something from the Catastro, or Land Registry, saying that we needed to stump up 60€ to have our entry in the land registry updated. I did a fair bit of research at the time to find out what was happening and why. I came to the conclusion that the Catastro was doing two things at once - updating the rateable value of houses and checking that their details for each house were correct. If there was any discrepancy between their records and the actual state of the property they were systematically fining people a standard 60€ for regularising their records throughout Spain. I read somewhere that, in Pinoso, about 1,000 households had been charged the 60€. Considering that there are fewer than 8,000 people in Pinoso and presuming that more than one person lives in most houses it sounded as though a good percentage of the records were skew whiff in some way.
The system here is a lot like the old British Rates system. Each property has an assigned value calculated on the sort of land it occupies, what use the buildings or land are put to and the area it occupies. Basically then the Catastro says your property has such and such a value - a value that bears no relation whatsoever to the market value. Each local authority then sets a local multiplier. To give a completely fictitious example a 100 square metre house might have a notional value with the Land registry of 50,000€. The local council then sets its charge at, for instance, 0.5% of the value. In this case the rates would be 250€ per year. The last time our rateable value was updated was, I think, in 1987 so I expected a bill, a settling up.
Maggie picked up the new valuation and the updated bill from the Post Office the other day. It wasn't for a few euros extra it was for 1600 of the little blighters. It would take me about nine weeks work to earn that amount. By the time I got home Maggie had been investigating. She had been pretty sleuthlike and she'd discovered that, when they had updated our details, the Catastro had added in most of next door. So although it was bad we did, at least, have an obvious error. Well it's obvious to us and we just have to hope it's as obvious to the people at the Catastro.
Local taxes are collected, in most of Alicante, by an agency called SUMA on behalf of the local authorities. I went to the SUMA offices in Elda, about 25km from home, to see what I could do. The woman who dealt with me was pleasant, efficient and helpful. She told me that the bill had to be paid otherwise we'd find the bailiffs on our doormat or that our bank accounts had been embargoed. I asked if I could break the payment down into instalments and the answer was yes. She quickly sorted out the details. The good news is that, provided the Land Registry agrees that we are paying more than we should, they will pay us back. I asked the SUMA woman how long Catastro normally take to respond - well months, usually, she said, sometimes years - they're not quick.
And the process? Well, basically I needed to collect together a bunch of documents and write an explanatory begging letter. Literally. I used a verb at the end of the letter which is rogar a verb which translates as to beg or to plead. I used it because it's the sort of verb that I've seen in this sort of letter. Spanish letters from local and national government tend to an over complex and archaic language. I asked my friend Carlos, the author, to check the letter I had written and he didn't comment on the verb. I asked a work colleague to check the letter, she didn't comment on the verb. To beg, to plead is obviously an adequate verb when talking to the Catastro.
Today I handed in all the paperwork. The man I dealt with was a bit negative when I started, maybe he wasn't keen on dealing with another tongue tied Brit, but by the time I was getting ready to go he seemed to think it was a pretty simple and fixable error. Let's hope he's right and that it doesn't take months and months to get a reply.