1 Argentina Real Estate Law
1.1 Please briefly describe the main laws that govern real estate in Argentina. Laws relating to leases of business premises should be listed in response to question 10.1. Those relating to zoning and environmental should be listed in response to question 11.1.
The Federal Constitution and Treaties on Human Rights expressly provides for the right to private property. Real estate in Argentina is governed by the Argentine Civil Code and by other specific laws (i.e. Law 13,512 on Propiedad Horizontal and Law 24,441 governing trusts). Law 26,737 imposes limits on the ownership or possession of rural land by foreign individuals or legal entities.
1.2 What is the impact (if any) on real estate of local common law in Argentina?
This is not applicable in Argentina
1.3 Are international laws relevant to real estate in Argentina? Please ignore EU legislation enacted locally in EU countries.
No, international laws are not relevant to real estate in Argentina, with the exception of the Treaties on Human Rights (please refer to question 1.1) and general rules provided by investment protection treaties.
2.1 Are there legal restrictions on ownership of real estate by particular classes of persons (e.g. non-resident persons)?
According to Law 26,737, foreign ownership of rural land shall not exceed 15% of the total amount of “rural lands” in the Argentine territory. This percentage is to be calculated also in relation to the territory of the province or municipality where the relevant lands are located. In addition, ownership by the same foreign owner (i.e. foreign individuals, foreign entities or local entities controlled by a foreign person) shall not exceed 1,000 hectares of the “core area”, or the “equivalent surface” determined according to the location of the lands. Furthermore, foreign investors may not own more than 15% of the real property in the country, province or municipality and the same foreign owner shall not exceed 1,000 hectares of the “core area”, or the “equivalent surface” determined according to the location of the lands. The Interministerial Council of Rural Lands (Consejo Interministerial de Tierras Rurales), the enforcement agency of the new law, shall define the location of the “core area”.
Likewise, under security zone regulations, foreign ownership in certain areas of national security, such as frontier zones, requires prior consent of a Federal Agency, which is normally granted.
In principle, acquisition of real property in the city of Buenos Aires by a foreign entity (in particular, when more than one asset is being acquired) may require the registration of a branch of such foreign entity before the public registry (“IGJ”).
3 Real Estate Rights
3.1 What are the types of rights over land recognised in Argentina? Are any of them purely contractual between the parties?
The types of rights over land are outlined in Laws passed by the Federal Congress, mainly in the Civil Code, which include ownership, co-ownership, usufruct and easements, among others. Additionally, Law 25,509 ofSuperficie Forestal allows separation of ownership of land and forestry.
Some significant real estate transactions are of a purely contractual nature, such as leases.
3.2 Are there any scenarios where the right to a real estate diverges from the right to a building constructed thereon?
No. As a general rule, any buildings or constructions are attached to the real estate in question, in other words, they are incorporated in the real property forming an indivisible unit.
4 System of Registration
4.1 Is all land in Argentina required to be registered? What land (or rights) are unregistered?
In general, all land and related real estate rights over such property (and its encumbrances) must be registered with the local real estate registry.
4.2 Is there a state guarantee of title? What does it guarantee?
There is no title insurance system in Argentina.
4.3 What rights in land are compulsory registrable? What (if any) is the consequence of non-registration?
Real estate rights over land which are not registered are not effective against third parties.
4.4 What rights in land are not required to be registered?
Certain contractual rights over property (for example, leases) do not need to be registered.
4.5 Where there are both unregistered and registered land or rights is there a probationary period following first registration or are there perhaps different classes or qualities of title on first registration? Please give details. First registration means the occasion upon which unregistered land or rights are first registered in the registries.
This is not applicable in Argentina.
4.6 On a land sale, when is title (or ownership) transferred to the buyer?
Ownership is transferred to the buyer upon the date that the notarial deed of conveyance is executed. Possession by the acquirer is required for the conveyance of legal title.
4.7 Please briefly describe how some rights obtain priority over other rights. Do earlier rights defeat later rights?
Priority against third parties is obtained through timely registration of the notarial deed with the relevant real estate registry. Priority among different registrations is granted by the date and order number of the notarial deeds given by the real estate registry at the time of the filing.
5 The Registry / Registries
5.1 How many land registries operate in Argentina? If more than one please specify their differing rules and requirements.
