We are sick of the weather in the UK! Is it because we now have more time to notice how bad it really is since we retired? Or has it really got worse than we remember it? Whatever the reason, we seem to be restricted in what we do in Summer on our narrowboat, only to find ourselves housebound in Winter due to even more foul weather. Our friends - ex work colleagues, sank part of their retirement funds into a touring caravan, where we chose our narrowboat, and they have been spending their Winters in Spain for the last 5 years.I visited them there in October 2011, while Margaret was in India with our daughter, and we visited them again this October, this time together. They enjoy a great outdoor social life in the sun, while we are at home listening to the wind and rain beating against the windows. It started me thinking 'why can't we do the same'?
Well, here are the results, with some of the links to the information I came across, while researching the possibility. My research is around our own circumstances, being retired, so called pensioners, (although I am yet not old enough to claim my pension), I am at least self sufficient. We wouldn't want to cut our links with the UK completely, just spend time in a warmer climate over Winter. As I dug deeper I found there were many pitfalls to consider, many of which were changing almost on a daily basis due to the the failing economy in Spain.
First, information for EU citizens who wish to spend time in other EU countries can be found here:
The 'Your Europe' portal gives individuals and businesses practical information on their rights and opportunities in the EU. It focuses on real-life, cross-border situations, e.g. European citizens wishing to work or study in another country in the EU, or European businesses wanting to move to or open a new branch in another country in the EU.
As an EU National, I have the right to stay in another EU country for up to 3 months with just an identity card or passport, although some countries may require me to record my presence at a police station or town hall. Simple as that.
As a 'pensioner', I can live in any EU country as I wish, providing I have comprehensive health insurance cover there, and sufficient income from any source, to allow me to live there without the need of income support. After 3 months, I may be required to register to obtain a document stating my right to stay. Again, this is done at a police station or possibly a town hall. To do this I will need a valid passport, comprehensive health insurance, and proof that I have the means to support myself financially. Contrary to what someone else has recently published, my stay is NOT limited to 6 months, nor will I be 'breaking the law' if I exceed this time.
However, I also came across this article in the Daily Mail on Wednesday 20th November. This is the link to their financial advice website, where a question was posed relating to an amendment of an existing law. This amendment was passed in Spain on 15th November 2012, without anyone taking much notice until the deadline for 2012 declarations was reached at 30th April 2013. As ex-pats became increasingly aware of it, it caused panic to some, who started to think of selling up there to return to the (financial) safety of the UK.
Daily Mail Money - Tony Hazell, finance correspondent.
This law relates to the taxation of worldwide assets over 50,000 Euros, including property, of any individual, (including Spanish Nationals and non EU Nationals), who is present in Spain over 183 days in any financial year. The recent anti-fraud amendment requires obligatory declaration of assets, with a large fine for non compliance, whereas in the past, to an extent, the law had been largely ignored. Anyone spending time in Spain over and above this time is now deemed to be a resident, and thus subject to this tax. Again, information on this subject has recently been published stating that you can only have residential status if you own a property. Now not strictly true, as above. The journalist concerned passed the inquiry to be answered by a taxation specialist working for Deloitte Spain, who made a very general answer, correctly stating that individuals should always seek their own independent financial advice relating to their own circumstances. Of course there are ways to minimize your exposure to this tax, for example by reorganizing bank accounts to under 50,000 Euros, but property remains an issue. There is also a taxation agreement between the UK and Spain which should mean that people do not pay tax on the same income in both countries, but there are also inheritance implications that should be considered, especially relating to property.
Then there is the corruption issue. While we were in Spain, a local Mayor in the Vera district had just been jailed along with a property developer for allowing a new estate of villas to be built against central planning regulations. Purchasers received all the correct paperwork after conveyancing, to subsequently move in to their beautiful new property, only to discover later, after Central Government intervention, that their villas were unlawful, and had to be demolished. They lost everything, and jail for the offenders was not much in consolation for their loss. This sort of thing has been well publicised throughout Spain in recent years.
For us, all this means that we have abandoned our plans to own property in Spain, or even spend over 6 months there in a motorhome or caravan, as our friends do. What we have decided is that we will rent an apartment for a month next year as tourists. We have chosen one from this website, at a very reasonable £200 per week all in, bedding, towels, electricity and heating/cooling included. Even an English cleaning lady, (at extra cost).
There are however problems brewing on the property rental front as well. The Spanish authorities have just agreed to bow to the local tourism industry, (read hotels), and clamp down on private individuals wanting to rent out their property as holiday lets. See: Article from the Daily Telegraph.
Find further good information about living in Spain here: https://www.gov.uk/living-in-spain
To me, all these are symptoms of a failing economy that is in deep trouble. Lets hope we don't have to witness anything like the events we saw in Cyprus earlier in the year. Add to this the possibility that the UK might sever links to EU membership in the future, and who knows what will happen then. A complete minefield.