By Wendy Williams

SPAIN’S so-called ‘property roadshow’ has come under further criticism as it emerges the government’s promise of reforms will not help foreign homebuyers who have lost their savings.

The roadshow – funded by the Spanish taxpayer – is aiming to shift a glut of unsold homes that is overwhelming the market.

But it has now emerged the Spanish government is ruling out help for thousands of Britons who have already lost money thanks to controversial land grab laws or due to the issue of legality.

Spanish housing minister Beatriz Corredor refused to pledge help for existing British homeowners caught up in property scandals.

“There are 850,000 Britons living in Spain and these problems apply to fewer than one per cent,” said Corredor.

She explained compensation would only be paid to Britons “if the courts order it” – meaning those buyers unable to afford lengthy legal action, stand little chance of recouping their money.

As reported last issue Labour MEP Michael Cashman and campaign groups such as Spanish Banks Guarantee Petition are branding the roadshow an insult.

A Spanish-based PR firm Purple Cake Factory, which has several property clients, has since used its Twitter feed to call Labour MEP Michael Cashman an “idiot” for urging Britons to avoid investing in Spain.

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  1. Decades ago the UK Which magazine advised people not to buy property in Spain at all until Spain overhauled its land and property laws and dragged them up to a civilized level. Spain ignored the advice and so did hundreds of thousands of people. Many regret the day they bought here.

  2. This confirms observations made elsewhere that this farce would only serve to lure more hapless buyers into the money trap that is Spanish property and help no one-minimum 8500!- who has already been victimized by the land grabs or the retroactive application of the coastal laws or just plain bureaucratic stupidity and greed. How can there be any faith in the promises of future behaviour,when the national government has given away any control it might once have had to the regions, and that towns have taken this process further? Are the guarantees of legal security going to be backed by any money? Will the courts miraculously begin to work? Will the regions repeal their land laws?

  3. Like many others, I would like to know why the British government has allowed the recent property roadshow farce to be conducted on British soil. Perhaps it was the Spanish housing minister’s assurance that only 8,500-or-so British citizens have fallen foul of devious property dealers backed by legal and local Authorities. The British (along with Germans, French, Belgians, Swedish…) do indeed represent a minority among the many, many thousands of affected homeowners – Spanish citizens forming by far the greater percentage. So, that’s alright then? No doubt other European governments should be encouraged to follow the same thinking. As long as its own citizens constitute the majority of those affected by unjust and retroactively-applied housing laws, poorly-functioning local Authorities and unscrupulous promoters, builders, lawyers and the rest, the Spanish Government should be given a warm welcome on any European shore. I am afraid I disagree – and I know I am not alone.
    Compensation would only be paid to affected Britons ‘if the courts order it’, declared Minister Beatríz Corredor, when questioned recently about the issue. So, we’ll take that as a ‘no’ then, Beatríz?
    This attitude ensures that only those buyers young enough and affluent enough (of whatever nationality) to afford lengthy legal action stand a chance of recouping either their money or their physical and psychological well-being. Take the Skippers, for example, an elderly couple who live in Dolores. They rue the day they trusted a local company enough to buy a house from them. No doubt convinced by the chatty, reassuring words of the British ‘estate agent’ fronting the outfit, they handed over their life savings and settled into their little patch of paradise in the rural Vega Baja. Welcome, Mr and Mrs Skipper, to the mire.
    For those who are unfamiliar with the Skippers’ case (as detailed in the Costa Blanca News, May 13 2011), please allow me to briefly outline the details. Like many thousands of others, Mr and Mrs Skipper bought their house in good faith, completely unaware that their home had been illegally built. That was in 2003. Over five years later, suddenly faced with a huge fine and the threat of demolition, they realize they were deceived, big time, by their now not-so-friendly local estate agent. Though backed by the Regional Ombudsman, José Cholbi, the Skippers find themselves up against the local PP governed Town Hall whose Mayor, Gabriel Gascón, refuses to accept the Ombudsman’s recommendations. Gascón challenges the Skippers to take the Town Hall to court, knowing full-well, of course, that the likelihood of this is minimal with the resources available to them.
    Understandably, both Mr and Mrs Skipper have been emotionally and physically affected by the extremely stressful predicament in which they find themselves. Having suffered a heart attack, Mr Skipper has been hospitalized three times since Christmas. Sadly, as most of us know, their story is not unique.
    Despite everything, like many other European citizens, the Skippers love living in Spain. Until that is possible, however, they want to warn others of the dangers of buying Spanish property. As do we all.

  4. The Spanish Housing Minister Beatriz Corredor is like any other of her political partners in keeping up the pretence that the property scandal in Spain is resolved, BUT FOR A FEW, and that it is now filed to the pages of it’s history unless the courts are involved.

    Coming to the UK and northern Europe bare-faced to sell property as a secure investment in Spain is nothing short of a lie. I ask you, just keep your British Passport in your pocket for one sane moment in your life and consider that there is nothing transparent about producing ‘a set of guidelines’ to property acquisition in Spain because the law has failed others in the past. A set of guidelines is a CHEAP shot at putting things right. There is nothing transparent about brushing the old dirt under the doormat and pretending nothing is there – just like other historical episodes in their past, this matter eventually won’t be spoken about, it won’t even get mentioned, they will want to forget that it ever happened and so it will remain silent and this is exactly how in 2011 that the Spanish politicians intend to deal with the housing scandal. They know that the Brits don’t understand that this is how they deal with the history that they want to forget.

