5 Dec, 2008 @ 17:26
3 mins read

Dear Señor Chaves


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.

Yours sincerely
Dan Thorneycroft


  1. Mr.Thorneycrofts letter is absolutely correct and perfectly true. It IS IMPOSSIBLE for CHAVES and his henchmen NOT, repeat NOT to know WHAT IS happening and WHAT HAS HAPPENED in Andalucia AND WHERE ALL THE crooked MAYORS,COUNCIL PLANNERS,NOTARIES are-after all, they all end-up working for the Junta? And the fact that groups of inspectors have been sent to Chiclana at last to investigate the crooked builders, lawyers,planners,etc,is about 3 years too late and has given them plenty of time to sweep any evidence under the carpet CHAVES.

  2. Its time for the government to step up and take responsibility for ‘their’ corrupt authorities who have made millions whilst ‘ripping’ honest people off.

    Unfortunately the corruption goes so high that no doubt the ones who will suffer are those who have put their life savings into an illegal property, whilst the ‘crooks’ get fat on other the innocents money.

  3. Dan,
    I have to tell you, your letter will go directly into recycling, without being read.
    There are a handful of Spanish who can face the truth about their own people and so can be straight with foreigners and they will tell you that there are two things that define the Spanish – envy and corruption. This has been going on since long before the mass murderers – Pizarro and Cortes and their deliberate jealous destruction of those two civilizations. Are there any sighted people who cannot see that the Spanish don’t care for their land and will exploit everything for ‘profit today’.

    OK,there is corruption in every country worldwide but not on the scale of southern Europe (it is’nt just Spain).

    But why does it always seem to be 95% Brits that get ripped off. I contribute to an audio forum and recently was discussing the topic of the problem of static with electrical equipment with an American from Minnesota, this is very real for me because I live behind the Snowy mountains and the climate is normally bone dry.

    Up pops a Brit who has made many trips to the Alpujarra who is ‘waiting for the price of estate (self imposed ghetto) houses to fall’. The idiot was entirely oblivious to all the problems that anyone with half a brain knows about. He had’nt a clue about the differences between mountain/continental and sea coast climates.

    How many have bought properties without doing a real check on water supplies in their area eg. within a very few years most areas of Andalucia will have no water at all due to climate change and brainless waste of what there is – most of southern Europe and right up into France will become desertified, that’s not opinion, that’s scientific fact.

    As that becomes more widely known it will become impossible to resell, even if the property is legal.

    I came to Spain to build alternative energy houses. Firstly I am not ‘enchufargo’ that is, connected to the system of corruption known by that name. Secondly I would have had to import virtually all the building materials because the Spanish materials are rubbish and that includes – blocks/bricks/windows/doors/gas boilers,they have never heard of room sealed boilers that’s why so many die of carbon monoxide poisoning, the list goes on and on. Just take a look at any Spanish building constructed 100 years ago and see how much better built (for the time) they were then.

    Why am I still here – just waiting for the penny to drop with French landowners re. the crisis and the price of land there. Lots of Regulations in France, you betcha but that only worries cowboy builders and there are plenty of those, both Spanish and English here.

    When you buy land or property in France and the agent and Notaire tell you it is legal IT IS. If you are supid enough to buy somewhere that has ‘boundaries to be agreed’ without first getting a definitive ruling you have no one to blame but yourself.

    All the real craftmen left Spain decades ago because of hunger. Too many Brits are suckered by the outward appearance of a property – I don’t buy a product for how it looks but how it functions.

    I once had a manager that had sold properties in Spain, it was a long time ago and he was’nt a scammer. I well remember him telling me that when the Brits got off the plane,they left their brains behind.

    As much as I feel for people like Dan – if you ask a rip-off merchant are they kosher – what the hell do you think they are going to tell you?

    I knew most of the above before I came here, what I did’nt know was the whole ‘rustic land’ minefield, had I had that knowledge I would now be living happily in France with a totally legal/stress free home.

    Caveat Emptor – this must be your mantra chanted daily to live in Spain

  4. to expect justice for any of the british victims in any of the property scandals which have dogged spain over the last few years is to live in cloud cuckoo land, the spanish love our money, but not unfortunately, us. to believe any differently is ridiculous. spain is a full member of the e.u, is subject to e.u. laws and regulations, and should be pursued through the e.u. courts with all speed and endeavour. what is needed is a gutsy lawyer, the like of which paul newman portrayed in the movie the verdict,who would act for free,only taking his costs from any compensations won. as i said, cloud cuckoo land. ask yourselves this my spanish builders and town hall officials etc,,, why are more and more british returning to britain, and more and more home buyers going to places like bulgaria?? you should worry.

