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PROPERTY

Do Brits and other non-EU property hunters still need a military permit to buy in Spain?

Foreign property buyers in Alicante province no longer need to get a Franco-era military authorisation to buy a home in locations that are of strategic interest for national defense, a law which shocked UK property seekers in the aftermath of Brexit. 

Do Brits and other non-EU property hunters still need a military permit to buy in Spain?
Torrevieja is among the Alicante municipalities where non-EU property buyers no longer require a military permit. Photo: Jose M Martin Jimenez/AFP

What’s the latest?

In early July, Spain’s Ministry of Defense published an order addressed to Spain’s General Directorate of Infrastructures allowing them to cancel the requirement of a military authorisation for non-EU property buyers in an area that’s particularly popular with foreign buyers: Alicante province.  

The decision benefits non-EU nationals such as Americans, Russians and, since 2021, Britons who want to buy a property in the Alicante municipalities of Torrevieja, Orihuela, Pilar de la Horadada or San Miguel de Salinas.

The decision comes after several bodies including the Alicante Chamber of Commerce and Alicante’s Association of Real Estate Developers (Provia) were able to convince Spain’s Ministry of Defense of the negative impact the military permit requirement was having on foreign property  purchases. 

A total of 363,393 foreign nationals are residents in the eastern province that’s part of Spain’s Valencia region, and thousands more own property in Alicante even though they aren’t residents there.

Spain’s Ministry of Defense has indicated that in Alicante municipalities in question in which the land has been approved in a partial plan or is classified as urban land (terreno urbano), it will no longer be necessary to apply for a military permit. 

Non-EU buyers of non-urban land (suelo no urbanizable or terreno rústico) are the only ones who will still need to request a military permit. 

As things stand, there is no indication that non-EU buyers in other locations in Spain which require a military permit can benefit from the lifting of this rule, but the decision regarding Alicante may lead to changes elsewhere. 

military permit property spainPhoto: Luis Vizcaino/AFP

What is Spain’s military permit for properties law all about?

For the past 40 years, Spain has had legislation in place that requires non-EU buyers to seek a special permit from the Ministry of Defence in order to buy property within areas considered strategic defence points.

The law was actually drafted in the last year of the Franco regime as a means to protect national security by preventing strategic places being bought up by foreigners. 

The law came into effect under Royal Decree 689 published in 1978 and exists to this day.

It’s an administrative process that requires certain paperwork including a criminal record check to take place before a purchase can be made, a process which is supposed to take two to four months to be completed but often takes double that time.

The rule applied to all foreign buyers until Spain joined the EU in 1986, when an exemption was put in place for citizens from the bloc. 

Citizens from Iceland, Switzerland and Norway are exempt under a mutual agreement between their governments and Spain.

Which areas in Spain need military permission?

It isn’t just zones around the edge of military installations that fall under the requirement for special permission.

In total, the law impacts about 1,560 municipalities across Spain as it also applies to urban areas close to the Strait of Gibraltar, the Bay of Cádiz, the Galician coast and Spain’s borders with France and Portugal as well as all the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands. 

It also affects much of the region of Murcia and the Alicante province, especially towns along the southern Costa Blanca because of their proximity to the Cartagena naval base.

map military permits property spainMap produced by Tradusan.com

What is the process for getting a military permit?

Besides all the usual administrative formalities required when buying in Spain, foreign buyers of property within designated sensitive zones will have to apply for a permit from the Ministry of Defence.

To do this they will need to provide a Criminal Record Certificate from their country of residence, accompanied by a sworn translation and stamped by a notary as well as detailed plans of the property itself.

As mentioned earlier, the application is meant to take an average of two to four months and up to six months but could be delayed further if there is a backlog due to a sudden surge in applications.

In recent years an average of 150 applications are received annually but this could soar with Brits now needing to apply too.

This means the buying process could be drawn out by months as without relevant permission, notaries will not be able to transfer title deeds.

Applications will need to be made with the help of a property registrar or notary. 

What about Brits who bought a house before December 31st 2020?

There is no retroactive application of the law which means if a property was registered in the name of a British buyer before the end of the Withdrawal Agreement then no special permission is needed.

For UK nationals who aren’t beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement who buy a property in 2021 and onwards, the military permit could apply depending on where they intend to buy, now with the exception of Torrevieja, Orihuela, Pilar de la Horadada and San Miguel de Salinas in Alicante province.

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PROPERTY

Why are Spanish homes so dark?

Despite being known for its year-long sunny weather, Spain is the EU country with the fewest homes with natural light, often intentionally. Why is it that when it comes to spending time at home, Spaniards seem to love being in the dark?

Why are Spanish homes so dark?

Spain – the land of sunshine. The country gets between 2,500 and 3,000 hours of sun per year on average, almost double the 1,600 hours the UK gets, for example.

You’d probably assume that finding a bright apartment in such a sunny country would be a piece of cake, but unless you’re renting or buying a modern home, it might be trickier than you realise.

