Illegal Spanish home: British couple jailed and ordered to demolish it

LAST UPDATED: 18 Jan, 2011 @ 20:37
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Illegal Spanish home: British couple jailed and ordered to demolish it

A BRITISH couple found guilty of illegally building on non-buildable land have been given an eight month prison sentence and ordered to demolish their home.

Expats David and Janet H. who live in Torrox, Málaga were granted a licence to restore a 24 square metre property but instead built one ten times the size.

Now a judge in Málaga has found them guilty of a crime against town ordination.

And in addition Torrox Town Hall has issued a fine of 73,000 euros.

The pair bought the land in September 2000 and applied for a works licence in July the following year.

They were granted permission to rebuild the small ruins of a building that already existed.

However the court revealed: “The accused built a detached chalet type property, with a new floor, basement, swimming pool, and put tarmac on the exterior perimeter, to an area of about 240 square metres.”

Moreover, it is reported the couple ignored an order by Torrox Town Hall in January 2004 to stop all construction on the land.

As a result, they were handed a fine of 73,092 euros in September 2006, and the Town Hall opened an order to demolish the house.

When sentencing the couple, the Magistrate ruled the property cannot be made legal and he considerd the demolition to be ‘proportionate’.

44 COMMENTS

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  1. Alcalaina,
    everyone knows a few politicians have gone to jail (and kept their ill gotten gains) but these English are ordinary people – how many ordinary Spanish have received jail terms, been fined serious money and received demolition orders?

  2. Many thanks Alcalaina, but please note that the sentences mentioned are only being requested by the prosecution – to date the ex-mayor still swans around the area, in the 7th floor penthouse apartment in a block that exceeds the maximum (4 storeys), given to his daughter by Larios, who cobtrol everything around here. he’ll not go to prison, not with those kind of friends…

  3. I think the main point has been missed, they were probably following normal practice in the area amongst locals since the year dot, but only they have been prosecuted. I don’t condone it any more than anyone else but let’s have a ‘level playing field’.
    The whole procedure is probably politically motivated: hit the foreigners, which would be popular, and let the locals on whose vote politicians depend get away with more or less anything.
    I’ll quote just one case in my experience: up our track, in full view of the main road 1/2km away, a huge two storey extension was built, 3 years back. The police didn’t arrive until after completion, owner had no licence or permission whatsoever. Result? no fines, no jail, but a backdated agricultural licence issued. The owner? a Spanish millionaire.
    I cannot see this endemic corruption ever ceasing. I just wish I had chosen other than Spain to live out my retirement, the whole situation is depressing.

  4. Always ask yourself what would happen in England? I agree that the person wo issued the licence should be the one responsible, but it sems the licence was for a reforma. However in this case they ignored the requests to stop building. Serious stuff in Spain as you are then in Contempt

  5. Mary, are all the properties you are selling legal? How do you know they are all 100% legal?

    In England there would at least be more enforcement to stop illegal builds from happening, and the property register would be a lot more accurate, and the solicitors and notaries are a lot more regulated. The legal system here is, well, a joke. Again, where are the stories of illegal builds in other countries? Spain has 300,000 in Andalucia alone a report recently said.

    Now go and have a ciggie and calm down.

  6. Ah so the truth finally comes out. The Sur has an interview with the Torrox couple. Turns out, as I expected, that they had all the proper legal advice, got all the paperwork they were told they needed, and were further told that what they were doing was legal and proper by the Spanish authorities.

    Also, they were not told to stop building, they did have planning permission, and the area was not uninahabited around them. And, no paperwork telling them they had to cease building can be produced by the Torrox authorities, whatsoever.

    So what does one do if the legal and planning system tell you that you can extend your house, and then you get a demolition order later? One thing is sure. You should never, ever, trust the Spanish legal and planning systems. There’s no justice for expats in this mad country. I hope the couple involved sue these idiots.

  7. Dirk and Pip, read the article in this weeks Sur, page 4 and find a hole to hide, with a large sock in your mouths. Don’t be so quick to condemn your own countrymen, we are all surrounded by corruption, the scale of which stretches the imagination. And it’s the little man who suffers at the hands of the Junta while the crooks carve up Spain on a vast scale and get away with it.
    Just look at the Ronda golf-course saga, just one example.
    Our brave Junta find other ways to flex their muscles, knock down pensioners homes and lock up apparently totally innocent foreigners.
    Can we not recognise that we are all, in effect, under attack and stick together?

  8. This is the most corrupt Country in the universe. Pardon my vocabulary, unfortunately money talks and bullshit walks. This is the main reason for us Brits going back to a more civilised culture. If it had not been for us, bringing prosperity to this Country, the Spaniards would still be riding their dirty donkeys!

    People have been building illegally for decades with the belief and assurances that their homes will be legalised by paying corruption money. My Spanish neighbour did exactly the same thing and despite repeated complaints to the relevant authorities, his houses are still standing.

