The UK government has appointed a special overseas property advisor to deal with complaints from dozens of action groups representing British expats who have lost hundreds of millions in property scams throughout Spain.
The problems include illegal properties that do not have correct building permits, cases where off-plan developments have not been built as specified and the length of time and cost involved in resolving property disputes.
The British ambassador to Spain has raised the concerns with the Andalucian regional government and the Minister for Public Works and Housing. ‘The UK government has no authority to interfere in any matters relating to Spanish domestic legislation, whether national, regional or local. However, we continue to express concern at the impact these problems are having on the lives of some of our citizens and Spain’s reputation abroad,’ said a spokesman for the British Embassy in Spain.
‘We have raised property issues with ministers in Spain and regional governments on numerous occasions. We understand the regional government is currently working with town halls in affected municipalities to draw up inventories of illegal properties and to seek solutions. We believe that the regularisation of these properties will come through updates and modifications to local town development plans,’ he added.
The British embassy’s website advises British people to take advice before buying property in Spain. ‘It is important to thoroughly research the area you are considering purchasing in, as well as companies you might use (developers, estate agents and lawyers). You should look at a range of properties with different agents to compare prices and ensure that you do not end up paying over the odds,’ it says.
The action groups point out that some parts of Spain are virtually blighted. According to Abusos Urbanisticos Lliber – NO! (AULN), an action group made up of expats who bought 298 family homes in the upmarket, inland village of Lliber on the Costa Blanca more than ten years ago, the root of the problem is arrangements made between former town hall officials and builders to build with building licences granted by the town hall but without authority from the regional government.
Wholesale construction continued from 1999-2004, by which time an estimated £60 million was handed over to developers by unsuspecting expat families and retired couples. Some €2.4 million were recovered last year when police arrested the town hall architect and found the money in a private Andorran bank account.
More are currently awaiting trial for corruption and fraud relating to the illegal building of homes in Lliber including the ex-mayor José Mas Avellá, British builder Trevor Bourne and agent Miguel Muntaner who had accumulated 100,000 square meters of land in the Marina Alta as well as 16 houses and seven cars.
According to Charles Svoboda, vice president of the Valencian action group Abusos Urbanisticos – No (AUN) the laws are too lax and full of loopholes that tend to favour the unscrupulous promoters, developers, estate agents, lawyers, notaries, town halls, etc involved in the process, whose main aim has been to make as much money as fast as possible.