December 13, 2009 at 10:46 am #55342
What you are about to read.
For those who are relatively new to the property purchase experience in Spain, I am hoping this will help open your eyes regards to what you cannot assume and pitfalls to look out for when considering buying.
I’ve just come across a response to the Auken Report by a very active expat group called ‘AUAN’ (Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No) regarding all the various abuses that have taken place regards to property purchase in Almanzora Valley. The same problems have been replicated across Spain.
In case you are not aware, due to countless thousands of complaints and petitions to the EU regarding the abuse of rights of purchasers, an investigation by the EU resulted in a report called the Auken Report.
It is probably the best ‘in a nutshell’ synopsis of all what has been going wrong for purchasers, in the main all caused by corrupt local Town Hall officials, Government departments who change the rules (and even the legality of building licences) retrospectively, and even those in the legal profession.
Wading through countless forums for information on what to look out for regarding these pitfalls is tiring and hard-going. Five minutes of your time to read this AUAN letter to the EU is possibly the most worthwhile ‘have your eyes opened’ five minutes you can spend.
Don’t misunderstand me, I am not advocating that you shouldn’t buy in Spain if that is your intention. And I’m certainly not saying it is impossible to buy in Spain without getting caught up in the mess and misery this corruption has created. I just want to give you an insight into what has been going on and therefore aspects to look out for. This hopefully will enable you to be better equipped with knowledge when making any decisions. Many of us here certainly wish we had had this ‘eye-opener’ before we took the plunge.
The purpose of posting the AUAN letter is not to simply ‘have a moan’ about how corrupt the whole purchasing system is/has been, it is to hopefully serve a practical purpose in helping future purchasers become aware and learn of what can happen, despite careful research and appointing a legal professional.
Many of us on this forum have learned a lot from various contributing members since joining but unfortunately for us it’s all been too late. New purchasers have the chance not to make the same mistakes, although in all honesty ‘mistakes’ is the wrong word – becoming a victim of those who abused their position for personal/financial gain is a better description.
I’m posting a copy of AUAN’s letter in a seperate post below. Good luck!
December 13, 2009 at 11:00 am #95577
Letter from AUAN in response to the Auken report
Our fears for the future!
The information contained herein has been compiled to highlight the many problems we in the Almanzora Valley are experiencing due to the enormous abuse conducted within the Spanish building industry. It is by no means exhaustive but will hopefully give you an understanding of our position and why we have raised our concerns with you.
Recommendations made in your report & what has been done!
Calls upon the Spanish authorities and regional governments, in particular the Valencian Government, who are under obligation to respect and apply the provisions of the EU Treaty and EU laws, to recognise the individual’s legitimate right to their legally acquired property and to establish, in law, more precisely defined criteria regarding the application of Article 33 of the Spanish Constitution concerning the public interest, in order to prevent and forbid the abuse of people’s property rights by decisions of local and regional authorities;
Action to Date: NONE
Calls into question the methods of designation and frequently excessive powers given in practice to urbanisers and property developers by certain local authorities at the expense of local communities and the citizens who have their homes and their legally acquired property there;
Action to Date: The Almanzora Valley has experienced a series of ‘in camera’ court cases to root out corruption with charges that include; abuse of office, bribery, abuse of urban planning powers, forgery, buying of favours, prohibited negotiations and abuse of power in general.
Observations: We are of the opinion that the practice of favouritism continues unabated to the detriment of the homeowner.
Urges local authorities to consult their citizens and involve them in urban development projects in order to encourage acceptable and sustainable urban development where this is necessary, in the interest of local communities, not in the sole interest of the property developers, estate agents and other vested interests;
Action to Date: In practice, the process of public consultation remains paternalistic and obscure. In order to track the planning decisions of our local authorities we have volunteer members who monitor the official output of our Town Halls. We then employ a planner to request a copy of any new planning documents and prepare a report for our members. We have initiated legal proceedings against one council and are in the process of initiating legal proceedings against another because of the lack of proper public consultation in the planning process.
