Britain left the EU on January 31 last year and the Brexit transition period lasted until December 31. The UK’s departure from the EU meant some major changes for Britons visiting the 27-member bloc. After Brexit, British nationals are only permitted to spend a maximum of 90 days in Spain per 180-day period – a maximum of six months a year. That is because Britons are now subject to the same rules on visa-free visits as other non-EU citizens.
The EU rules do not apply to the more than 360,000 British expats registered as living in Spain.
However, the restrictions do cover the thousands of unregistered Britons who are also thought to reside in the country.
Many Brits who are not Spanish residents still own property in Spain and before Brexit would visit the country for more than three months at a time, often during the winter months.
Some of the people in this group – who are known as ‘swallows’ – are now reported to be “selling up” because they don’t want their access to their second homes restricted by EU rules.
British councillor Bill Anderson, who moved to Spain nearly 20 years ago, told Express.co.uk that many Britons now find themselves in this position.
Hailing from Edinburgh, Bill is a councillor for Spain’s PP party in the Costa del Sol town of Mijas.
He said: “There’s a lot of people who are very unhappy about the 90 days and 180 rules.
“These are people that were generally not resident here but spent a large part of the year here.
“And I think that some Brits have been selling up being, you know, ‘I don’t want this kind of restriction.
“‘I normally spend November to March in Spain to get away from the British winter’ and we’re not allowed to do that anymore.
“I think that some Brits have just decided to sell up and if they want to come here for 90 days, they’ll just rent for 90 days.”
An estimated 800,000 to one million Britons own property in Spain, especially in coastal areas, including the Costa del Sol.
Amid the impacts of Brexit and COVID-19, the number of Britons purchasing property in Spain has decreased.
However, Britons still account for 9.5 percent of all property purchases, making them the largest group of foreign buyers, according to data for the second quarter of 2021 published by the Spanish association of registrars.
After Brexit, British property owners in the EU were also hit with a higher tax rate of 24 percent on rental incomes, compared to 19 percent previously.
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As non-EU citizens, Britons are also now unable to continue claiming expenses against their homes in Spain such as for maintenance work.
Bill said the higher costs had also influenced the decisions of Britons who own property in Spain but don’t have settled status in the country.
He added: “People who maybe let out their apartments when they weren’t here, they’ve lost a lot of rights in terms of tax breaks for that.
“Previously, as EU members, when they did their tax returns, they could deduct all of the costs against the property against any income.
“That’s been lost to them. So, they’ve got an apartment, it’s empty for six months, they can’t use it the way they want to, and they’re getting taxed at a higher rate with no deductions.
“So, I think a lot of Brits have decided just to sell up, and forget Spain in that sense, but maybe just rent if they want to come out here for the 90 days.”