On the restitution derived from the nullity of contracts with reciprocal obligations

nulidad arrendamiento financiero

What is the scope of the restitution of benefits when the nullity of a contract with reciprocal obligations is declared?

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When a contract with reciprocal benefits is declared void, the parties must return what was delivered: As established in Article 1303 C.Civil:

Declared the nullity of an obligation, the contracting parties must reciprocally return the things that would have been the subject of the contract, with its fruits, and the price with interest, except as provided in the following articles.

The problem arises when part of these benefits cannot be restored. The Civil Code makes a provision for such situations in articles 1307 and 1308:

Article 1307

Provided that the person obliged by the declaration of nullity to return the thing cannot return it because it has been lost, shall return the fruits received and the value it had when the thing was lost, with interest from the same date.

Article 1308

As long as one of the contracting parties does not make the return of what by virtue of the declaration of nullity it is obliged, The other cannot be compelled to do his part.

However, such situations frequently raise litigious situations.

In this post we briefly comment on the resolution of one of these conflicts by the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court in judgment of 11 June 2020, with No Resolution 288/2020. Dismissed the appeal filed by BBVA. It considered that the compensation established by the Provincial Court was adequate and reasonable. The tenant party had to return the property, while the lessor the financial burden, since the part of the share corresponding to the capital was equivalent to the economic value of the availability of the real estate, understanding himself compensated for it.

Fact background,,es,Juan Alberto and Paulina filed suit against FTA,,es,Asset Securitization Fund,,es,requesting the declaration of nullity for abusive of the floor and ceiling clauses contained in the novation contract of the mortgage loan of,,es,with the corresponding refund of amounts unduly collected,,es,The Securitization Fund Management Company,,es,Beech,,es,acting on behalf of FTA, he responded to said claim alleging that he lacked passive legitimacy since the entity had no legal personality and that it constituted only a private and open fund and that therefore the passive legitimization corresponded to BBVA as successor of Catalunya Banc that was the Company fund constituent,,es

Between AMG Promotional Marketing Services, S.L. (onwards, AMG) and BBVA, three contracts were signed. The 15 June 2007, signed a financial lease on a property (an industrial warehouse), which included a clause that contained a implicit derivative for the calculation of interest. The 29 January and 27 April 2009, signed two swap contracts.

AMG filed a demand for an ordinary trial, requesting the nullity of the financial lease contract, or of the clause for error, defect in consent and the nullity of the two financial swap contracts, also based on error, defect in consent, due to the deficient information received on the contracted products.

Primera Instancia

The Court of First Instance No. 2 de Dos Hermanas passed sentence on 23 September 2014. Partially estimated demand. Declared the nullity of the financial swap contracts due to an error in the consent, but not the financial lease of the industrial warehouse. Condemned to reimburse reciprocally everything received by both parties due to the two contracts declared void with their interests.

It considered that the financial leasing contract was not null because it was not a complex financial product and the clause that determined the interests was clear for an entrepreneur with experience in commercial contracting, as was the case with AMG.

Provincial Court

AMG filed an appeal.

The 6th Section of the Provincial Court of Seville issued a ruling on 20 October 2016, estimating the appeal.

Declared the nullity of the financial lease contract of the industrial building, with the return and reciprocal refund of what was received. It considered that there was a substantial error regarding the risks arising from the early settlement of the contract, vitiating the same nullity.

Agreed "The return and reimbursement that the landlord must make in favor of the tenant is related to the financial part of the periodic rent payments (…), without affecting the rent itself agreed or cost recovery ".

Supreme Court

BBVA filed an appeal.

Only the fourth reason was admitted, that expressed that it existed "Infringement of arts. 1307 and 1308 CC, in connection with the arts. 1303 and 1547 CC, as well as the jurisprudence on the restorative effects derived from the nullity of contracts with reciprocal obligations of continued performance. Improcedencia de la condena a devolver laparte financierade la cuota como consecuencia de la nulidad del leasing”.

The Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.

As to concepto de “financial leasing, leasing”, the Disposición Adicional 3ª de la Ley 10/2014, of 26 June, de ordenación, supervisión y solvencia de entidades de crédito, reflects that “Tendrán la consideración de operaciones de arrendamiento financiero aquellos contratos que tengan por objeto exclusivo la cesión del uso de bienes muebles o inmuebles, adquiridos para dicha finalidad según las especificaciones del futuro usuario, a cambio de una contraprestación consistente en el abono periódico de cuotas. Los bienes objeto de cesión habrán de quedar afectados por el usuario únicamente a sus explotaciones agrícolas, pesqueras, industriales, comerciales, artesanales, de servicios o profesionales. El contrato de arrendamiento financiero incluirá necesariamente una opción de compra, a su término, en favor del usuario”.

For his part, the paragraph 3 Item 106 Act 27/1994, del Impuesto de Sociedades, states “Las cuotas de arrendamiento financiero deberán aparecer expresadas en los respectivos contratos diferenciando la parte que corresponda a la recuperación del coste del bien por la entidad arrendadora, excluido el valor de la opción de compra y la carga financiera exigida por ella, todo ello sin perjuicio de la aplicación del gravamen indirecto que corresponda”.

La Sala llegó a la conclusión de que, en el caso de este tipo de contratos, si la declaración de nulidad del mismo se realizaba después de que el contrato estuviera vigente durante varios años, en la restitución de prestaciones no se podía obviar que el arrendatario dispuso del bien durante ese tiempo, no pudiéndose deshacer, sino compensar.

He concluded that, as al art. 1303 CCivil debía restablecer recíprocamente las prestaciones percibidas, con sus frutos e intereses y, en caso de imposibilidad de devolver la cosa o el objeto contratado. Brought up the art. 1307 CCivil, debiendo restituirse los frutos percibidos y el valor que tenía la cosa cuando se perdió, con los intereses desde esa fecha.

Ultimately, al haber dispuesto AMG durante varios años del bien inmueble, y eso no podía deshacerse con la declaración de nulidad del contrato, se tenía que compensar, tal y como se ha establecido en el art. 1303 CCivil.

“(…) no se contradice la normativa que se dice vulnerada (Arts. 1307 and 1308 CCivil). (…) regarding the art. 1307 CCivil, porque es posible la restitución de prestaciones, en concreto del bien inmueble objeto del leasing, sin perjuicio de que deba tenerse en cuenta la necesidad de compensar la disponibilidad del bien durante el tiempo en que ha estado en poder del arrendatario financiero, con las cuotas abonadas salvo la parte correspondiente a la carga financiera, lo que limita la obligación de devolución del arrendador a esta carga financiera.

And (…) regarding the art. 1308 CCivil, because (…) presupone el incumplimiento de una de las partes de la obligación de restituir, lo que es ajeno a este momento del enjuiciamiento y afecta propiamente a la ejecución de la restitución de prestaciones acordada.”

Conclusion

Cuando un contrato de arrendamiento financiero de un bien inmueble es declarado nulo, la arrendataria financiera debe restituir el bien inmueble; y el arrendador financiero, en vez de restituir la totalidad de las cuotas percibidas, tan sólo debe devolver la carga financiera, pues el resto equivale al valor económico de la disponibilidad del inmueble, y se entiende compensado por ello. Es posible pues, la restitución de prestaciones según el art. 1307 CCivil, en concreto del bien inmueble objeto de leasing, aunque ha de tenerse en cuenta la necesidad de compensar la disponibilidad del bien durante el tiempo que ha estado en vigor el contrato.

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