Demolition orders for a dozen expatriates in Spain

LAST UPDATED: 8 Nov, 2010 @ 09:18
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OLIVE PRESS EXCLUSIVE
By Jon Clarke in Albox

A DOZEN British homeowners are fighting the threat of homelessness after being served with demolition notices.

Their dream homes in Almeria are due to be knocked down in the new year unless a last-ditch appeal saves them

The families – many of whom have lived in the Albox area for up to a decade – last night vowed to blockade themselves in their homes to try to stop the demolitions being carried out.

It is almost exactly two years since British couple Len and Helen Prior’s home was bulldozed in the same province.

Everything we have accumulated in our lives has been invested in this project.”

Former builder John Burns, 82, who suffers from a heart condition, said: “We got handed the demolition order just before Christmas.

“It is so completely unjust. My wife is very stressed out. Everything we have accumulated in our lives has been invested in this project.”

The Junta has been waging an unbalanced campaign against former officials accused of allowing over-development of various coastal regions.

The local town hall had issued building licences for all the 11 homes under threat, but they were nullified following court action instigated by the Junta.

The 11 owners have insisted they had no idea their houses had been declared illegal.

“The first I knew of any problems was when a police officer knocked at the door and gave me the demolition notice,” continued Burns, a pensioner, who emigrated to Spain in 2001 with wife Muriel after suffering a heart attack which forced him to sell his building firm.

“It’s a beautiful three-bed detached house surrounded by olive groves. It’s our life’s dream.
“The expiry date on the notice is April 9. My wife’s been crying from the day we received it. Our Christmas was ruined.”

Christine Payne, a former employee at Legal and General took early retirement to emigrate to Spain in 2000 with her husband Noel, said: “We had our house built in 2002 and moved in the following year.

“The first I knew of our home being under threat was two days before Christmas when our builder rang to say the police wanted us to go to the local station.

I feel so angry because we’ve got all our paperwork in order

“We haven’t been served with our demolition order yet but we know we’re on the list.

“I feel so angry because we’ve got all our paperwork in order. We’re only finding out now that the building licences issued by the town hall were challenged by the regional government and nullified. No-one ever told us or our builder.

“If the bulldozers turn up we’re going to get as many people inside the house as we can to try to stop them.
“We’re going to get a solicitor but they charge a fortune and all our money’s in our house.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do if we end up losing it. We’ve only got our state pensions and very small private pensions to survive on.”

An expatriate support group, Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No (Auan), is sponsoring an appeal on the grounds of human rights.

Maura Hillen, the group’s president, said: “We’ll fight these demolition orders on the basis these people’s human rights were infringed because they weren’t informed of the legal proceedings against their homes.

Hillen, who also has a home that has been deemed to have irregular paperwork, continued: “The situation is very serious and our lawyer shares our opinion.

“We’re trying not to terrify people but it’s a frightening prospect.

“The way these orders were served on people, just before Christmas and without any warning, was very callous.”

Hillen, whose group has 250 members, added: “Building licences for all these houses were issued by Albox town hall.

“The regional Andalucian government impuned them because of a perceived risk of ‘urban nucleus’. At the same time they have given planning permission for 400 more homes just near the town.

“They’ve been the subject of court action for the last six years but no-one seems to have informed the homeowners. It’s appalling.”

The Priors are still living in a converted garage in Vera, close to Albox. Theur 350,000 euro property was demolished in January 2008 after the regional government revoked the building licence issued by the town hall.

Auan is co-hosting a candelit vigil on Jan 9 at the site where their home once stood to mark the two-year anniversary of its demolition.

The Priors are yet to receive any compensation for the loss of their home

41 COMMENTS

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  1. I wonder if any Spanish people stop to consider just what it means to their country’s standing in the world continually to highlight the sheer incompetence of the system of government and justice that exists with all these declarations of illegality? Or do they even care that they have a ramshackle arrangement that, were it not so tragic for those involved, would be laughable? The Auken report to the European parliament failed to elicit any sanctions by the EU, but I suggest these new cases and all the ones yet to appear, be brought to the attention of those who care in the EU (Margaret Auken, Michael Cashman et al) Eventually, something might be done.

