Spanish property scandal: expat battle to save Albox homes

Fecha Publicación: 
24 Febrero 2012

An expat couple have vowed to fight on despite losing their appeal against a demolition notice for their Spanish home  

The Telegraph | Noticia

The property in Albox, Andalucía, is part of a group of homes served with demolition orders in 2012. The couple, who do not wish to be identified at this stage, built the property in 2002 and say that they believed that they had planning permission from the local council and all the necessary paperwork.

They were issued with a demolition order in December 2009. The couple's lawyer, Gerardo Manuel Vazquez, says the planning and real estate system in the region is "absurd".

"My clients were sold the Spanish dream which has turned out to be a nightmare," he said. "There are a number of other British couples in Albox alone in a similar situation and some in a worse situation with a final judgment against their property.

"Changes in the law are obviously required, which, in my view, must go beyond the mere tinkering that has recently taken place."

There are more than 12,000 so-called illegal properties in Almanzora and sources say as many as 300,000 across the Andalucia region. Local expats describe the property market to a "minefield".

AUAN (Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora, NO) is an association of some 700 British homeowners, set up to support baffled expats who have got caught in the crossfire.

"The regional government argues that the property runs the risk of creating an urban nucleus," a campaign spokesperson said. "Which urban nucleus are they referring to? Promoters swamped this area with urban settlements and sold houses to unsuspecting Brits whilst the administration fiddled about with its legislation and comprehensively failed to enforce it.”

AUAN says constant changes to property laws in the region are causing confusion and misery for expat property owners and prospective buyers.

There are less than 50 planning inspectors in Andalucia for a land mass of 33,694 square miles. 11,777 homes in the region will be subject to a special decree, currently being worked on by government officials, to define a uniform set of procedures that would allow them to be granted an occupation license and obtain access to services in a manner described as "self-sufficient", making it clear that public funds will not be used to resolve the situation.

“The response of the regional government to this planning disaster is more tinkering with the laws, creating, in our view, even more confusion, complexity and traps for an unwary purchaser to fall into," the AUAN spokesperson said.

"The regional government claims that its much publicised decree will grant recognition to illegal buildings in Andalucía but this couple, who have a building license, face demolition."

Maura Hillen, president of an expat action group, said that the couple in question are hugely upset by this stressful experience.

"The situation is only getting worse," Mrs Hillen said.

"Across the seven small towns of the Almanzora Valley we have obtained evidence of 39 firm demolition orders upheld by the appeal courts. The couple in question are now on their way to those same appeal courts. Hundreds more are impacted by similar criminal and civil proceedings.

"Recent decrees and changes to the law have only added to the confusion and chaos. I cannot begin to articulate how fed up and frustrated people are."

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