In Spain, it is often the case that entries recorded in the cadastre and the land register (register of deeds) are not identical and the two registries can often contradict the actual plots on the ground.
The reason for this is that the sources of the information differ: in the land register, only information contained in official documents is recorded (e.g. notary certified contracts or judicial decisions); however, the information in the cadastre is submitted and recorded by municipality officials or the tax office.
The function of the information also varies: in the land register, a private individual enters the information which he wishes to defend with the guarantee of the official register; in the cadastre, the administration prepares the information necessary for the calculation of taxes and the enforcement of its own demands.
This potential contradiction is not the only difference between the Spanish and other foreign land registers: another and very important difference in the Spanish land register is the mandatory recording of a building’s description, including details of the construction areas, with a notary certificate, while in other foreign land registers (like in Germany, for example), only the explicit size of the plot (without any description of the buildings) is recorded. Significantly, this means that if alterations are made to the building, its altered condition must also be updated in the land register with a retrospective notary “New Works Declaration”. However, this is often not done, either through ignorance, a reluctance to pay the notary, tax and registry costs, or more usually because (new) building has not been granted.
Nearly all contracts of sale for property are dependent on the funding of the buyer. This funding is usually granted by a bank, but always with the guarantee that it is recorded in the land register as a mortgage on the purchased property. It is therefore very important that the information recorded in the land register does not conflict with reality because any information missing from the land register can mean that the financing bank will not cover the purchase price agreed for the property (this price is agreed irrespective of what is actually stated in the land register). Therefore, if you are intending to put a property on the market as a seller, it is advisable to find out all entries in the land register and cadastre and compare them with the actual plots.
Providing that the correct measurements are recorded in the cadastre, it is relatively simple to amend the land register. With existing (or older) valid building permission and construction final approval documented by the municipality, things can move forward quickly. It becomes difficult however when a building or part of a building exists which has not been recorded and for which there is no official approval. Then only the lengthy and expensive route of gaining planning and building permission through an architect remains.
The situation is different when not only the factual information, but also the legal information recorded is incorrect: this often occurs in the case of inheritances which have not been formalised or when the buyer has not notarized the signed contract of sale. Because only information contained in official documentation can be recorded in the land register, private contracts of sale cannot be registered.
Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer