Demolitions in Spain

Published on 21/01/2008 in Your Spanish Home

Villa demolished in SpainIt seems 2008 has got off to a very bad start for the Spanish property market.  We all knew that this was going to be a tough year after the boom period ended but with an unfavourable exchange rate, as I discussed last week, we now have the frightening prospect of apparently legal homes being demolished by the Junta de Andalucia.

I am sure that most people are now aware of the case of the retired couple Len and Helen Prior, both 63, whose Villa was demolished in Vera, Almeria on the 9th of January.  This case has sent a chilling message to ALL property owners in Spain.  The Junta de Andalucia (JDA) is serious about returning green belt land back to nature.

Len and Helen’s horrific experience has been widely publicised by the UK media, and rightly so. The actions of the JDA do not respect people’s basic human rights.  This case throws into doubt the “we’ll be ok, we bought in good faith” theory as it seems that this no longer applies.

What many people don’t realise is that this is not the first case of demolition orders being executed in Andalucia.  Back in December the JDA demolished five villas illegally built in Obejo, Cordoba.  One of those was being used as a permanent resident whilst the other four were second homes.

Even Antonio Banderas’s villa which is practically on the beach is also scheduled for demolition.

The Junta is serious about restoring the landscape to what it was.  It seems many innocent victims will lose their homes in Spain and at the moment there doesn’t seem to be a lot that can be done about it.

So why is the JDA acting now?

Over the past years, illegal builds have been quite common and whole areas have been funded through this activity.  Until now developers and town halls have largely been able to get away with it…but not for much longer.

The JDA is enforcing a new law that came into effect in 2002 to control the extreme building up of the coasts.  As happened to the priors, even though they had all their permits and licences in place issued to them by the town hall, the town hall was not in a position to issue them as the land was classified as rural in the eyes on the JDA and therefore, couldn’t be built on.

Often mayors believe they are above the law and can write their own rules.  The JDA is there to make sure the mayors don’t step out of line.  The question is why did they let it get to this stage?  Everyone knew what was going on, why didn’t the JDA step in earlier to curb these megalomaniac mayors?

What the JDA should be doing

Knocking down people’s houses is not the answer.  The JDA needs to go after the mayors, lawyers and developers that flout these laws.  The mayor who allowed the Priors’ house to be built is still in power.  Why hasn’t he been punished?  Why is he allowed to remain in power having signed off hundreds of illegal properties in the area?  He’s the one that let this get this far.  Why don’t they pull his house down too?

So you may sense I’m a little angry here.  It’s got nothing to do with the fact that it was expats that got targeted.  Many of the properties sold on illegal land will have been sold to unsuspecting expats.  They are the ones who have brought money into these area and they are the ones owning these illegal homes.

I’m angry that the ones who should be brought to justice aren’t, they are allowed to remain in power and in their homes.  Something isn’t right here.

What the JDA has managed to do here is ram a huge nail into the already fragile Spanish property coffin.  Who is safe any more? It seems having the right permits and licences from the town hall is not enough any more.

I personally did not think that the Junta would actually take this action, but I, like many, have been proved wrong.

The question is now, do we sit back and wait or do we take some action?

There are thousands of homes at stake here, surely we need to take some action to stop the roll out of demolitions?

If you want to join some collective action then post your comments on the forum:

Remember, if you are buying in Spain the best advice is GET A GOOD LAWYER and don’t take any risks.

Written by: Justin Aldridge

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Ann Ad said:
09 February 2008 @ 09:53

We have just returned from a buying trip (our 2nd)looking from property on the coast.
I have been very nervous about looking and still are looking, how do you know you are safe when you find the right property?
The last thing we want is for corrupt mayors and officials and loosing our savings in a illegal property.
People tell you all sorts when viewing property but how much is true?
As we want front line sea views will older properties be better to buy??

normansands said:
31 January 2008 @ 00:11

Appalling, heartrending, disgusting treatment of anyone, especially OAPs. Is there no shame in Spain?
Surely the authorities produce planning maps with all areas designated - copies should be everywhere, all agents, lawyers and public offices. Where are they on the forum or at least a link to them?
"Get a good lawyer" is I am afraid a bit of a cop out, about as much use as "get a good agent", "get a good developer" etc.
Can you not meet with the Priors and get the full story including the names involved. Lets not be shy - tell it like it is.

normansands said:
31 January 2008 @ 00:09

Appalling, heartrending, disgusting treatment of anyone, especially OAPs. Is there no shame in Spain?
Surely the authorities produce planning maps with all areas designated - copies should be everywhere, all agents, lawyers and public offices. Where are they on the forum or at least a link to them?
"Get a good lawyer" is I am afraid a bit of a cop out, about as much use as "get a good agent", "get a good developer" etc.
Can you not meet with the Priors and get the full story including the names involved. Lets not be shy - tell it like it is.