  2. Why is the Junta punishing the people who bought the houses in good faith, rather than the builders who profited and the town hall officials who accepted the bribes to grant the licences? The Junta should seize the builders and town hall employees assets, then knock down the houses after compensating the buyers. Is it a case of persecute the foreigners first until it all blows over? Can we have a report on what the Junta are doing to persue the builders?

  3. When will the Junta de Andalucia wake up and realise that these totally unjust demolition orders will destroy the faith of everybody who is thinking of relocating to this beautiful part of Spain.

    If adminisrative errors have occurred in the granting of building licenses, surely those responsible for issuing them are to blame, not the innocent buyers.

    Why were the illegalities not pointed out by the lawyers and Notarios acting for the buyers, they surely knew the laws better than any expats who bought in good faith.

    It is time for acting sensibly on allegedly illegal houses built with the permission of local Town Halls.

    Start the New Year with strictly enforcable laws as opposed to waiting 8 or 10 years before retrospectively cancelling licenses .
    This cannot be considered just by any standards.

  4. All sensible comments from my learned friends above; but the Spanish authorities just cannot see sense here. How on earth can a buyer be to blame if the SYSTEM allows them to purchase?

    This really has to go to the Court of Human Rights for judgement as quickly as possible. However, I doubt if even a ruling from them would halt these orders. It seems that Spain runs in universe devoid of logic and common sense. It is the Junta, the lawyers, the notaries and the agents, the developers and all the other co-conspirators that need to be in front of a judge and the goverment needs to compensate these people immediately.

    Buyer beware, they say. However, what chance has the buyer if the legal system does not work. Whose fault is that? SPAIN of course.

  5. I’m afraid the problem is that everybody in the rural parts of Spain have family relatives in each sector. So, to ask the government or judge to crack down on the real perpetraitors is actually asking them to investigate, arrest and fine or imprison their uncle, cousin, brother etc who are the same town hall officials, mayors, notaries, lawyers and, scarily 90% of the time, builders and landowners that caused the fraudulent situation in the first place. Most villagers in this region went from farmer to builder overnight.

    Spain has always lived by its own rules and always will.

    I actually overheard one Spanish builder in a bar talking about this very same subject. His name was still registered as the landowner even though the houses he built on the same land were subsequently sold to foreigners. He actually welcomes demolition because he can rebuild the houses afterwards, after his land of raised houses is made urbanised, so is in effect selling and profitting from the same houses twice. It is well known in these parts that the foreign purchasers are known as “sheep” because they are easily fleeced over and over again.

  6. Fred you’re absolutely correct of course as we have agreed before and do so every time this very thing happens and CONTINUES to happen! When Jerzy Buzek the crooked EU President and his committee failed to take any action against Spain just before Christmas even though it was their 3rd such infringement in 7 or 8 years for the same offence-that is, Corruption,fraud,breaking property planning law etc and failing to take action against the known offenders, it was a dot on the cards that those who were committing the offences were going to see that they had been given the GREEN LIGHT by the EU to continue cheating and shafting those wishing to purchase property, be they Spanish,German though in the main they would be British.Buzek kicked in the teeth all those property owners who looked to the EU in hope for some kind of justice against these “tramposos” after MEP’s Margrethe Auken and Michael Cashman spent so much time completing their report on the corruption that is now rife in Andalucia and Valencia.

  7. Too many of the above comments ring too true for me to ever feel comfortable again about living in Spain. A conspiracy between planners, builders, notaries, agents, lawyers, even perhaps banks, to first of all build illegal houses and then profit again from their demolition and re-erection elsewhere seems too plausible not to be true. A conspiracy of greed, racism, driven perhaps by hatred of foreigners, judging by the inhuman demolition orders issued just before Christmas.
    What can anyone do to fight these crooks who infest the entire fabric of life in Spain? The EU has failed, the Spanish legal system is biased heavily towards the perpetrators, so what can we do? Well, remember Trade Unions? What we need is a mass contributing body of home-owners to do exactly what our trade-unionist forefathers did for us over the last hundred years. Mass demonstrations, mass picketing, marches, all in support of those victims of this miserable so-called State of Spain. And by mass I don’t mean hundreds of supporters, I mean tens of thousands. The EU won’t wake up to lend support until that happens on a big enough scale.