    Real Estate companies, Lawyers, Town Halls and Spanish sellers show total disregard for the law, as clearly it does not exist here in Spain. The courts should freeze all of the assets of these corrupt culprits and should compensate innocent parties with the full costs of their losses. A clear lesson has to be learned form this!

    There is clearly one law for Spanish Citizens and another law for us foreigners!

  9. Alcalaina, it’s a slight exaggeration, but there is an element of truth in what BM says. Much of Andalucia was undeveloped until the tourist boom happened. Many (former) Spanish peasants have never been so wealthy with the sale of land to foreigners. It turned farmers into landowners and made many rich, relatively speaking, beyond their dreams. It is why the local people love their corrupt mayors so much; they are gods to them since they allow illegal development on their patch. Couple that with billions of euros in EU grants, and much of Spain’s improvements have come about with external help. Spain easily forgets the benefits that foreigners have brought it, and that will now be its downfall. Not that they care…

  10. Alcalaina,
    are you real? and are you Spanish and young.

    I travelled extensively through Andalucia and northern Spain in 1968 and the people were literally dirt poor.

    9 out of ten were illiterate and even in Almeria there was no piped water and I stayed in Almeria’s only hotel. The only industry then was lots of bordellos to service the Spanish navy.

    The only televisions were in the bars, there were none in peoples homes.

    I use the term very loosely – the standard of living was way below that of 19th century northern Europe – or did’nt they teach you that in school.

    Because so many Spanish were literally starving in wonderful Franco’s 1950s’ spain over 2.5million had to emigrate or starve – did they teach you that?

    Yes it is vast amounts of subsidies from mugs in northern Europe that have created the wealth you have today – you don’t like the truth, tough.

    But don’t worry most Germans/Dutch/Danes and Brits have had enough, it’s only the scumbag politicians that want to go on supporting you.

    If it was’nt for the ECB bailout fund – who do you think would buy Spanish debt – no one.

    Don’t forget the huge elephant in the Spanish room – €90 billion of toxic property debt held by the cajas.

    The Spanish have never employed foreigners, it’s about time we repayed in kind in northern Erope and Scandinavia – that will be another 1 million Spanish coming home to live on Social Security.

    As Fred has shown, these Brits were guilty of nothing more than trusting corrupt local scumbags – lawyers, town officials.

    When are you Spanish going to find enough courage to really look at yourselves and really change.

    You Spanish took us all for mugs and it’s true a lot left their brains on the planes but as Reap has said – the game is up – 1.3 million crap built homes that can’t be sold.

    I looked on the Expat forum – lots of inteligent comments on that forum. As one retired Englishman said – “I’ve had mortgages all my life, now I rent and if I don’t like somewhere I can just move on”.

    Rents are falling all the time – they have to – it’s called economic reality. There was an estate agent’s site someone posted in Murcia and really quite nice (for Spain) 3 bedroomed apartments with deep balconies that protected the windows from direct sunlight (that really shocked me) and a nice terrace as well – asking price €60K but I’ll bet they would settle for €45K cash and they are probably legal.

    If the Euro is abandoned by Germany/ the Netherlands/Denmark/Austria and Luxembourg or they create a northern Euro and or the EC collapses – get ready to experience what I saw in 1968 – I guarantee you will not be happy or smug then.

  11. For once I agree Fred, my own experience of a Spanish agent, 2002 riding his bike to work, now with at least two houses, several cars and a million sq m of land.
    But few of the smaller landowners, olive pickers etc., have benefited, many bought out by bigger landowners ‘in the know’, therefore missing the building boom algether. They are still doing what their fathers and grandfathers were doing.
    I don’t know why the comment by Alcalaina “are you real”, Andalucia has changed dramatically in just a few years, entirely due to foreign investment and the “dirty donkey” quote emtirely accurate, although still around in some places. Which is good to see.

  12. No one can do anything 100% legal here … the systems don’t allow that to happen. Flouting the rules if fine for the locals, hence thousands and thousands of illegal houses (normally hideous) which are still standing. If those defending the system, like Alcalaina, were right, those buildings would have been demolished a long time ago, and the jails would be full, wouldn’t they? The campo would be empty!! Could the last one with an 20m2 almacen licence for their three bed bungalow please turn off the lights …

  13. For a start, Stuart, I am neither Spanish nor young – I’m a retired British immigrant living happily in Andalucia. But thanks for the compliment.

    I made the comment “are you real?” to the comment “If it had not been for us, bringing prosperity to this Country, the Spaniards would still be riding their dirty donkeys!” because I was frankly stunned that anybody could make such a rude and arrogant statement and I thought it might be a wind-up. Sadly it appears I was wrong.

