RDO has furnished us with a Report dated 9 February 2016 which was issued by the General Directorate of Public Registries and Notaries at the request of the Ombudsman of the Canary Islands.
We believe that the interpretation reflected in this report is more in line with the spirit, the rationale and the mandatory provisions of the Rotational Enjoyment of Real Property for Tourism Purposes Act 42/1998 (LAT 42/1998).
It is important to stress that this Act was in fact developed within the General Directorate of Public Registries and Notaries. This Act incorporated the prescriptions of the 1994 Timeshare Directive, but it was also intended to respect the rights in existence before its enactment, albeit demanding the owners and/or promoters of this kind of touristic operation to have the pre-existing system registered, whether transformed into a system of in-rem or leasehold rights of rotational enjoyment or preserving its own pre-existing legal nature, whether subject to Spanish or to non-Spanish law, and whether its maximum duration was 50 years or more, or even indefinite if this was expressly declared in the Deed.
REPORT ON CURRENT SITUATION OF RIGHTS OF ROTATIONAL ENJOYMENT OF REAL PROPERTY CREATED BEFORE THE COMING INTO FORCE OF THE ACT OF 15 DECEMBER 1998
(Click on the originals images-pages below for the Spanish version)
Following a request filed with the General Register of the Ministry of Justice on 16 December 2015, this report has been issued by this General Directorate with regard to a query made by the Canary Islands’ Ombudsman concerning the current situation of the rights of rotational enjoyment of real property created before the coming into force of the Act of 15 December 1998.
THE ASSISTANT DEPUTY DIRECTOR,
Elena Imedio Marugán
Sec. 3ª R. 1833/2015-10.4
REPORT ON CURRENT SITUATION OF RIGHTS OF ROTATIONAL ENJOYMENT OF REAL PROPERTY CREATED BEFORE THE COMING INTO FORCE OF THE ACT OF 15 DECEMBER 1998
The report requested on the instruction of the Ombudsman of the Canary Islands focuses on the current situation of those rights of rotational enjoyment of real property which were created before the coming into force of the Timeshare Act of 15 December 1998.
This request has been prompted by various Judgements of our Supreme Court (specifically the Judgements rendered on 15 January and 16 July 2015 by the Civil Chamber) which declare the nullity of certain contracts relating to rights of enjoyment –which had been created before the enactment of the aforementioned rule-, the execution date of such contracts being later than said coming into force.
Both cases involved rights relating to occupation periods which were still owned by the promoter of the scheme.
The Supreme Court, similarly in both cases, resolved the matter as follows:
“SEVENTH LEGAL GROUND
I.- Act 42/1998 of 15 December regulated the different formulas enabling the transfer of the right to use an accommodation unit during a period of time each year, which had been known as multi-ownership despite the fact that, as stated in the Rationale, they involved a temporal division of the right to use a real property.
In addition to implementing Directive 94/47/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 1994 –regarding protection to the purchasers in relation to certain aspects of contracts of acquisition of the right to use real property on a timeshare basis-, the legislator intended to provide the institution with a full set of regulations, for which purpose they considered of utmost importance to decide whether any of the formulas created by the principle of free will should be admitted or only the system regulated by Law was admissible and any other system should be therefore left out. And they chose a middle path by imposing a detailed regulation of the right in rem over somebody else’s property and admitting the seasonal leasehold variation so that, outside this alternative, the legislator considered that the transaction had been made in circumvention of law and, also, that the fraudulent legal transaction was to be rendered null and void –article 1, paragraph 7-.
Of particular importance for the regulation established in the Act was the duration of the scheme, determined by article 3, paragraph 1, as lasting three to fifty years – “[…] from the date of registration of the legal scheme or from the date of registration of the completion of works where the scheme has been created in respect of a property under construction”-.
This rule is supplemented by the second transitional provision, in which the legislator addressed the effects of the new regulation on the so-called “pre-existing schemes”, imposing the mandatory adaptation of the latter to its provisions within two years –paragraph 1 -.
Indeed, after imposing such an adaptation to the new scheme, also in relation to time – “without prejudice to that set forth in the last preceding paragraph, all pre-existing schemes…..
….will have a maximum duration of fifty years as from the coming into force of this Act […]” – , paragraph 3 of said transitional rule permitted the possibility of formulating, in the Deed of Adaptation, an “[…] express declaration of continuance for an indefinite or a specific period of time”.
This latter alternative, informed by a wish to respect the rights already acquired, was chosen by Anfi Sales, SL, insofar as it expressly declared in the Deed of Adaptation that its pre-existing scheme would continue to have an indefinite duration.
