Land Expropriations Will Be Cheaper After Latest Law Reform

3 February 2016 – Cinco Días

After everything that has happened in the real estate sector since property prices and the production of housing came crashing down, perhaps few will remember the major impact that resulted from the approval of the Land Law (8/2007 and RDL 2/2008). The new legislation was created with the aim of stopping judges from using their discretion in administrative litigation cases, so as to prevent them, in certain cases, from assigning fair values to plots of land subject to expropriation, on the basis that, spurred on by strong demand during the boom times, the values being assigned were leading to a speculative phenomenon that was having serious repercussions on the accounts and financial viability of numerous companies.

In this way, the legislator reduced the categories into which land had been divided historically and established the existence of just two classes: urban (plots) and rural (all others). As such, if land that had been used for agricultural production until that time, was going to be expropriated for the construction of a highway, then it would be valued as rural land (…) and not on the basis of the value of the asset to be constructed on it. (…).

In October last year, the new revised draft of the Land Law was approved, which is going to have an even greater influence of the original objective (to lower the cost of expropriations) and which is going to govern the conditions surrounding urban land in a more specific way. In terms of the valuation framework, it is based on a ruling issued by the Constitutional Court in 2014, which declared that setting the location coefficient (correction factor) at a maximum of two was null and unconstitutional.

In other words, the original law established that rural plots could be assigned a location coefficient to correct the value obtained by capitalising the income from the land. In these cases a correction coefficient (up to a maximum of two) could be applied, if the plots were located near to an urban centre or a centre of production or had certain environmental characteristics…. This represented a relief, in the event of an expropriation valuation, for those plots of land that many developers had stockpiled in outlying metropolitan areas of large cities in the hope of obtaining huge profits and which saw their value fall sharply as a result of the new legislation in 2008.

Nevertheless, the high court declared that the coefficient limit of two was unconstitutional and argued…that “it was not justified by the Law or by the preamble and could end up being whimsical, and prevent the real value of the land from being obtained. The court considers that…this limit is contrary to article 33.3 of the Constitution”. That article refers to the fact that “nobody can be deprived of their assets or rights, except on justified grounds for the public good or in social interest, provided proper compensation is paid and in accordance with the provisions of the law”. (…) .

According to Andrés Lorente, Director of Land at Tinsa, the method for valuing rural land involves dividing the land yield (calculated by capitalising the income from the land) by a capitalisation rate and applying that correction factor based on location to the result, where appropriate, where the correction factor may not exceed two.

“The provisions established in the new revised draft reflect higher rates, which means that the resulting land valuations could be significantly lower than those calculated under the previous legislation. Whereas before, the internal yield of the secondary market for public debt with a term of between two and six years was taken as the reference rate, now the average interest rate over the last three years on the State’s debt over 30 years is taken (3.663%)”, say sources at Tinsa.

As such, since the applicable rates have risen significantly, so the resulting land valuations are significantly lower. There are even cases in which expropriations now, under these new rules, result in a cost for the Administrations that is between five and six times lower than it would have been under the legal framework in force in 2008, says Lorente.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Raquel Díaz Guijarro)

Translation: Carmel Drake