In Spain there are three million urban estates and 39 million rustic ones.pifate / Getty Images / iStockphoto
Crossing the limits or the boundaries of the neighbor’s farm, even by a few centimeters, is so common in the towns as its consequences are little known when this conflict is transferred to the urban environment. The casuistry is enormous: from a municipal boundary to two neighbors litigating by half a meter of hedge, by the space occupied by a terrace or, even, by a dividing wall displaced on the unbuilt lot of the adjoining one.
In Spain there are three million urban farms compared to 39 million rustic plots, according to the Spanish Association of Expert Geometrists (Aegex). This makes the country a fertile ground for litigating landlords. Not surprisingly, every year up to 3,000 legal proceedings related to the boundaries of parcels are opened, which generate significant economic imbalances for the Administration and individuals: in total, expenses that reach 200 million euros, calculates Aegex.
On the same plot, up to five very different realities can be found: “There is the cartography provided by the Cadastre, which generally refers to who is using the land and charges for it, and from which the surface derives; then, the Property Registry, where there are some boundaries described in a literary way and an area that on many occasions does not coincide with that of the cadastral cartography; on the other hand, there is urban planning, which has other cartographies, and, finally, we have the physical reality (fences), which may not coincide with any of the other delimitations ”, explains Natalia Garrido, spokesperson for the Platform for People Affected by Conflicts of Lindes (PACLindes).
The solution, Garrido asserts, is to create a unique legal cartography that unequivocally reflects the real estate limits. One of the strangest cases that the PACLindes spokesperson has found involves buyers from the United Kingdom. “It was a plot in Alginet (Valencia) that had a limit in the Cadastre, a different one in the urban planning that appeared in the City Council and both were very different from what was marked on the ground. Furthermore, the area registered in the Property Registry did not coincide with that which emerged from any of the previous limits ”. Finally, it was not possible to resolve this gibberish and the buyers, “who were not astonished, decided not to buy due to the legal uncertainty it caused them.”
Miguel Soriano has also suffered the dance of data from some inherited urban lands in Valencia. “At the time of distributing the inheritance, we realized that the surface was different in the Cadastre, in the Property Registry and in the deed. We decided, then, to contract an exact topographic survey and sign it for the interested parties ”, he says. This process, however, took almost two years to resolve and resulted in expenses of more than 2,000 euros.
Although the reform of the Mortgage Law and Cadastre of 2015 tried to solve this problem, addressing the inclusion of a graphic description of the properties, cadastral mapping has been prioritized over a mandatory demarcation process, as proposed by Aegex.
In Spain, unlike other neighboring countries, it is not mandatory to mark the limits of a property or to document them technically. The division of a land and its limits is materialized with an agreement between the parties. “However, this means that any dispute related to this lack of definition will be resolved, almost inevitably, in a litigious way in a court, assuming a consumption of public resources, both human, economic and material, which could be avoided with a mandatory and responsible demarcation in the different real estate operations ”, defends the president of Aegex, Rubén Martínez.
This association proposes to grease the real estate traffic with an improvement in the system, that is, that the basis of coordination is a demarcation with all the guarantees and, exceptionally, the cadastral cartography, provided that this is verified and validated.
He also bets on the figure of the expert geometer, as exists in France and Germany. It is a professional halfway between a technician and a notary, capable of executing the demarcation with the maximum guarantees, being responsible for the legal, technical and administrative effects that could derive from the delimitation. “In Spain, the legislation designates this competent technical professional, but leaves his competences empty, without imposing a university degree or minimal knowledge for his exercise,” says Natalia Garrido.
To solve this, there are studies, such as the master’s degree in Legal Geometries, taught by the Polytechnic University of Valencia, which tries to put order in the delimitation of farm boundaries and plots.
For Aegex, the Administration is the first noncompliant of the regulation. Law 33/2003 regulates the obligation to register the assets of public administrations, establishing a period of five years from the entry into force of the rule. Expired in 2008, more than a decade ago, “there are few local administrations, responsible for large amounts of heritage land, that have fulfilled their duty, mainly because there is no consequence of non-compliance.” But it can have consequences. In 2018, the Ministry of Defense announced the public auction of two parcels of its ownership in the urban area of A Coruña, with an average price of 3,400 euros per square meter. “Technically these farms were well delimited by a metal closure, but the noise is such that, even today, and consulted the cadastral references, the geometry has nothing to do with what was theoretically auctioned, since it does not coincide either in surface or in location ”, describes Martínez.
One of the plots is currently part of A Coruña’s Metrosidero avenue, a public space. “Perhaps whoever has acquired the properties is exploiting them, but the fees and taxes associated with that cadastral reference are being settled by the City Council,” he concludes.