Friday, November 8, 2013

"Is this how Spain should deal with foreign buyers of property?"

A guest post from Thomas Ekvall...

"My recent experience trying to buy property in Tenerife is rather puzzling for a country having millions of unsold houses. I started off with going to a bank in Santa Cruz to open an account. The bank considered my documentation sufficient, however I was informed that I needed a “NIE” to open an account; consequently I went to the national police in Santa Cruz to obtain this. At the police station I was asked to pay a small fee for the “NIE” that had to be paid through a bank (an inconvenient way to pay a negligible fee). Nevertheless I went back to the bank to pay the fee.
Back at the bank I was informed that I had to obtain the “NIE” number before I could pay the fee. Consequently I went back to the police just to be told rather forcefully – no I had to pay first. I went back to the bank again to tell them that I was now really stuck and asked them to call the police officer in question to try to solve the problem which they were not willing to do.
I went back again to the police and tried to explain the situation and asked them to call the bank which they most certainly were not going to do; consequently I could not open an account.
I told my property broker about my experience, he smiled and said these things happen in Spain. However, he offered to help and he asked me to come to Porto Cruz at 9 am the next day, which I did and we went together to the national police just to be told that they were closed for the day. I was instructed to come back before 7 am the next day.
The next day I left Santa Cruz before 5 am to make sure I would make my appointment. Just before 7am I was ushered into a waiting room rather rudely by uniformed police. Here I was kept waiting together with another dozen people from 7am until 8:30 am when a formidable police lady graced us with her presence surveying her day’s crop of intimidated “NIE” applicants. As they had no number system she tried to establish in which order we had arrived by asking us, this unsurprisingly ended in confusion.
By about 9 am we were given the forms to fill-in, all in Spanish, by definition none of us were Spanish. My broker helped me to fill-in the forms. It must be in Spain’s interest to have staff dealing with potential buyers of property to at least speak English and German and have the relevant forms in these two languages. The only things in the office in languages other than Spanish were large signs in English and German urging “NIE” applicants to keep quiet.
A lady applicant, next to me, noticed that I had help with my Spanish so she asked my broker if he could help her as well, which he agreed to do, however, our formidable police lady intervened to stop my broker from helping her, she said: she should have come with her own interpreter.
The time was now past 10 am and my case had as yet not been broached. Again our formidable police lady appears before us to deal with another applicant who had by now waited patiently for well over two hours. She asked him to go out and photocopy a document in a nearby shop and added brusquely: be quick.
My broker, who now sensed that I was getting irritated, told me things were in fact improving, she used to keep applicants waiting in the sun all day just to slam the door in their faces when she felt she had dealt with enough applicants for the day. He had observed one couple in their mid eighties being treated in this fashion.
Just before 11 am I was finally allowed to hand in my forms, but not without complications, the formidable lady noticed that the address I had given in Tenerife was a hotel in Santa Cruz and she wanted to send me back to Santa Cruz after a long discussion my broker managed to convince her to accept my case.
Just past 11 am I and my broker were allowed into the formidable police lady’s office. My broker who entered first sat down in one of two chairs in front of her desk just to be asked to stand up. We finished our business some 15 minutes past 11 am after having paid the fee. I was told to come back at 1 pm the following day to collect my “NIE”.
I and my broker went to a café near the police station to reflect on our experience; minutes after we had sat down the formidable police lady appears for a cup of coffee. She at this point had another eight applicants to deal with who by now had been waiting for her attention for close to five hours.
The next day at 15 minutes to 1 pm I arrived, as instructed, at the national police station in Porto Cruz. The uniformed police at the reception told me in no uncertain terms to go away saying they were closed. I tried to explain that I was asked to come there at this hour. We obviously did not understand each other so he asked me to come with him into the office to speak to a colleague of his who spoke English. He entered an inner office and said something to me that I did not understand and I followed him into the inner office, he then turned around and shouted at me and pushed me out.
At about 1pm I was finally ushered into the waiting room where I was, after an hour or so, given an audience with the formidable police lady and given my temporary “NIE” after six visits to the police, 12 days and US$ 5,000 for air tickets, food and hotel room. This inept and humiliating process has postponed indefinitely me buying any property in Spain."

Thomas Ekvall


thecatalanway said...

anyone living here....tenerife...catalunya....spain...can totally understand this post! Would be funny if it wasn't so infuriating.

Brett said...

Yes, infuriating. I published this guy's story because I was appalled of course, but not shocked because these kinds of stories are (sadly) not unique, though this is surely an extreme case. I am genuinely sorry he had to go through all that and partly embarrased that our adopted home can be so backward in this way. I have had some similar, though mercifully shorter, dramas myself, living here for 7 years now. I'm sure you do to!

Angela said...


Brett said...

Thanks for the comment, Angela. It is painful and I get the sense that the pain is a long way from over. As a house owner here myself, I sometimes wonder how we did it!(And for that matter how we are still paying the mortgage every month...)