How to formally end long-term lease agreements in Spain (Part II) - Keys handover

Raymundo LarraĆ­n Nesbitt, June, 21. 2020

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Introduction

Today’s blog post is the second part on how to formally end-long-term lease agreements in Spain.

In the first part, we dealt with serving your landlord legal notice of contractual termination.

In this second part, we’ll deal with the formal procedure to hand back the keys.

While most people may think this is rather straightforward, the fact is that if you do it wrong, your landlord will pocket your security deposit; or even worse, you may trigger an unwanted extension to your lease agreement (more money owed)! Handing back the keys is likely the most aggravating time you will endure throughout a tenancy, as both sides stand much to lose much if done incorrectly.

The reason on why so many tenants in Spain complain they don’t recover their rental deposit is because they fail to hand over the keys properly. Below we explain step-by-step the procedure to do it right.

We had already covered in-depth how to formally terminate a lease agreement in Spain. Again, we stress that phone calls, e-mails, text messages, WhatsApp, social media messages, conversations, etc are not valid ways in law to terminate a lease agreement. It must be done formally following a set legal procedure. If you do this wrong, it will have adverse legal and financial consequences for the tenant.

Terminating a rental contract properly is key to obtain a refund on your security deposit and also to avoid triggering automatic or silent renewals which add a further 3 years to your lease agreement if you are not mindful.

When you serve notice of termination to your landlord by recorded delivery, there will be a set day and time to hand back the keys. This is normally the last day mentioned in your rental contract.

II. Keys handover procedure

 

Your landlord, or his representative (normally an estate agent), will be there to receive the house keys from you. You must ensure all the following bullet points are carried out correctly:

  • The inventory. If the property was rented with furniture.
  • The invoices. As a tenant, you are normally expected to pay for water, electricity, wifi (internet), gas etc. You must ensure all these invoices have been paid and are up to date making sure they are paid.
  • The keys. The keys, and all its copies, must be handed back to the landlord or his representative that day. You cannot withhold them.

 

Ideally, we strongly advise a legal document is drafted with several clauses covering all the above-listed points which must be dated and signed on every page by both parties in acknowledgement. This agreement works in practice like a contract. From a legal point of view, on signing it, you are returning possession of the property over to your landlord. This is what we understand in legal terms by ‘vacant possession’.

I tell you by experience, that I’ve personally done the above several times when I rented out (when I was still young!) in both Spain and in the United Kingdom and as a result have avoided a host of problems with my landlords. And of course, always got my deposit back!

If everything is returned in good working order and the landlord, or his representative, did not raise any objections (i.e. damages to the property) and sign it, there will be no excuse to return your one or two-month deposit in full (depending on the type of contract signed), as soon as possible. Should they still refuse, the matter becomes a criminal offence which, as you can imagine, has serious consequences for a Spanish landlord.

By law, landlords only have 30 days to return a tenant’s deposit after handing back the keys. If a landlord takes any longer, he is likely stalling trying to pocket your deposit and you will be forced to contact a law firm, such as us, to sue them. You will need to give the law firm a copy of the signed documents and inventory list I mention above.

Some landlords are renowned for pocketing tenant’s deposits and will only tell a tenant they refuse to refund them after they have left the country i.e. typically the case of foreign students. You should trawl in social media the comments left by previous tenants and be on the look out to avoid such abusive landlords that make a (tidy) living out of pocketing tenant’s deposits for no good reason.

What happens if a landlord refuses to accept being handed back the keys or makes up excuses fobbing his tenant off?

This, oddly enough, happens frequently. The reason on why a landlord would do this is because they want to trigger an automatic contractual extension so you owe them more money or because they are simply in disagreement with you pulling out of the contract ahead of time.

In such cases, if you are certain you are within your legal rights to terminate a lease agreement, you can deposit the keys at a notary public. This is known as consignacion, in Spanish. On doing this, it creates a legal evidence that you did in fact comply and abide with your end of the contract handing back the keys on time. The Notary will then be compelled to hand back the keys to the landlord. It will become apparent the landlord is in breach of contract which will be taken on board by the judge ruling the matter if a legal procedure is instigated to terminate the contract and recover your deposit. Basically, what you are doing is pre-constituting legal evidence that will be used against your landlord at a later date showing they acted in bad faith (needless to say, it can also be used as leverage to negotiate a more favourable outcome avoiding a court case altogether!).

As a recap

To formally terminate long-term lease agreements in Spain, you need to meet two requirements:

How can LNA assist you?

 

At LNA, we can assist you with the two points above:

  • Serving legal notice

For a flat fee, we draft and serve your landlord (or tenant) legal notice by recorded delivery in our headed paper anywhere in Spain. This formal communication can then be used as irrefutable proof (in any ensuing court proceeding) that you correctly terminated the lease agreement, giving your landlord (or tenant) due notice as the law demands. This is a necessary step to recover your security deposit (fianza legal, in Spanish). We can offer you this service: Recorded delivery service.

  • Keys handover contract

We can also draft a keys hand over contract ensuring your rights are fully protected. This will guarantee you recover in full your tenant deposit. We can offer you this service: Rentals (contract drafting).

  • Legal action

If your landlord still refuses flat out to refund your deposit, we can act on your behalf through the law courts. We can offer you this service: Litigation

 

We will be very pleased to discuss your matter with you. You can contact us by e-mail at info@larrainnesbitt.com, by telephone on (+34) 952 19 22 88 or by completing our contact form to book an appointment.

Legal services Larraín Nesbitt Abogados (LNA) offer you:

 

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