However, the appellant’s interpretation of the aforementioned paragraph 3 of the second transitional provision, on which it bases its argument, does not respect the sense which arises out of the systematic connection thereof to paragraph 2 of the transitional rule itself, whose content the former respects in any event – “without prejudice to that set forth in the last preceding paragraph […]” – and according to which every owner – also, therefore, the now appellant – who, after the Deed of Adaptation, wanted to “market the occupation periods not yet transferred as rights of rotational enjoyment”, should constitute “the scheme in respect of the periods available with the requirements established in this Act”, including the temporal requirement stablished in article 3, paragraph 1.
The Appellant, claiming the applicability of a rule which did not provide sufficient coverage, failed to do this and, therefore, by marketing the occupation periods not yet transferred when the new Act was already in force without respecting the timeframe established in the rule of said article, it breached the article, as declared by the Appeal Court by virtue of a correct interpretation of the set of regulations (Supreme Court Judgement of 15 January 2015).
Therefore, what our high court wanted to point out is that, while contracts entered into before the 1998 Act may continue to have the duration thereby agreed, including an indefinite duration (provided that this has been expressly established in the Deed of Adaptation), all contracts entered into after the coming into force of the rule must be subject to the temporal limits laid down therein (namely, a maximum duration of 50 years).
In other words, only those rights relating to occupation periods constituted in favour of third-party purchasers, not promoters of the scheme, whose contracts were entered into before the coming into force of the Act of 15 December 1998, are protected with an eventual indefinite duration.
The transitional provision applied in the aforementioned rulings is that contained in the Second Transitional Provision of Act 42/1998 of 15 December, which literally states as follows:
“Second – Pre-existing Schemes
- Pre-existing schemes relating to rights involving the use of one or more properties, constructed or under construction, during a defined or definable period of the year, the establishment of which is recorded in any form recognised by law, must be adapted to the provisions of this Act within a period of two years.
If the pre-existing scheme is registered, the Registrar may be asked to provide the non-binding report referred to in Article 355 of the Mortgage Regulations concerning the manner in which the adaptation is to be effected.
At the end of the two years, any holder of an in-rem or personal right relating to the use of one or more properties during a defined or definable period of the year may apply to the Courts for the enforcement of the adaptation described in this provision.
- For such an adaptation it will be necessary, in any event, to execute a regulatory deed fulfilling those requirements of Article 5 which are compatible with the nature of the scheme and to have it registered at the Land Registry, solely for public record purposes and fully respecting the rights acquired. Of the contracts to which the said Article refers, only those which are in existence at the time of the adaptation must be incorporated. The deed must be executed by the sole owner of the property.
If the pre-existing scheme was established in such a way that the holders of the rights are owners of undivided shares in the property which confer on them the right to enjoy a defined occupation period, the deed of adaptation must be executed by the President of the Community of Owners following a resolution passed by a simple majority of those attending the General Meeting to be called for that purpose.
In the deed of adaptation, the sole owner of the property must describe the pre-existing scheme and declare that the rights to be conveyed in the future will be of the nature derived from that scheme and identical to those already transferred. If the owner wishes to market as rotational enjoyment rights the occupation periods which have not yet been transferred, they must also establish the scheme in respect of those unallocated periods subject to the requirements of this Act, albeit the scheme will not need to be established for the whole property but only in respect of those occupation periods which have not yet been transferred. If the Owner wishes to convert the whole scheme into a scheme of rotational enjoyment rights, as regulated by the Act, they may do so in accordance with all the requirements contained herein, albeit maintaining the duration of the pre-existing scheme, even if such a duration is indefinite.
- Without prejudice to the provisions of the last preceding paragraph, all pre-existing schemes will have a maximum duration of fifty years from the coming into effect of this Act unless their duration is shorter or the deed of adaptation contains an express statement that they are to continue for an indefinite period or for a specific period of time.”
In a wider sense, the provisions on transitional regulations contained in our Civil Code (whose interpretative value may in no event be called into question) included the basic rule of non-retroactivity, along the same lines as article 2 of the same body of laws and article 9 of the Spanish Constitution, guarantor of legal certainty and non-retroactivity of penalty provisions which are not favourable to, or restrictive of, individual rights.
Our Code on transitional provisions sets forth that:
“Any variation introduced by this Code which is detrimental to rights acquired under the preceding civil legislation will not have retroactive effect.
First transitional provision
The legislation which preceded the Code shall govern those rights which, according to said preceding legislation, arise from actions performed under its regime, even if these are regulated differently or fail to be recognised by the new Code. However, where a right is declared for the first time in the Code, it will take effect immediately irrespective of whether or not the fact from which it arose was verified under the preceding legislation, provided that it is not detrimental to another acquired right of the same origin.
Second transitional provision
Acts and contracts executed under the preceding legislation which are valid according to it shall take full effect in accordance thereto, with the limitations established in these rules. (…) but the revocation or modification of such acts or of any clause contained therein may only be verified, after the coming into force of the Code, by executing a Will in accordance with it.”