There is one real estate registry for each Argentine province and another one for the city of Buenos Aires. Each real estate registry has its own particular rules.
5.2 Does the land registry issue a physical title document to the owners of registered real estate?
The Land Registry of the applicable jurisdiction issues a certificate stating that the title has been duly registered.
5.3 Can any transaction relating to registered real estate be completed electronically? What documents need to be provided to the land registry for the registration of ownership right? Can information on ownership of registered real estate be accessed electronically?
Transactions cannot be completed electronically but the follow up of certain filings may be accessed online. Broadly speaking, information on ownership is not available online; in the city of Buenos Aires’s registry, it is possible to obtain the identity of the owners of a given property online, though. For purposes of requesting registration, a copy of the public deed together with a formal petition shall be furnished to the land registry.
5.4 Can compensation be claimed from the registry/registries if it/they makes a mistake?
Yes, compensation can be claimed under general rules of tort liability.
5.5 Are there restrictions on public access to the register? Can a buyer obtain all the information he might reasonably need regarding encumbrances and other rights affecting real estate?
There are no restrictions on public access to the register, but the petitions can only be signed by certain professionals (lawyers, notary publics, engineers, accountants, surveyors or real estate brokers).
6 Real Estate Market
6.1 Which parties (in addition to the buyer and seller and the buyer’s finance provider) would normally be involved in a real estate transaction in Argentina? Please briefly describe their roles and/or duties.
(a) Selling and purchasing agents (or realtors)
A real estate broker may intervene as an intermediary on behalf of either the seller or the purchaser.
Legal advice is recommended in connection with the negotiation or execution of any binding document. Lawyers usually provide tax and foreign exchange advice for transactions involving any international parties.
The deed of conveyance (escritura pública) has to be executed before a notary public, who is responsible for verifying that the seller has good title on the property.
A surveyor (agrimensor) should check that the boundaries of any property outside city centres as described in the real estate registry correspond to the parties’ understanding of same on the ground.
6.2 How and on what basis are these persons remunerated?
Some of the persons detailed above, such as notaries, may have regulations on fees depending on local rules and regulations, although, in many cases, these regulations are not followed by the parties involved. In general, fees are agreed as a percentage of the transaction’s price.
6.3 How has the real estate market in Argentina recovered or reacted following the global credit crunch and worldwide recession in 2008/2010? What were the most important real estate transactions in Argentina in the past year? Please include both local and international investors in your answer.
During the crisis, real estate transactions declined significantly for both local and international investors. In addition, in recent months, some real estate transactions have been adversely affected by foreign exchange restrictions, mainly, as a consequence of a general restriction pursuant to which the ability of Argentine residents to acquire foreign currency for this type of transaction has been suspended indefinitely. The impact by this new regulation has been significant on the market, since, historically, real estate transactions involving the acquisition of real property are denominated and paid in a foreign currency. The market has not yet recovered from these restrictions.
6.4 Is there a trend in Argentina towards the investment in retirement homes / nursing homes due to the increased ageing of the population?
After the 2001 turmoil and current inflation, real estate transactions are considered a safe shelter for investors; consequently small apartments are the trend. Although no particular trend towards retirement homes or akin has developed locally yet, there are signs of new investment in this sector, mainly focused on foreign residents, who could take advantage of a well-developed private health care system in Argentina.
7 Liabilities of Buyers and Sellers in Real Estate Transactions
7.1 What (if any) are the minimum formalities for the sale and purchase of real estate?
Execution of the deed of conveyance between the buyer and seller and registration of such deed with the local real estate registry is required to transfer real estate. Beforehand, parties may execute a preliminary contract (Boleto de Compraventa). Recent regulations state that sellers must inform the tax authority about every offer, negotiation or transfer involving an immovable property for an amount exceeding AR$300,000 (approximately US$62,000).
7.2 Is the seller under a duty of disclosure? What matters must be disclosed?
Yes. Under the general duty of good faith common to any contract, the seller should reasonably disclose any encumbrance or hindrance which may impede the buyer from fully enjoying the property. Besides, these kinds of representations and warranties are contractually agreed, whereby the seller ensures he or she has good title.
In addition, disclosure is required by the consumer protection law.
7.3 Can the seller be liable to the buyer for misrepresentation?
Please refer to question 7.4 below.