    Then you come along and say “…it is vast amounts of subsidies from mugs in northern Europe that have created the wealth you have today – you don’t like the truth, tough. … You Spanish took us all for mugs”.

    What wealth are you talking about? The EU invested in Spanish infrastructure in order to open it up to new markets and take advantage of its labour force. There was nothing altruistic about that. Multinational companies came in to take advantage, then when the going gets tough they either drive down wages or up sticks and move to some developing country. And the 4.7 million Spanish people who now can’t get jobs should be grateful?

    Yes, we all know that some corrupt Spanish people ripped off some British people. This is bad, and of course I don’t support their actions. The victims should be compensated, and the perpetrators jailed (as many of them have been already). It should be dealt with by the European Courts if the Spanish government won’t sort it out.

    But to imply that the whole of Spain is dirty and corrupt is outrageous and unfair. It’s like saying all Brits are money-grabbing greedy bastards just because the British government does those sly tax deals for its multi-millionaire non-dom chums and companies like Vodafone.

  14. Fred
    It is difficult to clarify whether a property is completly legal. We ask to see the escritura, nota simple and check it out on the catastral, which is hopelessly out of date in some areas. We always suggest clients use an independant lawyer to check their papers for them, however some lawyers are not as good as others. Once the property has been built it should then be registered, unfortunately many people don’t bother. Buiders are also supposed to check the building licence. The problem lies with corrupt town halls who issue licences and lawyers who don’t explain the facts in full -They should be prosecuted not the poor people who don’t know. I myself would think that if a property had a building licence that the property was legal

  15. An accurate reply you give, Mary. The law changed recently so that (proper)agents have to collect all the paperwork to show a property is ‘legal’ before marketing it, but as you say, if that paperwork is meaningless to start with it’s all a bit moot. Building licenses from corrupt ayuntamientos are worthless, of course. Only Spain could pass a law that makes you gather paperwork that is meaningless and impossible to verify.

    Many of the people on this forum think their houses are legal when they are not. Only one place knows the answer, and that is Seville. Get your lawyer to enquire there and ignore all local town halls.

    I bet the agents at the upcoming “A Place In the Sun” exhibition in London won’t tell you any of this. lol.

  16. There is a lot of speculation regarding this application and where the blame lies.
    I live in the Torrox area and believe that this couple unfortunately are guilty of not having the correct planning permission and, despite a number of warnings, continued with the over development of the site.
    Yes Torrox have had their share of corrupt officials.
    On this occasion however, not down to the ayuntamiento.
    On another note, if some of you are really so anti Spain, why not return to your country of origin? Just a thought!

  17. Alcalaina,
    if you use a Spanish sounding handle then quite rightly poeple will assume your Spanish.

    Playing mind games is rather immature. I used the expression and correctly that when I visited Spain in the 1960s’ the overwhelming majority of the population were ‘dirt poor’ you then twist it into I said that ‘Spain was dirty’ pretty stupid that was’nt it?

    The rest of Europe had taken advantage of cheap immigrant Spanish labour from the 1950s’ onward – did you miss that as well – ah it did’nt suit your argument.

    The multi-nationals did’nt drive down wages – they went up – more dis-information.

    Outrageous – yes your comment is and very stupid. I have lived in N W Spain (Galicia) and the corruption there is every bit as bad as in Andalucia. You obviously missed my input on corruption in Viscaya told to me by an architect from Bilbao.

    Have you never read of all the blatant construction corruption around Valencia – it’s even been in the international press.

    Spain and the Spanish professional class is 99% corrupt to deny that is to deny reality – go away and do your research.

  18. We bought a house built in spain illegally on protected land. The builders and owners of the house we bought the property from said we built the house. We have then had to go to court, hire a lawyer to prove we did not build the property. It is just a joke, how can this possibly happen. We bought this property in good faith, got a spanish mortgage, used a lawyer, notary and still have to prove we did nothing wrong, unbelieveable. How can this possibly happen in an eu country. We have done nothing wrong but our house will most probably be demolished as it is on protected land. Like I said we bought in good faith and would not have bought it had we known but we are the ones who have the expense of proving we are not the criminals here and will probably lose everything we own.

  19. This is another common problem…

    It’s a minefield for expats half the time. You have to check, double check, check it a third time and then quadruple check and NEVER just believe what you’re told about what’s normal…

    So many of our clients find these things come up time and again.

    The worst part is, with the right advice 99% of the time it’s avoidable…

  20. And in spite of all the known problems associated with the illegality of many new homes…. the crazy politicians and media officials are touting to British public “Great time to buy property in Spain – prices at all time low!!”

    Folks, read the papers & use your brains. Prices are NOT the issue!!

  21. I thought Shakira was a rock star not a lawyer?

    She’s right though I know lots of ppl who bought places here perfectly legal. You just have to use a bit of common sense, get a lawyer who isn’t the builders brother-in-law and not leave your brains at the airport.

