DAN THORNEYCROFT came to Spain to enjoy semi-retirement. But his dream is fast turning into a nightmare after he discovered the home he bought for 172,000 euros is illegal and faces demolition. Here is an open letter he has written to Manuel Chaves, President of the Junta de Andalucía
I belong to a group of mainly British retired people who bought houses in El Fas, Cantoria. From all walks of life, most of us were very careful when we made the big decision to embrace the Spanish way of life and purchased our houses. Checks were made on agents, Spanish solicitors were employed, notaries processed the escrituras, and we were constantly assured that all was in order and that our houses in Spain were completely legal.
You would find it hard to imagine the horror, stress and strain of discovering that your house, into which you have put your life savings, was to become subject to demolition because it was illegal. The first any of us knew about this was when we discovered that the builders were being prosecuted and that the public prosecutor of Huercal Overa wanted to demolish 19 houses on the El Fas estate where we live. Oblivious to the fact that we were all victims of fraud, and making us double victims by threatening our homes.
We fully understand that the laws of Spain have to be upheld, but where was the law when we were cheated and lied to? We are now told that no building permissions have been issued by the town hall in Cantoria for 25 years. Why are we being punished when we had done all we could to ensure that we complied with the law and bought in good faith?
It is inconceivable that the regional authorities (represented by yourself) were unaware of the situation regarding illegal building, and thereby condoned it. Where did you think the extra revenues were coming from? Why has Spain been booming in recent years? Where did all the businesses that profited from the mainly British investments think that the money came from? It really is shameful that they should suggest that we should pay to have our homes legalised. What about sharing some of the profits that have made out of us? Profits from crime, which the government has shared in with the taxes that have been paid.
Our builders have received around 4 million euros from the owners of illegal homes at El Fas. We now find that we have no electricity except from a very expensive to run generator (generously provided by the Mayor of Cantoria) and water from who knows where. All because we have been lied and cheated to, and cannot get the correct paperwork for our houses.
Tens of thousands of people now find themselves in the same situation. Why was this allowed to happen? This is the shame of Spain! The realisation that so many houses are now classed as illegal was the main cause of the property slump in Spain, long before the current worldwide economic problems.
All we want is to live out our lives in peace, and enjoy your wonderful country among the good Spanish people. Surely this is our basic human right.
We hope that you can do all in your power to help us, and would request the following:
1. Take away the threat of demolition.
2. Allow us to gain mains electricity and water. We can then contribute to the local councils and pay our bills correctly as we would all wish to do.
3. Sequester the assets of the builders and developers who have acted illegally and use this to carry out any further work to enable developments such as ours to become fully legal. Their assets are the result of criminal activity and within European law can be confiscated.
3. Further punish those responsible by applying the criminal laws of Spain.
4. Use any money remaining to compensate the victims.
These actions would bring much needed revenue into the towns and the service industries, and would cost very little. We estimate that the population of our few houses in El Fas spends in the region of 4,000 euros per week in the locality. Multiply this by the many thousands more properties and you can see that this is a massive amount of money being put into the Spanish economy.
Some good news in the press could help enormously in the revival of the building and property industry in the region, and we would all do our utmost in ensuring that the good news travels fast.