7.4 Do sellers usually give contractual warranties to the buyer? What would be the scope of these? What is the function of warranties (e.g. to apportion risk, to give information)? Are warranties a substitute for the buyer carrying out his own diligence?
Real estate transactions are customarily negotiated on an “as is” basis. However, the Argentine Civil Code provides for certain implied warranties on a sale granted by the seller to the buyer. These warranties consist of the following: (i) that the seller has good title and the property is free of encumbrances (Garantía deevicción) (see question 7.5); and (ii) that the property has no hidden defects (Garantía por vicios redhibitorios).
7.5 Does the seller warrant its ownership in any way? Please give details.
The Civil Code provides for an implied warranty to title in all sale contracts. Although parties may include a contractual provision restricting or waiving this implied warranty, it is a widespread practice to include a clause pursuant to which the seller declares that it has good title to the property and that it is free from any charges or encumbrances.
7.6 What (if any) are the liabilities of the buyer (in addition to paying the sale price)?
There are certain legal charges attached to immovable property relating to municipal and provincial taxes, expenses and maintenance of building common areas and the charges levied by the utilities companies.
8 Finance and Banking
8.1 Please briefly describe any regulations concerning the lending of money to finance real estate. Are the rules different as between resident and non-resident persons and/or between individual persons and corporate entities?
Since 2002, foreign exchange controls impose restrictions on persons (or entities) to borrow from foreign persons (or entities), or make payments of principal or interest thereto. Furthermore, Central Bank registrations and approvals may be necessary.
The repatriation of funds may also be subject to restrictions. In principle, foreign residents investing in Argentina are subject to a one-year deposit equivalent to 30% of the total funds introduced into the Argentine exchange market. There are certain exceptions, including foreign direct investments, which include, with certain limitations, investments in real property.
Cross-border financings to Argentine residents -as a general rule- carry the obligation to repatriate and liquidate the funds into the foreign exchange market as well as the maintenance for a one-year minimum term and, unless an exception applies, are also subject to the 30% mandatory deposit. Note that there is an exception commonly used for financing the acquisition of real estate that requires the loan to have an average term (considering the repayment schedule for principal payments and interests) of not less than 2 years and the investment of 100% of the proceeds in fixed assets or inventory.
Also, during the last semester of 2011, new foreign exchange regulations have limited the ability of local residents to purchase foreign currency to the extent the amounts in question are not consistent with their tax returns. This has limited the number of real estate transactions being closed since most of the real estate market uses foreign currency as a payment method.
8.2 What are the main methods by which a real estate lender seeks to protect itself from default by the borrower?
Mortgages and trusts are the most common collateral in connection with real estate. A mortgage remains in full force and effect until all secured amounts have been paid in full or the mortgage is otherwise cancelled by mutual agreement. However, unless extended, the registration of a mortgage will automatically expire 20 years as from the registration date.
8.3 What are the common proceedings for realisation of mortgaged properties? Are there any options for a mortgagee to realise a mortgaged property without involving court proceedings or the contribution of the mortgagor?
Mortgages may be realised by judicial or private procedures. Regarding judicial procedures, the mortgagee may commence an ordinary declaratory trial, an expedited trial, a mortgage expedited trial or a provincial foreclosure trial.
If the debtor issues mortgage letters (“letras hipotecarias”), the mortgagee may realise it by private procedure without the contribution of the debtor. The mortgagee may: a) request directly to the register the issuance of a second copy of the deed; or b) require the payment of the debts that exist on the property regarding ordinary expenses, taxes and fees that weigh on the property. Should the debtor not pay the debt within ten (10) business days from the request, the mortgagee may auction the property as if debt free. In that case, the lender will order itself, without court intervention, a public auction sale of the property, by an auctioneer appointed by and with the usual conditions of that place. Notices shall be published. The base of the auction will be the amount of debt at the time of the sale.
8.4 What minimum formalities are required for real estate lending?
None, except for the registration with the relevant real estate registry of mortgages or trusts over land.
