New European Setback For Spanish Mortgage Law

14 May 2015 – Cinco Días

The European court considers that the legal period granted to challenge evictions (under Spanish legislation) was illegal.

The ruling is just one of half a dozen negative sentences from the EU regarding mortgages.

The European Justice system has again called into question Spain’s legislation regarding mortgages. A ruling published yesterday by Maciej Spunzar, the attorney general of the European Union’s Court of Justice, considers that (the legislation) “is not reasonable” and that the period and way in which the mortgage reform permitted those affected by evictions to oppose foreclosure on the basis of the application of abusive clauses, contravenes EU regulations.

That possibility, to paralyse eviction proceedings arguing that they are based on an illegal clause, did not exist in Spain and was one of the pillars of the mortgage reform that the Government supported in 2013 when adapting Spanish legislation to EU law.

That is what the European Court demanded in a key ruling, which preceded another preliminary sentence similar to the one published yesterday. These are the basis of the final judgements that, in 80% of cases, the institution issues with the same findings a few months later.

That mortgage reform, which came into effect on 15 May 2013, established that any new people affected by an eviction would have a period of 10 days to oppose it from the date of notification.

However, for mortgage foreclosure processes already underway, the regulation established a transitory provision, which obliged all interested parties to oppose the measure within a period of one month following the publication of the law in the Official State Gazette (BOE), i.e. no later than 15 June 2013.

According to the letter issued by the Court of Justice yesterday, the problem is that the EU directive on abusive clauses “precludes any national provision, like this one in Spain”.

Although it considers the period of one month to be sufficient, “what causes problems is precisely the fact that the period started from the day after the publication of Law 1/2013 in the BOE, when the parties involved in the foreclosure processes had not been notified”, detailed the document.

The European ruling responds to a question raised by the Judge of First Instance nº4 in Martorell, involving two people subject to a mortgage foreclosure by BBVA, who logged their opposition to the eviction on 17 June 2013, i.e. two days after the period expired. The affected parties complain that the aforementioned limit violated their EU rights.

The fact that they were given one month without being notified directly “made it impossible or too difficult to exercise the rights granted to consumers” and generated “a high degree of legal uncertainty, unadmissible in the field of consumer protection”, argued the attorney general of the European Court.

“The period was not sufficient to (allow affected parties to) prepare and lodge an effective appeal”, insists the general attorney, underlining the importance of procedures in which consumers risk losing their properties in an irreversible way.

A definitive decision in this sense would have consequences for the “hundreds of thousands (of people)” affected by the foreclosure procedures resulting from the approval of the mortgage reform. The Court considers that they should have been notified about the period, as well as about the options that they had to oppose (the decision).

Original story: Cinco Días (by J.P.C.)

Translation: Carmel Drake