Spanish property nightmare

Lessons from British expats

Spanish property nightmare

British communities in Spain that have been a victim of property fraud and planning abuse in the last decade are receiving signs of hope in order to regulate the situation of their house.

According to the local newspaper La Voz de Almeria, local authorities in the Almerian Almanzora Valley are seriously reconsidering an "amnesty" for most of the 11,000 houses that are categorized as “illegal”. As a first stage, the authorities are auditing all the illegal houses.

This positive response from the local government is a direct consequence of the pressure that the organization Abusos Urbanísticos Almanzora No! AUAN  has put on the authorities since late 2007 in order to regulate their housing situation: demonstrations, demands and seminars are some of the actions.

Basic points from the experience of AUAN

The following are basic points to understand what went wrong in Almeria and some general advice if you want to develop a house on a plot. If you want to develop or buy in Spain, we strongly encourage you to get proper legal advice for your specific case.

If you are planning to move to Spain and to develop on land, either rural or urban, it is important to check the local Plan General de Ordenación Urbana (PGOU) in order to know if the land is suitable to build on or not. All further licenses that developers may show you are worthless if the plot is not designated as urbanized in the approved local PGOU. This is what mainly went wrong in the Almanzora Valley affecting more than 5,000 houses – this could only happen in Spain! We wonder if there were unscrupulous dealings going on within local authorities.

  • The PGOU is in all town halls to advise you. Ask for detailed information from an officer in the Concejalía de Urbanismo. It should be an approved PGOU by the regional government.
  • Rural land in the PGOU is legal and fine. What is not legal is to build a house on rural land.
  • Do not trust developers without clear records and good references. Never rush to buy in Spain: there are no easy bargains and plenty of houses to be sold. Try not to rush.
  • Ask for a building license in order to avoid any further demolition. Keep in mind that in some areas and towns there are a maximum of floors which can be built. So if you can only build up two floors and you build up three floors, you will be forced to pull down the third floor and you may face a penalty.
  • Purchase building insurance to protect against any potential defect in construction. It will be very useful.
  • Do not take decisions without legal advice. Discuss with other home owners or buyers.

The Spanish brick viewpoint

  • We are deeply saddened about what happened and we want to make a special mention to Len and Helen Prior after reading about their case on the AUAN website. All our support goes to the affected (British and Spanish) home buyers.
  • Unless “illegal” houses in the Almanzora Valley were placed in dangerous locations such as cliffs, all the properties should now be legalized. It is a matter of justice not to punish innocents that did not have the protection of the authorities in this mismanagement.
  • The image of the Spanish property market has been extremely damaged by illegal developments and political corruption related to property and urban plans.
  • We do not understand how 11,000 houses can be "illegally" built up without any obstacle. Culprits who broke the urban law (including authorities who allowed such a disgraceful event) should be made accountable.

By Daniel Talavera of The Spanish Brick.

Read more at: Spanish Property 

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Other comments

  • Mark Paddon, 12 October 2012 Reply

    know your 'building insurance'

    Buildings insurance as purchased by home owners will generally not cover construction related defects and the Decenal insurance often referred to as the '10 year builder's guarantee' will also NOT cover most defects (only structural stability and resitance issues are covered, so if the roof leaked or you suffered rising damp this is not covered by the standard obligatory Decenal). Whilst the builder has 3 years of responsibility for issues that affect the habitability and enjoyment of the house, this soon expires and many builders go out of business or fail to respond. The Architect also has responsibility, but rest assured.. In Spain proper correction of building defects often requires court action whether insured or not. Some estate agents and developers stress the 'builder's 10 year guarantee' as reassurance that a structural survey is not needed. Never accept this. As a surveyor in Spain I have met too many people with the same old stories of how they where told that all would be OK and everything was guaranteed only to end up with a problem (sometimes uninhabitable) property.