Observations: Whilst the Junta de Andalucía introduced legislation in 2007 obliging Councils to publish plans electronically, this rarely happens in practice in our area and, when it does, it happens well into the public review period.
The laws exist to control this process but they are NOT enforced. The AUAN is forced to act as an independent watchdog in the matter because no one else will.
Strongly condemns the covert practice of certain property developers to undermine by subterfuge the legitimate ownership of property by European citizens by interfering with the registration of land and calls upon local authorities to establish proper legal safeguards against this practice;
Action to Date: NONE.
Observations: In a further twist to this tale we have evidence that banks have permitted constructors to raise mortgages on properties constructed illegally on rustic land without the homeowner’s knowledge and consent. The homeowner then becomes liable should the constructor default.
Calls upon regional authorities to establish special administrative tribunals involving local ombudsmen, to which independent investigation services should report, which should have a power of arbitration in relation to disputes concerning urbanisation projects, and which should be accessible free of charge to those directly affected by urbanisation programmes, including those who are victims of illegal property deals concerning unauthorised urban development;
Action to Date: NONE.
Your Recommendation: Considers that where compensation is required for loss of property that this should be at proper rates which conform to the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.
Action to Date: NONE.
Observation: If a judge orders our house to be demolished we are expected to sue the builder for compensation. In Spain a company (SL) has a limited liability of €3,000 euros if it goes into liquidation. The homeowner can also be charged for the costs of demolition.
So what has the Junta de Andalucía done?
• The Junta has ordered an inspection of all of the ‘irregular’ houses in the Valley of Almanzora. To date they have found 11,000. The Inspection is due to conclude in December 2009.
• The Junta has begun to enforce planning legislation first introduced in 2002 (Ley de Ordenacion Urbanistica de Andalucia or LOUA) which requires all of our Town Halls to produce an urban plan. These plans must take notice of the results from the inspection team with respect to the legalisation of our homes i.e. Will we be in the 95% that the Junta has stated will be ‘regularised’ in some way or in the 5% that will be demolished because they are on protected land or in a dangerous position?
Sounds like progress but the devil is in the detail. The LOUA does not allow for the existence of a house on rustic land for any purpose other than agriculture. So, we must wait until a town plan expands gradually to encompass our property. This process will take many years and may never be achieved. Each iteration of a PGOU takes 6-9 months to create and approximately 2 years to approve.
As none of the recommendations with respect to undue influence in the Town Halls has been enacted, the homeowner must continue to compete with powerful vested interests in the planning process.
As the recommendation for independent arbitration and support for the homeowner has been ignored we must struggle to understand the complex process of planning legislation as it is ‘reverse engineered’ unto our homes.
The construction industry is in serious recession and a number of promoters have gone out of business or cannot afford to pay the costs for necessary infrastructure. This might leave the homeowner with no option but to carry those costs. It is further feared that Town Halls will not pursue, even where possible, promoters for costs relating to required infrastructures but pass these to homeowners as an easier solution, even though they, the Town Halls, should have incorporated or ‘bonded’ these costs at first planning stage.
For those who have been denied access to mains water and electricity there is now the cost of a ‘special licence’ being sought by Town Halls which starts at €850.
So what do we fear?
It is reported that inspection teams have identified 11,000 illegal houses in Almanzora. This is a huge problem!
1. We are fearful that current actions, especially those relating to any fines; demands for infrastructure payments; and the like; will lead to many home owners being put into a worse financial situation than they are in at present. This is already leading to much stress and anxiety for our members and, of course, many others.
2. We are fearful that this could also lead to many being forced to return to their homeland having lost their life savings because they cannot afford to legalise their home.
3. We fear that our constructors, our Town Halls, our architects and our lawyers will get away with what they have done because continents drift faster than a Spanish civil court case. A moot point anyway if you can’t afford to sue.
4. We are concerned that NEW areas of urbanisations will be included in some plans before the legalisation of properties already being occupied.
