COVID-19 and the impact on the Spanish legal system

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The spread of COVID-19 has hit Spain extremely hard. By 30 March, more than 85,000 cases are reported, and in the region of 7,500 deaths have been related to coronavirus.

The Spanish government has tightened its national lockdown, ordering all non-essential workers to stay at home for the next two weeks in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus and relieve pressure on overstretched hospitals.

In response the royal decree declaring the state of emergency, the Standing Committee of the General Council of Notaries published Circular 2/2020 of 18 March 2020.

In terms of completion of property purchases and sales and the administration of estates in Spain, under Royal Decree 463/2020, notarial intervention should be reduced to urgent actions. The assessment of urgency must be carried out restrictively.

General rules

  • Notary intervention is currently exceptional and urgency must be interpreted restrictively.
  • The notary shall assess the concurrent circumstances in order to form his judgment, weighing the nature of the transaction, time limits and other extremes such as the existence of serious damage arising from the refusal.

Special rules

  • Rogation: the interested party must contact the notary by phone or email (the latter being the preferred means), leaving record of the cause of urgency by which he requests the notarial intervention.
  • Summons: if the urgency is justified, the notary shall summon the person concerned by non-face-to-face means and the latter must go to the notary with those means of self-protection which guarantee health security. The cause of urgency must be in writing and will be taken to a separate file out of the number of protocols and to justify compliance with the measures imposed by the Government.
  • Cases exempt from justification of urgency: those operations determined by the Government and involve notarised intervention (i.e. the own financing activity of financial institutions and their ancillary guarantees, and the activity of insurance entities). The request and appointment will also be mandatory.
  • Criteria for assessing urgency:
    • Next expiration of conventional deadlines.
    • Need to avoid serious and irreparable property damage.
  • Acts of a personal nature: the notary shall assess the urgency according to the circumstances.
  • Actions outside the notary office: the notary may not serve outside the notary office, except for strict cause of force majeure, in which case he shall notify his Board of Directors.
  • Suspension of procedural deadlines: must be considered to apply to files of voluntary jurisdiction.
  • Suspension of administrative deadlines: the ordinary deadlines for issuing copies, except for those of an urgent nature and those to be referred to the competent tax authority, remain on hold.
  • Grant: it is recommended that the draft document be sent electronically so that the notary has the documentation prepared in advance, and the notary must take appropriate sanitary measures in respect of those grants that may cause excessive concentration of persons.

Flexibilisation measures

Notaries may be required to attend and record the sessions of the governing bodies of the companies by video conference.