Floor clause and other claims overwhelm Spanish courts

supreme court ruling on bank guarantees means potential payout for buyers of spanish boom property

Spanish Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo) in Madrid

Spanish courts are on the verge of collapse under an avalanche of mortgage floor clause claims, and other claims related to property scandals.

The Justice Administration Workers’ Union (STAJ) has warned that Spanish courts are on the verge of a ‘total collapse’ in the face of an ‘avalanche’ of claims against banks for illegal mortgage floor clauses that led to borrowers being overcharged to the tune of billions of euro.

The union blames the lack of political interest in providing the justice system with adequate resources and personnel.

The crisis has come about because several recent rulings by the Spanish Supreme Court and the ECJ have made it possible for people to claim back money from banks for mortgage interest overpayments, mortgage setup costs, and off-plan stage payments and deposits lost to bankrupt developers.

Hundreds of thousand of people may now have grounds to make a claim and get their money back, leading to the courts being overwhelmed by a sudden increase in the number of claims.

GOVERNMENT INDIFFERENCE

When the magnitude of the mortgage floor clause scandal became apparent the Government set up an extra-judicial process for settling claims, which was supposed to take the strain of the justice system. However, it was roundly criticised for being too favourable to lenders, and since then the Government appears to have washed its hands of the problem.

In the meantime, a new study by an outfit called Reclamadores (Reclaims) has found that lenders are going out of their way to avoid paying up in the extra-judicial process. According to their research 95% of lenders are being uncooperative with claimants in the extra-judicial process set up by the Government. Working like a dream then.

The STAJ appealed early on to the Government to set up special courts in each province to deal with these claims, but the request was ignored. So the system is now overloaded with an avalanche of court proceedings related to mortgage claims, and no doubt off-plan deposit recovery claims too.

“Not only have they not created specialised new courts, they haven’t even bother officially to let us know which courts in each province have been blessed with the job of assessing these claims,” explains a statement from the STAJ, using heavy sarcasm.

In the light of recent rulings on mortgage floor clauses, mortgage setup costs, and off-plan deposit and stage payments, many people can now claim back money from banks for overcharged interest and lost deposits. But if the courts collapse under the workload, successful claimants may have to wait even longer to get their money back.

About Mark Stücklin

Mark Stücklin is a Barcelona-based Spanish property market analyst, and author of the 'Spanish Property Doctor' column in the Sunday Times (2005 - 2008).

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