property law. Double check that the lawyer you want to use is specially qualified as a property lawyer.
When in doubt, you can contact the Colegio de Abogados (Spanish Law Society) to check your lawyer’s credentials or if you should ever need to file a complaint against an individual or firm.
Choose someone you already trust
Spain is a conservative country, where contacts matter. Using a lawyer with local knowledge means that they will be aware of the reputations and calibre of many of the developers and real estate agents in the region.
They may already know the Mayor, a local notary, surveyors and be able to visit the Town Hall in the municipality in which you are buying. Operating with a reputable firm with good relationships with professionals in the local property market will save them time and you money.
There are larger firms in the major cities like Barcelona, Madrid and there might even be Spanish law specialists in your own capital city. If you can’t find appropriate local representation, then there is definitely something to be said for using a firm with an international reputation to uphold or employing someone you’ve had dealings with before.