More than one in ten Spaniards live in dwellings they feel are “too dark” – the highest percentage among all EU countries, according to figures from Eurostat.

As far as dark homes go, Spain is head and shoulders above the EU average of 5.9 percent, and higher than other nations with a high rate of gloomy homes such as France (9.5 percent), Malta (9.4 percent) and Hungary (7.7 percent).

At the other end of the brightly lit spectrum, it’s no surprise to see that countries with cloudier skies and darker winters such as Norway, Slovakia, Estonia, Czechia and the Netherlands have homes that let in plenty of natural light, and yet Spain’s sun-kissed Mediterranean neighbours Italy and Cyprus do make the most of the readily available light.

Dark homes are almost twice as common in Spain as the EU average. Graph: Eurostat.

So why are Spanish homes so dark?

Is it a case of hiding away from the sun, and keeping cool during the summer months? Or is it something else? 

Apartment blocks

The vast majority of Spaniards live in apartments as opposed to houses, often in tightly-packed cities with narrow streets.

In fact, in Spain 64.6 percent of the population lives in flats or apartments, second in the EU after Latvia (65.9 percent.)

By contrast the EU wide average is 46.1 percent.

By nature of apartment living, Spanish homes tend to get less sunlight.

Depending on whether they have an exterior or interior flat, they might not actually have a single window in the flat that faces the street.

If the apartment is on a lower floor, the chances of it receiving natural light are even lower. Internal patios can help to solve this to some extent, but only during the mid day and early afternoon hours. 

why are spanish homes so dark

A dark, narrow street in the centre of Palma de Mallorca. Photo: seth0s/Pixabay

Hot summers

During Spain’s scorching summer months, there’s no greater relief than stepping into a darkened apartment building lobby and feeling the temperature drop. 

In southern Spain, and in coastal regions, Spanish buildings were traditionally built to protect against the heat and hide away from the long sunny hours. White walled exteriors and dark interiors help to keep homes cool.

It’s often the case that bedrooms are put in the darkest, coolest part of the apartment, sometimes with just a box-window to allow for a breeze but no sunlight.

Spaniards’ obsession with blinds and shutters

Spain is pretty much the only country in Europe whose inhabitants still use blinds (persianas), even during the colder winter months.

In this case, rather than it just being down to keeping homes cool during the sweltering summer months, their usage is intrinsic to Spain’s Moorish past and the fact that they provide a degree of privacy from nosy neighbours. By contrast, northern Europeans with Calvinist roots such as the Dutch keep the curtains open to let in natural light and because historically speaking, keeping the inside of homes visible from the street represents not having anything to hide. But in Spain, the intimacy of one’s home is sacrosanct, especially when the neighbour in the apartment building opposite is less then ten metres away.

Keeping the blinds or shutters down also has the advantage of making it easier to have an afternoon nap (the siesta, of course) or to sleep in late after a long night out on the town. 

In any case, it seems hard to believe for some foreigners that many Spaniards are happy to live in the dark whilst spending time at home, regardless of whether they’re sleeping or not. 

A byproduct of this? Dark, gloomy homes.

why are spanish homes so dark

Spaniards aren’t fans of airing their dirty laundry, at least metaphorically speaking. Blinds have historically provided the privacy they’ve wanted from their homes. Photo: Quino Al/Unsplash

The long, dark corridors

Spanish apartments have plenty of quirks that seem odd to outsiders, from the light switches being outside of the room, the aforementioned shutters, the bottles of butane and last but not least, the never-ending corridors. 

Most Spanish homes built in the 19th and 20th century include these long pasillos running from the entrance to the end of the flat. They were meant to provide a separation between the main living spaces and the service rooms (kitchen, bathroom etc), easy access to all and better airing and light capabilities. But when the doors to the rooms are closed as often happens, these corridors become the opposite of what was intended: dark and airless.

Navigating these windowless corridors at night is akin to waking around blindfolded.

dark corridor spain

Light at the end of the tunnel? Dark corridors are a common feature of Spanish homes. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

Are Spaniards rethinking their dark homes?

Times are changing, and modern designs are experimenting with more spacious, light-filled, open-plan apartments, especially as the Covid-19 lockdown forced many Spaniards to reconsider their abodes. 

It’s also increasingly common to see property ads stressing that the property is diáfano, which means that natural light enters the home from all sides.

However, the vast majority of Spanish homes are still gloomy for the most part, often intentionally.

A combination of traditional building styles, the crowded nature of apartment block living, the use of shutters, the desire to keep homes private, and the long windowless corridors mean Spanish flats can seem dark if you’re new to the country, and with good reason.

Ultimately, it is worth remembering that Spanish society is one that largely lives its life outdoors. Living in smaller apartments, Spaniards generally spend less time at home and more time out and about in the street.

Native to a hot and sunny country as they are, Spaniards’ homes are a place of rest, relaxation and, crucially, sleep.

Spanish people have enough sunlight and heat in their lives; they like to live, therefore, in homes designed to keep cool and dark.

READ ALSO: Why are Spanish homes so cold?

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