In the third post in our mini-series looking at what changes Brexit will bring, we consider the idea of owning property and living overseas and how that may be impacted post Brexit.
There has been much discussion about the significant number of UK nationals that own property in the EU and what will happen to this and future property purchases, post Brexit. Well, the answer is relatively simple, as long as you don’t confuse residency with property ownership.
The simple answer with regards property ownership is this will not change after Brexit in any EU country, as long as you intend to spend 90 days or less in that particular country. That is because property ownership rules remain a national matter and in the same way as you can own property in countries outside of the EU, you will be able to own property in the EU whether the UK is a member state or not.
So, if you already own a property abroad or you are thinking of purchasing one after the transition period, other than a little more paperwork and some additional checks in some countries, there will be no immediate change.
The issue with property ownership only arises if you are seeking to spend more than 90 days a year in the property or make it your main residence and move to that country full time. This is different from ownership and is referred to as residency.
Under residency rules, as an EU member state it was easier to emigrate to another EU country and live there full time. This was governed by the freedom of movement rule which forms a key part of EU membership. However, these freedom of movement rules will officially end on 31st December 2020. If you are already in the country of your choice and have confirmed residency by 31st December 2020 nothing will change, as part of the divorce agreement with the EU enshrined the rights for EU nationals to stay in their country of residency.
Post Brexit, residency rules will change but that is not to say that it will become impossible to move to an EU country, in the same way as you can apply to settle in any country of the world. It will simply not be as easy and it will no longer be accepted as default.
The exact terms of residency will vary by country but typically it begins to apply after 3 months or 90 days. If you intend to spend more than this in the particular country, you are no longer treated as a tourist and may need to apply for a visa. You may have to consider applying for residency if you intend to regularly spend more than 90 days in the destination country or you are looking to spend more time there each year, than in the UK. There is also the matter of your tax residency which is dictated by HMRC as your home nation’s tax authority, rather than the local tax system.
Owning a property in another country does not automatically qualify you for free healthcare in that country. If you are a holiday home owner in an EU country, you are currently covered by the EHIC card which is the cover provided tourists and travellers from EU states. It is expected that this will not continue after the transition period and so you should secure suitable travel insurance for your trip, acknowledging the fact you may be doing DIY on your property. If you do not have suitable travel insurance and need to call on the healthcare system in an EU country, you can receive emergency medical care but you will be required to pay for treatment – which can run into many tens of thousands of pounds.
If you are resident by 31 December, you will have ‘life-long healthcare rights’, as long as you remain resident.