  8. This kind of behaviour allowed by the Spanish government puts them on par with the worst sort of regimes the world has known. Any one buying a home in Spain now knows that the words and documents of lawyers, notaries and government mean nothing.
    To penalise the victim is wicked and intolerable only made worse by so called “Good People” in the EU and UK looking on and doing nothing.
    I know its hurting other arears of Spanish commerce as my son works relocating businesses through Europe, Spain has been taken of his companies lists as nobody trusts Spanish title on land any more.

  9. THE MONSTERS OF SEVILLA
    They are starting again, the demolition of legally built houses, owned by elderly British expatriates.
    At their age, some may not even get away with their lives.
    Please support us against the “MONSTERS OF SEVILLA” (The Junta de Andalucia

    The Junta de Andalucia condoned rampant development and have enjoyed the huge financial benefits, they have been the primary motivators of these property scandals.
    Having been caught out, they respond in a typical tyrannical manner, terrorizing the weakest in their community. These callous and ruthless beings in power have been ordering uniformed police, presumably armed, to knock on elderly peoples doors, with the warnings, that their lives are about to come to an end, “the feared demolition order”, how twisted and bitter to carry this out just before Christmas. What excuse do the police have, “we are only carrying out our orders”
    Had these buffoons at the Junta done the work they had been so handsomely paid for, none of this would be taking place.
    These terrorists at the Junta must and should be taken to task for their criminal activities, ruining the lives of so many and bringing so much shame on the whole of Spain
    CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY

  10. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH – DEMOLITIONS IN ALBOX

    Peaceful Protest March 11th January

    The presentation, just before Christmas, of demolition orders to unsuspecting homeowners in Albox, without any sign of compensation, has been the catalyst for the community to take to the streets and make its voice heard. The AUAN (an organisation of homeowners in the area campaigning to obtain legal status for local properties) is organising a march in Almeria town on the 11th of January to protest against this scandal and appeal to the authorities to respond to the just demands of those innocent people who invested in good faith and are now facing the possible loss of their home and life savings.

    We are protesting against legal and planning uncertainty, against bad administration and corruption, against the failure to respect citizens’ human rights and against the failure of the administration to comply with European Parliament resolutions including the Auken report.

    We cannot sit back and watch these demolitions and will do everything possible to avoid this injustice.

    March Route

    The starting point for the demonstration is the Puerta de Purchena at midday (12.00). The route is envisaged to follow the Ramble de Obispo Orbera to the Rambla de Almería (Avenida de Federico García Lorca). There will be a pause for speeches in the area of the Obelisk in calle Regina Regente and the marchers will return to Puerta de Purchena at approximately 15.00.

    We are not prepared to stand politely by as more unfortunate families are destroyed through no fault of their own. Recourse to further demolitions will only further damage Spain’s image abroad. The authorities must be made to realise that to continue with these actions is not acceptable, is contrary to the rights of its citizens, attracts damaging and hostile publicity and is tantamount to economic suicide in this region.

    Support Us

    We ask all citizens and groups who wish to raise their voice and make their presence felt to turn up and support us.

  11. It’s good to read the email support for those people whom have been served with demolition orders,and yes, spain will eventually pay the price for the adverse publicity but, in the meantime, you will lose what is widely considered to be a persons most valuable asset, without any compensation. Emails are just fine words,even the EU has demonstrated on numerous occasions how corrupt the federal union can be when, it comes to actually implementing punishment on wayward states. Therefore what is required is direct action against those that wage war on you without justifiable cause. History shows us that,eventually opposing factions always explore the possibility of negotiating a peaceful and equitable solution.