  5. The Andalucian authorities are fouling their own nest by this callous treatment of the Brits here. You can’t claim that 6000 homes in Eastern Almería alone are ‘all illegal’ – when it was clear from the start that the local town halls were perfectly aware of what was going on – usually in plain sight of the mayor’s office window.
    There will be a major protest in Almería City on January 9th – exactly one year from the day the Prior’s house in Vera was demolished. It’s time to join in!
    Details of the march are on the AULAN website at http://www.aulan.es

  6. Good effort Dan. Sadly the letter will go straight into file 13. We Johnny Foreigners can’t vote in Spanish and Andaluz elections so they couldn’t give a stuff…

  7. Hi Maura.

    Thanks for the message. I didn’t say it was difficult. I was just stating a fact. The march will make a lot of people feel better, help blow off a bit of steam and generate stories in the foreign press, so a good idea for those reasons but unless there is significant involvement from Spanish citizens it will make very little difference.

    Spanish and Andaluz politicians will take no notice until there is a threat of them being voted out. They certainly don’t give a fig when the EU gives them a slap on the wrist. So I will concentrate my efforts on telling this story to every Spanish person who will listen. By the way I would be delighted to vote out our useless mayoress, but I doubt that will frighten anyone in the Junta or Spanish government.

    Hope you have a good march!


  8. it is a shame the protest march is so far away, as i would be there… and let´s face it, whichever town or city it was held in, there would be a 1000 expats queuing up to protest.

    But is Chavez listening?… dont be daft he´s practicing his golf swing in preparation for taking on his free, grace and favour home inside the Los Merinos golf development built illegally (but soon to be legalised) inside a heavily protected area of virgin woodland near Ronda.

    He`ll then be taking a nice holiday in Morocco at his private villa (in the name of his uncle) and using the proceeds of the backhanders (in cash) he made from the illegal construction of the Algorrobico Hotel inside the Cabo de Gata national park in Almeria.

    There is absolutely no way that the corruption does not go right up to the top when it comes to illegal construction.

    Any political leader who insists on telling his citizens that he only has 7000 euros in his bank account, is obviously covering something up..

    come on El Pais, come on ABC… now´s the time for some serious digging…

    If not, you never know, the Olive Press might have to do it.

  9. Did these people go to the free catastro website. Bet they didn’t. If they had they would have seen that the land was still registered as rural. and that the house was not shown. A 3 € certificate from the catastro office (24 hours) would have confirmed this. If you buy unregistered buildings then you are a gullible idiot. These and many other illegal buildings should be bulldozed and their owners and builders fined. It is time to stop winging when you get caught for being too clever. And yes it happens in britain as well.

  10. Hi Pedro. I always check the online catastro website before looking at a property, but sadly it’s often years out of date and the certificate you speak of counts for nothing legally. Many of these people bought in good faith – a legal concept which exists in the UK but seemingly not in Spain. I’m sure this sort of things happens in the UK but on nothing like the scale it happens here – and if you want justice you can get it. Have you ever tried persuing something through the courts in Spain? Prepare for a result in your dotage because the justice system here is a joke! Justice delayed is justice denied and that’s exactly what you will get…

  11. Pedro Santamaria Grant,

    you epitimize everything that is corrupt and degenerate in the Spanish mentality.

    You know full well that most of those foreigners that are being ripped off did all the nec. checks which mean nothing when virtually every lawyer/notario and alcalde are rotten to the core and no sunshine it does’nt happen in Britain or any other northern European country.

    As I said in another thread, all Britain/Netherlands/Germany need to do is stop importing any of your chemical laden salad and fruit/stop all flights to and from the UK/stop all your fishing boats destroying our remaining fish stocks in the northern Atlantic.

    In no time at all your economy will be in ruins. We could even start by sending back all those Spanish immigrants who don’t speak perfect English/Dutch or German – ever tried to get work in Spain if you don’t speak perfect Spanish – forget it.

    Your economy is a joke, which is now disintegrating at an alarming rate. You Spanish stupidly went on building more and more crap apartment blocks when there were no buyers and still you morons want to build more and BTW NOT ONE SINGLE APARTMENT BLOCK OR HOUSE WOULD GET PLANNING CONSENTS ANYWHERE IN NORTHERN EUROPE – THEY ARE ALL RUBBISH BUILT.

