Expressing Civil Law Concepts in Common Law Terms: saneamiento


Saneamiento is a peculiar term whose meaning in legal usage is not always obvious. In the Spanish law of obligations (Derecho de obligaciones) the expression obligación de saneamiento usually refers to a warranty obligation. The Spanish Civil Code provides for three types of warranty: 1) Saneamiento por evicción (Art. 1475 CC)—seller warrants that buyer will enjoy undisturbed and unopposed legal possession of purchased property. Here saneamiento por evicción may be translated as “warranty of title,” “warranty of good title,” or “warranty against loss of title.” When saneamiento por evicción applies to leased property, “warranty of quiet enjoyment” would be an appropriate rendering. 2) Saneamiento por cargas o grávamenes ocultos (Art. 1483)—seller warrants that the property sold or otherwise transferred is free of charges, liens or other encumbrances. Here a possible translation would be “warranty of clear title” or “warranty against hidden charges/liens/encumbrances.” And, 3) Saneamiento por vicios ocultos (Art. 1484 CC)—seller warrants that property/goods sold are free from hidden/latent defects, usually undertaking to repair or replace items found to be defective. This may often be translated as “warranty against hidden/latent defects.”

Saneamiento is also used in other legal contexts. For example (and these are certainly not the only legal meanings of the term), saneamiento contable may refer to the “write-down” of the value of an asset or the “write-off” of losses or a debt. Saneamiento financiero may denote some type of “financial restructuring (or) streamlining,” while saneamiento monetario often refers to “monetary reform.” And, as a final example, saneamiento ambiental may describe some form of “environmental remediation” or “environmental clean-up.”

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