Criticism for property service run by Spanish government
When the Spanish government unveiled a new property register in English designed to simplify the buying process and clarify whether properties were legal and safe to buy, it was supposed to encourage British buyers to dip a toe back into the Spanish property market.
Despite the hype, Spain’s online Land Registry service has been criticised as unreliable and out-of-date Photo: Frans Lemmens / Alamy


3:17PM BST 14 Oct 2011

That was until users began to complain that the service provides what they say is misleading documentation in indecipheral English.

In exchange for €23 euros, prospective British buyers can search for a property online, carry out their own due diligence and, should they wish to buy one, receive a Land Registry Certificate that proves they bought their property in good faith. In theory completing this process guarantes them judicial support.

However, a check on a 5,000 square-metre property bought by Colin and Sandra Byrne in 2006 correctly states the size and description of the property in Albanilla, even down to the sloping ceilings and the fact that “the main front faces the mid day” [sic].

What it fails to mention is that the €275,000 property with a €25,000 landscaped garden is subject to a land grab by a developer, who plans to use half of the Byrnes’ land as part of an urbanisation project that will include 47 car parking spaces, two houses and a public space.

Colin Byrne said: “The first thing that struck me was it looked as if someone had taken the information in Spanish from the records and ‘googled’ it into English.

“They described my plot, which is full of olive and almond trees, as ‘a piece of dry land for cultivation of cereals with an area of 48 areas 80 centiares’.

“But more importantly for a prospective buyer, I would think, is the fact that my property is subject to a ‘land grab’, which went unmentioned on the document that cost me €23.

“A builder is planning an urbanisation and I and three of my neighbours stand to lose over 50 per cent of our gardens. The plans have been in Abanilla Town Hall since June 2007 and we had the official notification in 2010.”

It is not just the translated documents that are giving cause for concern. The service seems to be equally flawed in Spanish.

A check on a house bought by Len and Helen Prior in 2003 reveals its location in Almeria and the fact it had a “rectangular pool with semicircular stair access”, but doesn’t disclose the fact it was deemed to be illegal. It was demolished in January 2008.

A search for details on a further two properties deemed illegal three years ago in Albox and subjected to demolition orders that were later suspended pending a retrial, returns no information relating to the properties’ legal history.

The property service in English was rolled out shortly after Spain’s housing secretary Beatriz Corredor came to London with the Spanish Property Roadshow in April this year.

Prior to her arival, she was reported in a Sunday Telegraph interview as saying: “Come here calmly, and trust in the system that we have and the transparency we provide.

“If there is not any mention of legal proceedings on the document, the person who buys the property through the correct channels will then know there is judicial support.”

The online service was part of a package of reforms steered through the Spanish parliament in a bid to improve Spain’s tarnished real estate reputation and boost its withered economy by encouraging investment.

A spokesman for the Spanish government said: “Last July, the Spanish government approved a new regulation that, amongst other measures, obliges town councils to inform the Association of Spanish Property and Commercial Registrars about any urban development regarding properties. As every regulation in democracy, it doesn’t have retroactively [sic].”

There are estimated to be 700,000 unsold holiday homes in Spain, the majority of which are located along the southern coastlines, where property prices have dropped by as much as 60 per cent in certain regions.

The second leg of the Spanish property roadshow is currently in London, providing a platform for developers to sell their properties to UK buyers.