There may be many new and strange things to learn when you first move abroad but perhaps the most underestimated of those are the Laws of the country you will now call home. Before you even move you will be subjected to foreign laws. The moving process takes time, sometimes years to thoroughly search for your ideal property and tie up loose ends in your home country. The property buying process may be vastly different from that of your home country, what are the procedures you need to undertake before you can buy a house abroad. Do you need to get a tax code? How can you transfer funds in order to buy the property? How are you represented throughout the legal process as you buy? All these questions need to be asked at the beginning.
It is always worth seeking legal support as you embark on your new life. The support you receive from a Lawyer could be money well spent. How many of us have heard of the dream home turning into a nightmare or the builder running off with the money because no formal written contract was made? Why do we seemingly do things abroad we wouldn’t dream of doing at home? Perhaps it’s the dream life that sends us into a daze or the sunshine, sea and sangria which bolster our confidence and make us feel as if nothing could be wrong with the world.
The place you will call home from now on may be familiar with expats, they may see you as tourists or they may regard you with suspicion. The point is, until you learn a little of the language and the customs of their culture, you are going to be an outsider. As you settle into your life and find the local friendly bar, your regular quiet restaurant and pace of life, you may start to think of a few home improvements. Whilst this maybe perfectly legal in your country of origin, you need to ensure that you are not living in a protected area, what are the building regulations and what if any features of your property must you preserve? If you employ builders, what legal responsibilities do you have? Are you responsible for their insurance, making sure they get paid, what legal record will you make of the money you are spending?
Legal support in the form of architects, surveyors and an accountant could definitely help here. They will all be experts in their own field and could support your building processes. In established expat communities it is quite common to find existing companies who will take on all these responsibilities; provide plans, planning permission and builders all rolled into one. Don’t feel railroaded into using the company lawyer, seek your own independent legal advice if you are in any doubt.
After a little time in your beautiful, renovated property, you may decide to fully embrace your adopted land and become an official resident. The process will depend on your country of birth. EU citizens moving to EU countries tend to have an easier time becoming a resident for example. What documents will you need and are you going to need them translated? Where do you need to go to start the process, the town hall, police or legal office? It’s also worth asking how long the process will take.
You may begin to feel the benefits of being a resident in your new country. Such bonuses may include lower taxes, lower domestic bills, fewer bank charges. Perhaps you are now able to buy a car and pay local prices or even search for work on a permanent basis. It is also worth remembering that you will probably have the equivalent of a housing tax in your new country but also ensure you pay other bills such as rubbish bills, maintenance bills if you live in an apartment. How about your car? It’s important to be legally covered because of random police checks and in case of accidents you would be liable if you weren’t insured.
Finally worth noting are the inheritance laws in your country, it is likely that as an expat under foreign law your property would be subject to the law of that country. You should think about how to safeguard your property for the future, ensuring it gets passed onto those you love and draft a Legal Will to express your wishes.
Being an expat means embracing a new culture whilst holding on to who you are. Accepting and obeying the law in your chosen country and if you find yourself in a difficult situation, taking legal advice and support to ensure you rights are respected.