135yearswaiting said:
28 January 2008 @ 18:20

I feel that the local British newspapers and radio stations could do a lot more to vet advertisers. One radio station over the past 5 years has recommended some very shall we say not very honest developers. The newspapers are the same. I know they ,the media ,are in business to make money but some of the adverts they should not have accepted.

I remember 35 years ago when I was working in the UK ,I placed an advert in the Daily Telegraph offering an investment product offered by one of the leading insurance groups, to say I was put through the third degree is an understatement any claim I made had to be proved.

I realise that the local newspapers will never give a bad report about a restaurante as it is a future potential client for them,but one can only lose between 20 and 100 euro on two bad meals. But as we know on property it can be someone´s life savings.

rioebro said:
25 January 2008 @ 16:48

Dealing with property in Spain for the past 4 & a half years and knowing how difficult it has been to make sure your house is legal and all documents are in order it seems ludacrous that the Junta can just go in and demolish a house. Is their no EU law that can protect property owners from this happening?

tracyrimmer said:
24 January 2008 @ 12:05

Its not expats being targeted, its all nationatilies that have been sold illegal property, including spanish. I have been to some of the meetings in Catral for Spanish only & expats. There is still problems, and houses on national park land are still under threat, but it appears, that they are trying to regularize the other illegal property.

Sailorman said:
23 January 2008 @ 12:41

I would endorse the comments from 'vilprano'. Not only should the Spanish act on this,- what about the British authorities acting against agents like Parador who knewe exactly what they were doing in promoting for example Almanzora Country Club, which has left hundreds of brokenhearted people wondering if they will ever see their hard earned (sometimes life savings) back, let alone losing their retirement dreams. But Parador are still advertising heavily in the National Press, pulling in more trusting fellow countrymen to be fleeced. Shame on them!!

Surveyor said:
23 January 2008 @ 12:00

What was the lawyer who acted on behalf of the Priors doing? Presumably he was paid to investigate title for the property, including it's planning situation, and should have told the priors that the land was not zoned for housing on the PGOU. As in Marbella, if the lawyers acting for the end buyer did their job and prevented the buyers from buying where it is known to professionals that it is prohibited, then none of this would have happened. If the Priors were advised that the land was not zoned for housing but went ahead, then that is their own risk. Just because there is no physical investigation of the property and permissions people are not buying in good faith. They are buying in ignorance and in law 'ignorance is no excuse'. Their lawyers were letting them buy when the lawyers should have known that the land did not have permission for housing.

Gerrytaylor said:
22 January 2008 @ 17:07

How do we find out if our properties are under threat. I have recently taken ownership of an apartment in Manilva Beach. I used a reputable company and GV anA were my lawyers. Should i be worried too?

Blavatsky said:
22 January 2008 @ 11:12

Very good summary of the Prior case.The bottom line is that no sane person should now buy in Spain until the uncertainty is resolved.It's potentailly as bad as in some communist countries saying you don't own this property since we the concept of land ownership in some communist states does not exist.
There are of course frauduent officials in the UK but unfortunately the "nod and a wink brown envelope/inflated valuations etc" property culture seems fairly widespread in Spain and has now come home to roost.
Politics unfortunately also plays too much a part where some locals feel "let's take back from Johnny Foreigner what rightly belongs to us."Reminds me of the debacle in Northern Cyprus.
The best lawyer in the world cannot solve the problem since if parts OF the conveyancing process are contaminated mainly because a dishonest official is prepared to issue a valid permission on the back of a bribe the lawyer will never be certain whether the transaction is bona fide or not and the lawyer has not acted in a negligent way because you can't always tell if someone is dishonest.

vilprano said:
22 January 2008 @ 08:49

There are agents operating in the UK bringing people to these areas and not pointing out that there is or has been for a number of years a problem.
They are told the govt is very selective about building in almeria and assured that the properties they are showb are legal.
There seems to have been complicity with solicitors creaming off easy money from clients with no regard for what brits expect from a solicitor, i.e. a duty of care to their clients.
They are assured that the agent has done all the research into the validity of the licences and that they deal only with reputable builders. Take the money then leave you on your own when the development is declared illegal. These companies must also be brought to task and one of the largest UK based companies Parador is a prime example. They are still bringing thousands of customers to spain with no regard for the situation or their very angry customers who face losing many thousands of pounds.
Its time the Junta clamped down on this practice.

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