British would-be homebuyers in Spain are set to face disruption and delays of up to a year on property deals because of a Franco-era security law that due to Brexit they are no longer exempt from.
A real estate association from Alicante has written to the UK ambassador in Spain asking for the British government to persuade the government in Madrid to change the 1975 law, under which non-EU homebuyers in areas deemed important to national security must be vetted by the Defence Ministry.
Jesualdo Ros, secretary general of the Provia real estate promoters association, estimates that in the Vega Baja area of Alicante alone the rule will affect 800 British families on an annual basis, given the amount of business in previous years seen in property hotspots such as Orihuela on the Costa Blanca.
Mr Ros says the process of receiving the security pass takes around six months, but fears that this could double due to a huge increase in applications.
Until Brexit came into force this month, the Vega Baja area typically saw around 100 purchases from non-EU buyers a year, mostly involving Russians.
“Six months is already a long time to keep the seller waiting, and no bank will maintain its credit conditions for that time. If this period gets longer, things will get worse,” Mr Ros told The Telegraph.
He said representatives of Spain’s real estate sector had been suggesting either scrapping or speeding up the vetting process since 2012.
“Not only is it a massive source of frustration for the seller and buyer, but it also affects the image of Spain as a receptor country for foreign residents.”
Areas near army and naval bases, such as that of Cartagena, 40 miles from the Vega Baja, and border regions are listed as sensitive security zones.
Among the areas most affected are coastal areas near Gibraltar in Cádiz province as well as parts of Alicante and Murcia, all popular destinations for British tourists and residents.
Among the documents required to pass the vetting process is a copy of the would-be purchaser’s criminal record in their home country with an official translation.
The British Embassy in Spain confirmed that the rules had changed for British buyers in restricted military areas.
“We are aware of this issue and have sought further guidance from the Spanish authorities on this matter. We will update our public guidance (Living in Spain Guide on gov.uk) as necessary in due course,” it said in a statement.
The law was passed in 1975 when Spain was still ruled by General Franco, and was expanded by a 1978 decree shortly before Spain passed its democratic Constitution.
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.