The literal wording of the rules analysed clearly shows the establishment of a non-retroactivity system whereby the rights, acts and contracts created before the publication of the rule were fully protected and regulated by the preceding regulations.
In this sense, despite being reiterative, it is relevant to point out that the Second Transitional Provision of the 15 December 1998 Act states as follows:
Pre-existing schemes must be adapted, within two years, to the provisions of this Act. For such an adaptation it will be necessary, in any event, to execute a regulatory deed fulfilling those requirements of Article 5 which are compatible with the nature of the scheme and to have it registered at the Land Registry, solely for public record purposes and fully respecting the rights acquired.
In the deed of adaptation, the sole owner of the property must describe the pre-existing scheme and declare that the rights to be conveyed in the future will be of the nature derived from that scheme and identical to those already transferred.
If the owner wishes to market as rotational enjoyment rights the occupation periods which have not yet been transferred, they must also establish the scheme in respect of those unallocated periods subject to the requirements of this Act, albeit the scheme will not need to be established for the whole property but only in respect of those occupation periods which have not yet been transferred.
If the Owner wishes to convert the whole scheme into a scheme of rotational enjoyment rights, as regulated by the Act, they may do so in accordance with all the requirements contained herein, albeit maintaining the duration of the pre-existing scheme, even if such a duration is indefinite.
Without prejudice to the provisions of the last preceding paragraph, all pre-existing schemes will have a maximum duration of fifty years from the coming into effect of this Act unless their duration is shorter or the deed of adaptation contains an express statement that they are to continue for an indefinite period or for a specific period of time.”
This provision, therefore, demands that pre-existing schemes be duly adapted to the new Act (mainly in the sense of clarifying the nature of the right created), but it allows a subjection to certain conditions of the preceding scheme including, without a doubt, the possibility of indefinite duration. And such an indefinite duration can apply both to occupation periods created and transferred and to those not yet transferred.
Also, executing the deed of adaptation entails, by virtue of mandatory rule no. 3 of article 5.1 of the 1998 Act, that the deed must reflect the occupation periods which exist in relation to each unit, including both those transferred and those still in possession of the promoter of the scheme. In addition, the Second Transitional Provision of the aforementioned special Act itself allows both the possibility of configuring a right of rotational enjoyment in respect of the unsold occupation periods and the conversion of all the existing rights (sold or…..
….unsold) for a full subjection thereof to the rule, albeit allowing it to maintain the duration of the pre-existing scheme, even if indefinite. It does not seem logical to allow the promoter to configure all the occupation periods under the new scheme (not under a mere adaptation) and maintain the indefinite duration of the scheme while, at the same time, the situation of the as yet unsold periods (although already created as such occupation periods before its coming into force) may not be configured under the new Act preserving its indefinite duration.
Additionally, and included in this report for its interpretative value as aforesaid, it is worth pointing out that the rules of the Civil Code on transitional law acknowledge the validity and ulterior applicability of all rights, acts and contracts executed before its coming into force, which means that, in a case like this, where the right of the promoter of the scheme had already been created on configuring –before the 1998 Act– the units and the occupation periods or rights relating to them, the publication of the new rule should not impair or alter such legal situations already created or the effects which the latter may have.
Therefore, the conclusion to be drawn is that our high court has differentiated between occupation periods already marketed (which are allowed to maintain their indefinite nature) and those not transferred, whose indefinite duration they regard as a breach of the 50-year temporal limitation, which infraction is acknowledged as deserving to be rendered null and void under article 6 of our Civil Code. This argument, therefore, differs from the sense which, in this directorate’s view, is intended by the 15 December 1998 Act for the purposes of adaptation of pre-existing schemes to its substantive provisions.
It is not reasonable that the whole system of enjoyment should be allowed to be converted to the new Act (where marketed and unsold periods coexist) and maintain the indefinite duration of all its occupation periods while, in the event that only the periods not marketed are directly regulated by the new Act, their duration is limited to 50 years. The rotational system, in both cases, existed before the coming into force of the rule, and it involves a number of rights in favour of the promoter (all of them included and defined in the deed of adaptation imposed by the transitional rule and registered with the Land Registry) to which the rule is applied retroactively, without respecting their indefinite duration.
Transferring the occupation periods already configured to a third party may not be considered to constitute the event which allows a differentiation between indefinite and limited duration periods, as the promoter’s right has, without a doubt, come into existence, and its configuration took place before the coming into force of the Act, not to mention that some of the paragraphs of the Second Transitional Provision of the 1998 Act are thereby fully voided.
Madrid, 8th February 2016.
THE DIRECTOR GENERAL
Francisco Javier Gómez Gálligo
Marbella, 9th March 2016