  12. I take it Fred Smith that you are advocating the use of Guerilla Warfare as a means to an end to solve this problem? If that’s the case then I for one make you right because no amount of talking to any of these bastards even if they could be bothered will get you anywhere. They have absolutely NO intention of admitting they were wrong in the past and NO intention of changing the way they go about things to trace the REAL GUILTY PARTIES RESPONSIBLE.The Police pick on the buyer who is held responsible for any blame and offences and the Courts fine or jail THAT person,NOT the CROOKED ANDALUCIAN Promoter,Builder,Lawyer,Notary etc.

  13. There is a lot of truth in what Fred Smith and Paul say. When the authorities take inhuman actions against reasonable people, those reasonable people react in any way they can. Then you get civil unrest and the growth of organizations like PIRA and ETA replacing the original reasonable people with their justified complaints by extremists. In the Chiclana area where thousands of Spanish owned homes are threatened there is strong talk in many of the ventas.
    It needs the normal Spanish people to make the moves against the Junta or you will see the race card played and it will be all the “Brits” fault.

    What anoys me is the inaction of the UK government. The Foreign Office should be making strong representations, however it looks as thought the only thing the Foreign Office represents is itself.
    I understand other countries are being told that they can not join the EU because of systemic corruption. Well I think the EU needs to show the Spanish Government the yellow card.

  14. The problem is with Andalucía, not with Spain in general. A trip to the North will open your eyes to how different the cultures and attitudes are. With Spain only recently emerging from a dictatorship, the country is divided within itself. How can you expect the country to fully comply with EU laws if it is still struggling to get all its own regions to comply with a standard set of laws and government?!
    Whilst my heart goes out to those genuine people who are in the process of losing their homes (it must be a nightmare and I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone), it must also be said that a good number of homes on the Escrituras are registered as ‘Tool Sheds’ or ‘Warehouses’ and not as residential properties (‘viviendas’). I imagine that because the owners don’t speak Spanish, they never thought to check this out. It doesn’t mean it’s 100% legal even if you use a solicitor. Andalucian solicitors are nowhere near in the same league as a UK solicitor. ALWAYS check what is written on the Escritura and a recent Nota Simple before signing a house. You need to check that the buidling says ‘Vivienda’ and see the ‘metros construidos’ for the house itself (not patios, terraces etc). This is something the banks do now as a routine before giving out a mortgage.

  15. Christopher, that advice is rather late – nobody is buying houses in Spain. The reason you employ a lawyer is to check those things for you and if they do not and tell you- they are crooks. Myself and all my friends in Chiclana have Viveienda on the Escritura but they still have not been granted habitation licences. There is no excuse for this crookery. The Civil War is not an excuse to go and rob people of their life savings. Its just a case of crooks in high places being allowed to get away with it. Happens every where but you do have to deal with it.

  16. Christopher, you don’t seem very clued up on the reality of the situation, and you are an estate agent. A few threads ago you were telling me that Spain has a “different type of corruption” than other countries, whatever that means. As Steve said, he has “vivienda” on his escritura – and it means nada!

    How do you guarantee legality of the houses you sell, Chris? Surely, that’s a lawyers job? And that’s where people mostly get failed.

  17. Without going into the ins and outs of the Albox problems, I would suggest that all owners throughout Spain whose properties are demolished, buy a tent and camp outside the Seville offices of the Junta. Sooner or later, assuming that they are registered as residents and not just a second-home owners, the authorities must take action to possibly re-house these residents whose homes they have knocked down.
    If you are a resident and Spain is your home then you must be prepared to face a prison sentence in fighting for your right to live in Spain following the illegal destruction of your only home.
    Never give in and simply go back to the UK. Fight the crooks who run this country and live off the fat of the land.