  22. Dear Shakira, Having been involved in real estate investment/developement in many countries for too many decades, I strongly disagree with you. The THOUSANDS of newly built, unsold homes remain UNsold in spite of the asking price reduced by as much as 50%. Banks cannot even get buyers at Auctions to bid on new/foreclosed properties, so they remain on Bank books. Reason is NOT price, but legality of ownership & ability to resell in future!
    To believe otherwise, you would be inferring the Buyers’ horror stories above are lies… court cases say NOT!
    FAR too many law suits filed and publicized re: buying in good faith, with Town Hall Licenses, using Abogados & Notaries… and facing inability to occupy or.. demolition.
    Shakira – there are A LOT that go wrong, too many to risk it
    Please see Costa del Sol News (Sept 8) page 18 to see
    “Why would anyone in their right mind buy a house in Spain” and “Expat property buyers win day in court with Developers”
    Since there is little confidence in the various people involved, nor the licensing/registration system, a foreigner would have to be stupid to risk good money buying a property now that is less than 4 years old.
    If you could prove your point about it being a “good time to buy now” – how many NEW properties have you bought?
    I’ve bought none based on my experience.

  23. Yes I appreciate there are a lot of illegal builds and it is a minefield, which is why a potential buyer needs to have first class legal advice and not take anyone´s word for anything.

    There ARE many bargains to be had, not just new-builds but second-hand properties whose owners are desperate to sell and have reduced the price considerably.

    Readers might be interested in today´s news about an amnesty in AxarquíaÑ

    “Thousands of British expatriates whose Spanish holiday homes were declared to have been illegally built are set to benefit from a new government ‘amnesty’. The homes are among vast numbers of properties in southern Spain that faced the prospect of compulsory demolition after local officials ruled that they had been built with inadequate planning permission. In many cases, construction had been approved by corrupt town hall politicians but later ruled illegal by regional planning authorities. Now, in a major boost for British owners, many of whom had invested life savings in the Andalucía properties, the regional government has declared that more than 11,000 of them in the Axarquía region near Málaga may be legalised.”

    http://campopulse.blogspot.com/2011/09/housing-amnesty-for-illegal-building.html

  24. Many houses built in Spain are totally legal in all senses of the word and a good buy if they can be found. But vast numbers have been built by the Spanish and marketed to foreigners who come to Spain expecting an honest system along the lines of their own country. What they find is a system corrupt from the top down, as has been written about many times in this column, no need to restate it. The result is property with documentation which would be totally legal in their own country, but in effect worthless in Spain. The Junta now call these properties ‘illegal’, having condoned their construction for many years, knowing it would be of enormous benefit to the economy, and of course their friends.
    It should be made illegal by the EU for Spain to back-track on these building permissions and compulsory compensation paid out for any demolitions, backed up by withholding of ALL EU subsidies until these crooks in power pay up.
    A comment was made earlier that potential buyers should make sure that their lawyer is not the brother-in-law of the estate agent, etc. But how? ask another lawyer? a Notary? they’re all in it together. Not a hope in hell of being recommended an honest lawyer, it’s pot luck.

  25. In many cases, here in Mallorca as well, the evidence appears to prove a local authority approved a license – and in good faith, buyers bought. Lawyers and Notaries searched – and local authority approval was found good.

    Obviously, the relevant Spanish authority will interpret the law from their point of view. Those who live in Spain know that Spaniards in any authority never take responsibility for anything.

    Where that Local Building License was illegally obtained (bribery of local official commonly quoted) or OVERTURNED by some higher authority – I cannot see how the Buyer of the property should suffer any loss.

    It was the authority that was defrauded! And THEY issued (thru their officers) fraudulent licenses – not the innocent buyer of the property.

    My feelings are that the European Court would find the party responsible, the LOSER, was the local Authority, either:-
    i. defrauded by their own officers
    whether or not in cahoots with a developer is neither here or there)
    or
    ii. issuing fraudulent Licenses
    iii. failing to notify licensees of a possible or actual cancellation (by higher authority) before they started building.

    Innocent Buyers surely have recourse to the Local council – who issued a bona fide – you can build here! – license?

    A Class Suit of thousands of home owners affected, threatening to sue the few councils concerned – would surely result in proving THOSE councils caused or grossly contributed to their own losses.

    Watch them rapidly rescind any demolition order then –
    if only to avoid the suits and legal costs.

  26. it gets better : i am trying to sell my 100% legal home ( no reforms or add-on…) . Before i can get the famous “cedula de habitacion” i need to present the original 1975 copia simple…but i have bought the place in 2000…so i have no papers pryer to that date.. In the ministry of inscritura in Falset ( where you normally get that copia simple).they say they can not give me that original copia simple due to privacy laws ???? I aske what is to be done to get that copia….their official responce ? Go to court …..

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