Caveat Emptor is the legal term for “Buyer Beware” which many of us would have heard before and especially applies in Spain when buying a car as the new owner may inherit any debts or sanctions when he acquires the vehicle. This has been previously covered, but a couple of instances this week again reminded me of the pitfalls of selling a vehicle in Spain, so Caveat Ventitor
A good friend of mine was offered a car at a good price which was bought and sold no problem as everything was completed correctly. This left him with his old banger which he was anxious to get rid of. In common with many sellers he stuck “Se Vende” notices on the windows and pretty soon had some interest. The car was sold to a Bulgarian gentleman who was keen to get his hands on the wheel, but had to wait a short while whilst the necessary papers were completed; my friend was not daft enough to sell a car and allow the buyer to deal with the paperwork as this is where so many problems can arise
The seller felt some sympathy with the guy who seemed short of money and said that he would leave his insurance in place for a day or so whilst the buyer sorted his out. The insurance company was advised, who said that the policy could not be transferred and needed to be cancelled straightaway. They were also given a copy of the Justificante Profesional, a legal document showing that a vehicle is being transferred. Low and behold, a few days later the insurers called my friend to advise that the car had been involved in an accident in Barcelona; this was odd as the car was in Alicante and anyway the insurers were reminded that it was no longer his car; they checked their records and agreed so told him not to worry about it
By pure coincidence, I was driving through Rojales when I saw the aforementioned old banger so called my friend to let him know. “Any sign of damage? “He asked. “No more than before” I responded. Another call was made to the insurers, just to make them aware that the details in the claim may not be totally accurate
A couple of days later, a previous customer called. His father had died and he had sold his dad’s car in response to an advert of the type that essentially says “We buy your old heap irrespective of condition and nationality”. Anxious to be rid of the car and with many other things on his mind, the car was handed over and cash received. Of course the dealer said that he would take care of the paperwork, so the customer forgot all about it and continued to deal with tidying up his late father’s affairs. He was reminded of the car when he received the road tax bill. He called up the dealer who still advertises in the press who said that he would sort the paperwork. After no action and several calls later, the dealer just slammed the phone down.
I imagine that the majority of people who are in the business of buying and selling old cars are perfectly legitimate and honourable and like many of us just trying to make a living in this tough financial climate, unfortunately this particular dealer isn’t one of them
So what now? Well the seller will have the last word. He has declared that the vehicle is “Baja Temporal” which means that it cannot be driven and will remain like this until the registered keeper (the seller) advises the authorities to the contrary. Also this means that as and when the car is seen by the police, it will be impounded and the driver arrested for driving a car that should not be on the road and is clearly not his. The dealer by this time may not be the driver as he may have passed it onto some unsuspecting citizen looking for a cheap car who was told that the paperwork would be taken care of. Oh, the seller has the dealer’s name and address also, so there will no doubt be a reaction from the “denuncia” that was made to the Guardia Civil
Several times I have been asked to re-register cars or transfer ownership of Spanish vehicles, where vehicle has changed hands several times. This is difficult to deal with, so the car may be permanently in limbo, as the authorities need to be satisfied that the person who has the car is actually entitled to it
Be careful if selling or buying
The most expensive thing that most of us will ever buy is a house. We do this through lawyers to ensure that the seller is entitled to sell and the buyer is entitled to buy. The second most expensive thing that we buy is a car, so why try and take short cuts and hope for the best? In both cases the seller may not be legally rid of the item and the buyer may not end up with legal title to it. We are more than aware of the scandalous situation regarding the selling and buying of certain houses in Spain, why expect it be any different with vehicles?
For sure you have to take the people that you are dealing with on trust, but when buying a vehicle in Spain, you should be given the original “Justificante Profesional” which shows that the car is being transferred to your name or other proof if buying from a reputable dealer. As the seller, you should retain a copy of this document, so if the new owner has an accident for example, you can show that the car is being transferred
So, Caveat Emptor AND Ventitor