  18. @FRED: I never said I was an Estate Agent. You came to that conclusion all on your own with your sarcastic “jack of all trades remark” (I can show you all my diplomas too!). I WORK for an Estate Agent and the fact that we have a great relationship with all our customers, my bosses have 10 years experience in the business, and we have passed the regular inspections from the Junta (we are 100% Decree 218 compliant) just goes to show that we know a lot more about property than YOU seem to.
    “How do you guarantee legality of the houses you sell, Chris? Surely, that’s a lawyers job?” That is why we work closely with solicitors, the Catastro office, Land Registry and Recaudación. If you’re serious about wanted to know how to sell or buy a house legally, then we’d be more than happy for you to pop by our office and we’ll explain it to you but then, going by your comments on other posts, it seems to me that you’re just a person with a lot of time on his hands who has nothing better to do than make senseless remarks about other people’s comments instead of doing something positive for the community. (I could be mistaken but I doubt it) :)

  19. @FRED: By the way, did you not read my colleague’s articles (David Laver) in the OP entitled “Sellers Beware” and “Our House Is In Order”? They are available online to read if you don’t have the paper copies.

  20. Christopher. So you work for an estate agent. So what does that make you then? A plumber? lol.

    Surely, you are a real estate consultant then? Can you clarify that? I mean, if I was a buyer and I came to see you, and then you told me at our meeting that you were not an estate agent, I would be very confused.

    By the way, as you are a person who works for an estate agent, I would of course expect you (indeed want you) to know more about buying houses than I do!

    Decree 218 is a fairly new decree, and of course it does not apply to property website portals who do not meet their clients, of which there are so many these days. Some say it’s just a tax earner – one has to pay a big fee for the compliance, indeed your company said that on your own blog when you called it the “infamous decree”.

    The meaning of infamous is “having a bad reputation; notorious; deplorable; indecent; villainous” – is that a good way to describe the decree Chris?

    So you work with the Catastro office, which is frequently out of date and inaccurate. So you work with the Junta, well they have a great reputation for helping people ending up with illegal builds, indeed they are the people seeking all the demolitions and serving demolition notices at Christmas. Lovely people.

    Decree 218 is mainly to ensure that all the correct paperwork in place for a property that an agent is selling. This is what any lawyer would do anyway of course, and yet we still see people with all the paperwork, and still their house is deemed illegal. In that respect Decree 218 is not the panacea you make it out to be Chris, but its existence is still a good thing nonetheless.

    As for having time on my hands, I am a very busy person with clients all over the world. Why are you concerned at how much time I have Christopher? Are you jealous? haha

  21. @JUSTIN: I HAVE been to the North, several times, just not to Galicia. Bilbao mainly.
    @FRED: I could always do with more time on my hands if you’re willing to pass some my way!
    I work in Administration for the Estate Agent and make sure we have all the correct paperwork. Consultant would be better, as you said as I term Estate Agents as people who either own the agency or who go around showing people properties or listing them.
    Decree 218 does indeed apply to Web Portals but they are just harder to enforce. The Junta only has a handful of inspectors who are spread thin over the whole of Andalucía and as Mark said in one of his comments, it does seem at times that been honest costs you more but that’s life. Let’s hope that even those portals will be inspected with time.
    Fred, you are spot on when you say the Decree (5 years old now) is to ensure correct paperwork to back up what you’re selling. It has indeed been deemed “infamous” by many Estate Agents due to the lack of help available as to how to comply and the huge fines that accompany it.
    What would your solution be Fred? I’m referring to those people as you say who have all the relevant paperwork, their homes show up on the Catastro as more than 4 years old etc but are still illegal? Cheers.

  22. Other countries are doing it successfully. The UK, France, Germany etc all seem ok – I do not read endless articles about them having mass demolitions and marches through the streets about illegal homes, do you? So Spain needs to do what they do.

    Therein is the problem, because the issue is cultural and historical to a degree. In Spain, there has always been a culture of poorly implemented badly written and vague laws, backhanders, rampant (I mean massive) nepotism, ridiculous red tape, and of course the (in)famous laid back attitude to nearly all things – except driving – and this spills over to the legal professions and of course to the government. Everyone then gets lulled into a certain way of doing things, i.e. cutting corners. Enforcement is also a joke – I mean, a developer is told to stop building an illegal home, and then carries on, and even manages to sell it! That is just a sign of very backward administration.