5. We believe that if the current plan of action continues without significant change many owners will not see a solution in their life-time. You will be aware that under Spanish Planning Laws an urbanisation can only grow by a permitted amount over a certain period. This restriction has knowingly been far exceeded in many districts. Many owners will therefore not be made legal as authorities ‘hide’ behind this rule. The very one they broke in the first place! This law needs to be altered to allow for the existence of homes on rustic land for purposes not related to agriculture. You can imagine the constant fear and concern this brings when people see a distinct possibility that they will pass the problem and the possible financial burden on to their children.
6. We fear that we will be blamed and held responsible. In many cases home owners have been ‘duped’ into becoming a promoter of their property therefore liable to future infrastructure costs and any possible penalties (civil and criminal) that should have been the responsibility of the builders. We are already experiencing a problem where builders charge owners for various utilities and then fail to pay the supply company. Some owners have now been cut off from these services and asked to pay the outstanding charges or pay a large sum for re-connection.
7. We fear that we are seen as a ‘cash generator’ for our impoverished Councils. 50% of our members do not have access to mains water or electricity. Some local councils now require that the owners pay exorbitant amounts to be given permission to connect to these services.
8. We have no certainty! Some members have fully legalised documents for their property, now to be told that the Junta of Andalucía has withdrawn building licences for ‘irregularities’, in many cases court proceeding are being actioned. Their documents have official stamps from the very people that now take these actions.
9. We fear there is no justice! While many of our Human Rights have and continue to be abused, we know that we would struggle to see justice due to the slowness of Spain’s judicial system. While it would be our right to do so, it is a futile action and one that would probably take as long, if not longer, than the process they are currently taking. Many cannot afford it. To this extent we implore you to continue to seek, on our behalf, a fair and speedy solution.
10. We fear (with some justification) that we will be pilloried in the Spanish press, made scapegoats and portrayed as somehow complicit in the scandal of urban abuse. For example, an article in Teleprensa published 2nd September 2009 titled ‘Harsh attack by the British Community in Cantoria on the issue of illegal houses’ asserts that British residents knowingly purchased property on non urbanised land, made
‘black money’ payments to avoid Spanish tax, bought houses cheaply and most bizarrely of all, moved to Spain to take advantage of a free health care system.
11. We fear that our homes will be left in limbo, outside of any known planning regulation or ‘fuera de ordenacion’ with no legal status, no paperwork and simply left to return to the dust as a forgotten statistic of the Spanish planning scandal. We observe that this fear is already becoming a reality as the town plans emerge.
You are, of course, aware that many citizens from the European community settled in Spain believing that, having used the services of a local solicitor; they had purchased a legal property; only later to find out that their homes were illegal. You know that the Spanish authorities knew and allowed this practice to continue. That Governments and Town Halls continued to build knowing that they were breaking the planning laws. That profit and, in many cases, corruption was more important than complying with such laws.
These owners, having used the Spanish legal framework for the purchase, now find they are expected to shoulder the blame, and future costs, in order to get what they have already paid for. The Spanish authorities, which include many Notaries, Lawyers, Town Halls and Regional Governments, were aware of the abuses, and in many cases are implicated in the corruption.
We hope that you will consider the issues raised and can see why we are in ‘fear of the future’.
No European citizen should be placed, and possibly live the remainder of their life, in these circumstances.
December 15, 2009 at 8:39 am #95611
Charlie, where did you find this? I didn’t see it on the AUAN website.
For me its very depressing reading.
December 15, 2009 at 10:43 am #95614
December 15, 2009 at 11:11 am #95615
well done for posting this. If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind!!
December 15, 2009 at 1:05 pm #95621
I hope that your post with it’s content could be made a permanent feature on here for all newbies to see rather than drop off the page, people are less likely to wade through previous pages of topics.
charlie could you post it as a topic under ”Buying Property’ on http://www.eyeonspain.com as their topics tend to be there permanently?
December 15, 2009 at 9:17 pm #95640
Thanks Charlie for spotting this – and thanks to AUAN for writing so succinctly. Copies sent to my MEPs and to supportive journalists.
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