8.5 How is a real estate lender protected from claims against the borrower or the real estate asset by other creditors?
Trusts are also widely used as security devices. A trust will be formed upon the transfer of ownership in trust of a property by a settlor to a trustee who will undertake to exercise the rights in respect of it for the benefit of certain beneficiaries. The trust property forms a separate estate from both the trustee or the settlor’s estate (except fraud). The trust’s duration may not exceed thirty years. The benefits of the trust in guarantee over the mortgage include: the property remains bankruptcy remote from the debtor’s assets; out-of-court foreclosure is allowed; and rotation of beneficiaries is easier.
9.1 Are transfers of real estate subject to a transfer tax? How much? Who is liable?
a) Income tax
Non-resident individuals or legal entities without a permanent establishment in Argentina are taxed only on income from Argentine sources; income arising from assets placed or used in Argentina is deemed to be from an Argentine source. The corporate tax rate applicable in Argentina is 35%, whereas the tax rate for individuals ranges from 9 to 35%. Income Tax Law provides certain particular rules applicable to real estate transactions such as a roll over alternative in order to defer the income allocation (venta y reemplazo). Income tax treatment must be analysed on a case-by-case basis.
b) Tax on Presumed Minimum Income
This tax applies to all assets of Argentine companies and other entities, such as trusts, common investment funds, permanent establishments of foreign entities and individuals in Argentina or foreign individuals who own rural immovable property. This tax applies, at a 1% rate, should the total assets value exceed AR$200,000 (around US$52,000) at the end of the financial year. Any tax payable hereunder is allowed as a credit towards normal corporate income tax.
c) Personal assets tax
The Personal Assets Tax Law provides that all individuals residing in Argentina are subject to a tax upon their worldwide assets, while individuals not residing in Argentina are only liable for this tax upon their assets located in Argentina. In general, the tax on personal assets goes from 0.5% to 1.25% depending on the total value of tax assets as of 31 of December of each relevant fiscal year. A tax rate of 1.25% is applicable to non-resident individuals holding assets subject to this tax.
d) Transfer of immovable property tax
A federal tax upon the transfer of immovable property (Impuesto a la transferencia de inmuebles, “TT”) is applicable to individuals who transfer real property if certain requirements are met. The current rate is 1.5% of the transfer value of the property.
e) Stamp tax
Stamp tax is a provincial tax levied on public or private instruments executed in Argentina, or, if executed abroad, when negotiated assets are in Argentina or have effects in Argentina. In general, this tax is calculated on the economic value of the agreement and the parties who executed the document (and the notary public if applicable) are severally and jointly liable for its payment.
9.2 When is the transfer tax paid?
TT becomes due when the immovable property is deemed to be transferred (i.e. the time a preliminary contract is executed and possession is granted, or at the time the public deed of conveyance is executed; whichever occurs first).
Income Tax is payable on a yearly basis for Argentine residents.
Non-residents pay the Income Tax by means of withholding.
Personal Assets Tax and Tax on Presumed Minimum Income are payable on a yearly basis.
Stamp tax must be paid within a number of days as from the date the document is executed (usually 10 or 15 days).
9.3 Are transfers of real estate by individuals subject to income tax?
Please refer to the answer to question 9.1.
9.4 Are transfers of real estate subject to VAT? How much? Who is liable? Are there any exemptions?
VAT is applicable only to certain immovable property transactions, such as sales of new buildings and sales of refurbished buildings. In the case of sales of new buildings, VAT is payable (10.5% for residential buildings and 21% for other buildings) upon that proportion of the price which relates to the new building, and in the case of refurbished buildings, on the proportion of the sale price which relates to the refurbished parts of the building.
9.5 What other tax or taxes (if any) are payable by the seller on the disposal of a property?
Please refer to the answer to question 9.1.
9.6 Is taxation different if ownership of a company (or other entity) owning real estate is transferred?
Yes. The sale of shares of an Argentine corporation by a non-Argentine resident is exempt from Argentine income tax. In contrast to this, in principle, an assets sale performed by an Argentine resident company would be subject to Argentine income tax at a rate of 35% on the difference between the sale price and the residual tax value of the asset. During 2012, the Government disclosed its willingness to modify this regime and provide some form of taxation to stock transfers but, as of today, no amendment to the existing regime has been passed.
10 Leases of Business Premises
10.1 Please briefly describe the main laws that regulate leases of business premises.
Leases are governed by the Argentine Civil Code and by the Urban Leases Law (“ULL”). Certain law provisions (the bulk of them aimed to protect the lessee) are considered public policy and therefore mandatory for the parties. Lease contracts need only be in writing without requiring notarial deed or any registration, yet.