    Also, Spain has horrificly bad systems in place – like local Mayors with all the power, and therefore being tempted by corruption, and then poor backup systems to enforce the laws and decrees. No point in having decrees without people backing them up.

    Spain needs a ground up restart basically. It needs new laws based on Northern European systems, which work better than Spain. They are not perfect, but they they are light years ahead of Spain. It needs less Mayoral powers, and it needs education, education and more education, and it needs cultural changes and perceptions to change. The service industry needs to get clued up and become efficient also. And as I said, enforcement, and rapid processing of land abuses with stiff sentences and no get off’s due to technicalities. New laws to stop collusion between developers and agents and lawyers are also needed.

    As for the people with the four year old (and ten year old in some cases) houses who have all the paperwork and are still illegal, there needs to be a moritorium on all illegal builds where people have paperwork, and then compensation needs to be given, and then Spain needs to get its land registry in order and its planning system as well, in order to ensure these problems do not happen again.

    Spain is not a nanny state and that is admirable in many senses, but it has also helped destroy it. Sometimes greater policing of a country’s systems are required. People need policing – they ultimately become corrupt, and if there are no proper systems, they will keep on being corrupt. Super efficient Spain and laid back Spain are like oil and water; hard to mix, and culturally not what people want – so they get the system they end up with, which is what they have now: CRAP.

    I’m surprised you want to sell houses in Spain Chris!

  23. Btw, when you said “being honest costs you more – that’s life” summarises everthing that is wrong with Spain in a nutshell – even you believe it Chris! I don’t. This is not how it should be at all – it is the way it is because it is inefficient, corrupt, and the laws are a mess and nothing is properly enforced. Mark should be given support and those illegal establishments shut down by the authorities, not by him making denuncias. Denuncias are Spain’s way of self-policing the country, rather then properly enforcing laws.

    Remember that those people with “illegal builds” have been paying taxes for years. The authorities took it and didn’t bat an eyelid – this behaviour is endemic in Spain, it’s part of their culture. Change that attitude and Spain changes very quickly.

  24. I’m glad you like what I post Chris, and I’m glad we’re mates again. You must come around for tea :)

    It does seem like we are powerless, and that is something just about every country’s electorate says at one time or another, however in Spain the basics really are not right. The peoples right to a legal home, a job, proper justice, proper local government, and proper citizens rights, must come first. Otherwise, we’re heading for a possible revolution.

    Fred for President is what I say. I’ll sort them out.

  25. @FRED: Congratulations on a couple of excellent posts. Now THAT is the sort of thing I like to read… people’s well thought out comments and reasons to why they think what they do. I’m 100% with you on giving support to Mark but how do we go about it? Everything you said is true but we still seem powerless to stop it or change it.
    I’d never thought of denuncias as self-policing before but that is essentially what they are.
    That said, I love living here (in my urban flat) but let’s hope that things change for the better soon, for those in the country.

  26. You wouldn’t be doing Sñr Bermudez out of a job Fred. He’s just a lowly delegado. It’s “La Pili”, who is excellent at looking good for photo opportunities but nothing much else, who we desperately need replaced…

  27. As far as I know, building licenses are granted for a single storey nave or almecen(warehouses or stores for agricultural purpose)in a minimum of 3 hectares of almond or olive grove on rural or agricultural land. The maximum usable sq meters for the warehouse is around 90sq m. We were informed by the project manager that we could have built a 2 storey villa with garage etc. We were also told that nobody ever inspects the property and it will be passed by the council.

    We decided to self manage and stick to the project and build a nave to the letter, exactly to plan. After alot of pushing, we managed to get the Fin the Obra, Primera de Ocupacion, Recepcion de obras, change the escrituria to include the nave, mains water from aguagest and finally register the nave with the land registry.

    It has taken us over 2 years and constant battles with the builder and architect as they continually attempt to charge us for so called extras. Fortunately, we had a detail contract drawn up to protect us from any such misconduct and managed to withhold the final payment until all the paperwork was in order. When all said and done, this building can only ever be a nave, nothing else.

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