    All that the Spanish politicians are doing is pretending, belittling the plight of the distressed foreign property owners in Spain and making out that a few unfortunates ‘pobrecillos’ don’t really matter – the bigger picture is that they are bare-faced lying and a set of guidelines is nothing more than a distraction so that Spain can and without substance, entice property investors with the real agenda to off-load their debt and the debt of the Spanish banks. Beatriz Corredor is foolish in thinking that 1% is small enough not to matter and to leave at the mercy of the courts (if they could fund it, ha ha).

    In sticking together and constantly reminding the world of its plight, the 1% could in fact become the achilles’ heel of the Spanish property market.

    Regardless of a new set of guidelines, be warned that when purchasing property in Spain any Spanish Lawyer (Solicitor) will transact your property purchase with only his/her own bank account in mind, same as the Notary (Judge). If you find that you’ve got a problem, (always after the money has transacted and everyone has been paid, including the property purchase taxes), then a new file can be opened to deal with it and so the problem goes on.

    My advice should you wish to accept it is, that if you are considering buying a property in Spain, think of a holiday as the first best alternative – otherwise, only invest the amount you are prepared to lose.

  5. I love Spain, despite the sometimes chaotic and constantly changing laws. There are good lawyers, and not everybody is a crook. These problems seem to be regional. Having lived here for 35 yrs, I have never known anyone who has lost their land or had their property demolished

  6. Mary Becker,
    for someone who has lived in Spain for 35 years you seem unbelievedly ill-informed!

    The problems are not regional, do you not read Spanish newspapers or look at TV? or indeed do you not read the Olive Press but yes you must do to post here – just go through some back issues.

  7. Mary, you cannot even tell a person if the house they are considering purchasing is legal or not. That is the simple fact of the matter.

    Are you Decreto 218 certified may I ask? You don’t mention it on your website, assuming is your website.

  8. Some of the problems, particularly the “land grab” law are regional, being restricted to the communitat valencia, others, the ley de costas and illegal building are national.

    I do not know which the alleged 8.500 people are affected and in what proportion, neither do you Stuart, so it is premature to describe Mary as ill-informed.

  9. Peter,
    it is not ill-informed and is this woman not an agent – which of course means she’s speaking a from vested interest point of view and your statement shows a callous attitude since you quite clearly are not interested in the far greater number of ordinary Spanish people who have been affected as well.

  10. When I read all these comments, which are clearly written between gritted teeth, I cannot help but wonder why, given the fact that the overwhelming majority of swindles (in one form or another) have been inflicted upon Spanish buyers, there are no screams of protests from them. Apart from the frequent half hearted reports on the early evening news they just seem to shrug shoulders and concede inevitable defeat as if to protest vociferously would invite a regrettable response from some civil order enforcement authority (I choose my words carfeully).

    Politicians of all colours seem oblivious to the devastating effect it is having upon the country’s economy. I would have thought that nearly five million ‘en paro’ and an all but dead housing sector would have given them a clue as to where their prioritising ought to be directed.

    Conducting roadshows all over the place will do nothing but increase cynicism amongst an audience that is already dubious about investing in Spain.

  11. brian … this is correct most of the violations have affected the Spanish more than the English , however whilst the english and other extranjeros insist on a public execution style witchunt the spanish are aware that if they keep their mouths shut and their heads down and just get on with their lives they will be ignored by the public officials ,who destroy those that speak out.
    I have been told on occasions when I wished to stand against an injustice or percieved injustice to just shut up and get on with my life and all will go away quietly and from experience i can tell you it does !!!!

  12. Louielou,

    I’m not too sure that I agree with your ‘public execution style witchunt’ comment.

    Your average Joe Bloggs, after decades of paying taxes into the black hole known as ‘The E.U’, and seeing decades of the Spanish government receiving substantial EU aid, and having worked hard and saved hard in order to retire in the sun (and therefore continue to contribute to the Spànish economy), is probably entitled to expect that the old pre EU days of enchufes, sobornos and blatant estafas has died along with the Franco era. Clearly, even in the 21st century, that is not so.

    It is precisely because your average ‘Paco’ keeps his head down in the face of being the victim of a fraud that Spanish politicians don’t acknowledge (or choose to ignore) the significant injustices that exist. And this turning of the blind eye is aided by the fact that central and regional government has repeatedly ignored EU directives to get their house in order by declaring “España es diferente”, and will continue to do so until those who are entitled to vote in the national elections (which does not include extranjeros) decide to kick ass and demand that politicians actually do the job for which they are handsomely paid.

    Like a good many other extranjeros I have watched the ‘tengo una pregunta para usted’ programmes and seen the recent and previous election rallies. Not once have I heard any politician commit him or herself to the key objective of eradicating and/or resolving the real estate injusticies that we are all too well aware of. Yes, of course there are the odd arrivals who get off the plane waving a wad of notes expecting to find a mirror image of some UK high st. They probably deserve to get ripped off. Those however, who do everything by the (Spanish) book, and still get ripped off deserve the full weight of european law behind them.

    It is interesting to note that the first declaration of those many thousands of people (I guess Spanish nationals) currently peacefully protesting in Madrid is ‘the erradication of corruption’. Messrs Rajoy and Zapatero should take note and then maybe, just maybe, confidence and jobs will return to the real estate sector.

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