10.2 What types of business lease exist?
The types of business leases that exist are urban leases, rural leases and commercial leases, each of which are governed by a different set of rules.
10.3 What are the typical provisions for leases of business premises in Argentina regarding: (a) length of term; (b) rent increases; (c) tenant’s right to sell or sub-lease; (d) insurance; (e) (i) change of control of the tenant; and (ii) transfer of lease as a result of a corporate restructuring (e.g. merger); and (f) repairs?
a) Length of term
The ULL provides for a minimum term of three years for urban business (commercial) leases. Any lease contract entered into for a shorter term than the legal minimum will be considered as executed for the minimum term irrespective of its actual provisions. Lease agreements are also subject to a maximum term of 10 years. Recent case law has allowed longer terms though. A maximum term of 50 years for this type of leases is contemplated in the Bill to Reform the Civil and Commercial Codes (the “Bill”). The Bill has not yet been passed but is expected to be approved during 2013.
b) Rent increases
Parties are free to agree staggered price mechanisms unless this implies some way of indexation (for example, a rent increase by means of a clause taking the inflation index into account would be void).
c) Tenant’s right to sell or sub-lease
A tenant may sub-lease in whole or in part the leased premises unless otherwise agreed. It is customary, though, that an express prohibition to sub-lease is included in the agreement.
Usually, parties agree that the tenant must insure the property.
e) (i) Change of control of the tenant
There are no mandatory provisions on this matter under applicable law.
e) (ii) Transfer of lease as a result of a corporate restructuring (e.g. merger)
There are no mandatory provisions on this matter under applicable law.
The regulation of this matter is generally left to the parties but the general principle reflected in the Civil Code is that the tenant shall be responsible for carrying out minor repairs and regular maintenance of the leased property. The tenant is also responsible for those repairs arising from the tenant’s fault or wilful acts. Any defects in the structure of the property or more serious repair works must be borne by the landlord.
10.4 What taxes are payable on rent either by the landlord or tenant of a business lease?
VAT is applicable to rentals of all types of immovable property (other than that used for the lessee’s personal housing), if the rental exceeds AR$1,500 (approximately US$400) per month. However, there are some exemptions and the tax treatment must be analysed on a case-by-case basis. For other taxes, please refer to question 9.1 above.
10.5 In what circumstances are business leases usually terminated (e.g. at expiry, on default, by either party etc.)? Are there any special provisions allowing a tenant to extend or renew the lease or for either party to be compensated by the other for any reason on termination?
In addition to usual termination clauses (term expiration, default, breach of contract, etc.), termination of the lease is triggered by the total destruction of the leased property. In all cases where the termination is not caused by the fault or wilful misconduct of the parties, such termination will not result in any obligation for compensation, except for the repayment of all sums paid in advance. Notwithstanding the minimum terms indicated in the answer to item (a) of question 10.3, after the first six months of the lease have elapsed, the tenant has a legal right to terminate the lease prior to the expiry of the minimum contractual term. In order to benefit from this right, the tenant must give the landlord notice of its decision to terminate the lease at least 60 days prior to the date on which it intends to vacate the property. Should the tenant exercise this right during the first year of the tenancy, it is also obliged to compensate the landlord in the amount of one and a half month’s rent. This compensatory payment is reduced to one month’s rent after one year of tenancy.
10.6 Does the landlord and/or the tenant of a business lease cease to be liable for their respective obligations under the lease once they have sold their interest? Can they be responsible after the sale in respect of pre-sale non compliance?
The fact that title to the freehold property is transferred does not affect the underlying lease; the lease contract remains in full force and effect against the new owner of the property.
10.7 Green leases seek to impose obligations on landlords and tenants designed to promote greater sustainable use of buildings and in the reduction of the “environmental footprint” of a building. Please briefly describe any “green obligations” commonly found in leases stating whether these are clearly defined, enforceable legal obligations or something not amounting to enforceable legal obligations (for example aspirational objectives).
Green leases are not common in Argentina. However, parties are free to agree such kinds of obligations.
11 Public Law Permits and Obligations
11.1 What are the main laws which govern zoning and related matters concerning the use and occupation of land? Please briefly describe them and include environmental laws.