    Northern Europe and Scandinavia don’t need southern Europe – you neEd us – WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE MORON.

  12. I forgot to add a kicker to my previous post – a Dutch consortium is building a massive solar powered greenhouse complex in northern Kent, near the Thames estuary, it will be the first of many.

    Apparently it is’nt viable north of the midlands but transporting the produce from south to north in the UK/Germany/France will be a hell of a lot cheaper than from southern Spain. The Germans/French and others are very, very interested, since this will mean much cheaper veg and fruit.

    So, within a few years there will be no market for ‘plasticland’s’ contaminated products.

    Some idiot (Spanish) is saying that tourism will take up the slack from the crashed building industry, really and where are these tourists coming from – Alpha Centuri.

    I predict that tourism will be severely affected by foreigners lack of money.The Brits have been spending for far longer than their more sensible north European neighbours in the Netherlands and Germany – a bit like the Spanish but that has now come to an end.

    I have expressed my fear before that when it all ‘comes on top’ the Spanish will take it out on the foreign residents. They (the Spanish) simply cannot admit to being wrong (mentally, a very weak people.

  13. Stuart’s got a point.

    Spain is so backwards in many respects that it is almost retarded! Stupid laws, stupid taxes, corrupt town halls, corrupt lawyers, corrupt ayuntiamentos, useless Junta, awful service in shops, the list goes on and on.

    Spain is now headed for bankruptcy on a national level and actually, I’m sorry to say, it DESERVES IT! There is only so much stupidity one can endure. Spain needs to be dragged in to the 21st Century. It’s run like a 3rd world country in Andalucia.

  14. Dear Mr Justin Roberts. The problems of the Spanish justice system that you speak of I’m afraid are fundamental and come down to the fact that Spain, like the rest of continental Europe, has a civil law system. This contrasts to the common law systems of Britain (well England anyway), the United States and most of the British Commonwealth.

    Common law systems are based on the precedence of previous cases to determine decisions in a current case. The court is bound by the decisions made in previous cases. In mature common law systems the body of precedence gives precise guidance on almost any issue and you can accurately predict whether a course of action is legal or not. Thus two parties in dispute don’t normally need to end up in court to resolve their differences. A couple of quick doses of research and analysis from the solicitor on either side will usually do the trick.

    In civil law systems, questions of law are re-determined every time they appear as if it was the first time. The decisions of courts are generally not bound by precedence. So the decision by one court on a particular point of law could be completely different from a previous decision on the same point. So there is much less consistency and ability to predict.

    Thus, in countries with civil law systems, far more disputes end up in court compared to countries with common law systems. The end result being that the courts get clogged up and overwhelmed and legal proceedings end up being torturous to say the least.

    For all this you have the Romans to thank in the first place and latterly Napoleon. If you attempt to seek justice anywhere in continental Europe you will run into the same problems, to a greater or lesser extent, as to be found in Spain.

  15. Thanks Koba. Whatever the basis for the legal system in Spain, there’s no reason why running into the problems you describe could not be to a lesser rather than a greater extent.

  16. I think this is disgusting, lets all vote with our feet, no buying Spanish goods, go to Greece other alternative holiday resorts (greeks are much nicer than the Spanish)

    What is the point on the EU if it doesn’t act on such corruption, unfrortunately its extremely difficult to find a Spaniard with integrity.

  17. Just a note on the legal system here – We have been through a corruption-land based case and when it began we were told by people Spanish and English to prepare for 20+ years in court. The reality was that it has taken 5 years start to finish (Supreme Court)thats not bad concidering they appealed 3 times! The first case was heard and sentenced in 2 months!

    The threat of the legal systems slowness stops many people even trying – it very nearly did us! But we are proof that it is not necessarily so.

  18. In the nineties, the whole Andalucian rustic land law issue changed radically. Rustic changed into land which could not be built on, no matter what. Only, and with permission, a stable or a toolshed may be added to existing agricultural installations. Of course it is regrettable that people still where convinced otherwise by lawyers (recommended by the friendly realtor of course, who often got a drink out of these recommendations), notary offices who checked the basics, but not underlining paperwork etc. I had to refuse so many properties to list for sale especially inland after reading the escrituras, I lost count. When I settled here 25 years ago, there was a very good tome called You and the law in Spain. It is still out there, and updated every time needed. A great read before taking the plunge. The law is clear enough, but kept somewhat hidden from people willing to invest their savings into property.

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