Urban development in Argentina is basically governed by provincial and municipal zoning regulations and building codes; therefore, they differ in each jurisdiction.
The federal government sets the minimum environmental standards for the protection of the environment, and the provinces and municipalities establish specific standards and implementing regulations. The Argentine Constitution forbids the introduction of hazardous waste into the country. Federal laws relate to various environmental issues such as industrial and waste management and disposal, air, land and water pollution, etc. Provinces have also enacted environmental laws requiring companies to prepare and file environmental impact statements in order to obtain the relevant permits.
Certain provinces such as Buenos Aires and Santa Fe have enacted specific regulations for the so-called “large commercial areas” which apply to supermarkets, malls, shopping centres and department stores (large retailers).
The right to private property is guaranteed by the Federal Constitution. However, both the federal State and the provinces are empowered to governmental taking (expropiación) providing the following requirements, among others, are met: (i) the Federal Congress (or the provincial legislature as the case may be) must enact a law declaring the public interest triggering the taking; and (ii) prior and due compensation must be paid to the owner. The compensation may be judicially determined should the parties fail to agree on it. In principle, loss of profits is not compensated though case law has loosened this restriction in certain special circumstances.
11.2 Can the state force land owners to sell land to it? If so please briefly describe including price mechanism.
National and local governments may force a land owner to sell land to it. According to national proceeding, the land should firstly be declared as of “public use”. After that, declaration starts an administrative procedure to determine the scope of the compelled sale and to value the property.
If the land owner does not agree with the conclusions of such procedure, the government must fill in a judicial claim to force the sale. The judicial decision will only rule on the price of the land. The price only includes the “objective price” of the property and direct damages of the expropriation; personal circumstances or lost profits are not taken into account.
11.3 Which bodies control land/building use and/or occupation and environmental regulation? How do buyers obtain reliable information on these matters?
Control of proper zoning, land use, building codes and other restrictions are carried out by provincial and municipal authorities.
Environmental compliance is controlled at the federal, provincial and municipal level. The provinces have recently begun to work actively on these matters. Buyers usually obtain reliable information on environmental matters through due diligence on existing administrative or judicial cases and from any claims initiated before administrative authorities. Further, prospective buyers usually inspect the property on site.
11.4 What main permits or licences are required for building works and/or the use of real estate?
It is not possible to provide a complete list of permits and licences required for the use of real estate because there may be as many regulations as the number of Argentine provinces and municipalities.
11.5 Are building/use permits and licences commonly obtained in Argentina? Can implied permission be obtained in any way (e.g. by long use)?
Building or use permits are regularly obtained, although it may take some time. The cost of and timing for the issuance of building or use permits have to be analysed on a case-by-case basis.
11.6 What is the appropriate cost of building/use permits and the time involved in obtaining them?
Please refer to the answer to question 11.3.
11.7 Are there any regulations on the protection of historic monuments in Argentina? If any, when and how are they likely to affect the transfer of rights in real estate?
There are national and local regulations on the protection of historic monuments. In general, the declaration of “public use” of a particular property only limits its use, but should the conservation of the historic monument be jeopardised, the government may compel the sale.
11.8 How can e.g. a potential buyer obtain reliable information on contamination and pollution of real estate? Is there a public register of contaminated land in Argentina?
Argentina has no national register on pollution or contamination.
11.9 In what circumstances (if any) is environmental clean up ever mandatory?
If damage to the environment is determined, clean up (or remediation) will be mandatory.
11.10 Please briefly outline any regulatory requirements for the assessment and management of the energy performance of buildings in Argentina.
The Federal Government has taken some general measures in order to reduce electricity and gas consumption by means of charging higher tariffs when consumption increases are detected.
12 Climate Change
12.1 Please briefly explain the nature and extent of any regulatory measures for reducing carbon dioxide emissions (including any mandatory emissions trading scheme).
Argentina is not a party to Annex 1 of the Kyoto Protocol, so there are no mandatory reduction targets applicable to activities held in our country.
12.2 Are there any national greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets?
Please refer to the answer to question 12.1.
12.3 Are there any other regulatory measures (not already mentioned) which aim to improve the sustainability of both newly constructed and existing buildings?
No, there are no rules of general application on this matter.
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