OWNERS of illegal homes have started to tear them down to try and escape massive fines of over €600,000.

It comes after the Junta finally got tough on illegal homes, doubling the number of inspections and tripling its prosecutions against unscrupulous speculators.

In a landmark year for the environment, there were double the number of inspections around Andalucia in 2020.

Some 1,087 constructions were probed, while 75 investigations were launched into developers looking to cash in from holiday rentals and joint ownership schemes.

So sharp has been the rise that owners have voluntarily knocked down their properties before getting fined in ‘almost all’ of Andalucia’s eight provinces.

A number of homes have been knocked down in El Palmar, as well as in Oria, Alcolea del Rio, Iznajar and Algatocin, revealed the Junta this week.

The move is being seen as vital to stop dodgy developers before they can sell on the properties to unsuspecting people looking for a dream home in the sun.

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Authorities were forced to act after victims of dodgy developers protested that their homes were in a ‘legal limbo’

Andalucia has had dozens of victims of illegal homes – including expats – who bought their villas in good faith only to see them later flattened by bulldozers.

The most famous case involved British couple Helen and Len Prior who bought their villa which had planning permission from their council in Vera (Almeria). It was later deemed illegal and knocked down by the Junta as it was on land zoned as agricultural use only.

It took 10 years of court battles before the retired couple finally received €236,000 compensation from Vera council in 2018.

With an estimated 300,000 illegal properties in the region, the Junta has in recent years introduced measures to help property scam victims legalise their homes. 

The majority though have been left in a ‘legal limbo’ with many left unsaleable.

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Len and Helen Prior lost their home and endured a decade of legal battles before they got compensation

At least under new edicts brought in since the Junta was taken over by the PP in 2019 fewer problems are being created.

Indeed, in 2020 there were 95% more inspections undertaken and 300% more probes into shady developers, with so far €4million in fines levied.

One key seaside town that is benefitting is El Palmar, in Cadiz, where fines of more than €600,000 have been slapped on the owners of any plot where a prefabricated house was placed.

The area was badly affected when an area of 500 hectares of agricultural land was effectively subdivided into hundreds of plots between 500sqm and 1,000sqm by speculators.

The main users were tourists and many were sold as ‘joint ownership’ projects.

A total of 16 cases were launched against people advertising development plots for sale on agricultural land. Most were tracked down via online adverts, many on social media.

It’s great they are finally clamping down and I’m in total agreement,” said local hotel owner James Stuart, from the Califa Hotel group in nearby Vejer.

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“So many houses do not have building licences and the area just does not have the right infrastructure to support it all.”

He added: “Thankfully there are quite a few sections still totally untouched by development.”

The Junta’s Minister of Development, Infrastructure and Land Management, Marifran Carazo, stressed she is determined to fight the proliferation of illegal buildings.

“What is the point of passing a decree to legalise irregular housing that was in legal limbo for decades if we allow these new types of illegal building in. We are not going to allow it.”

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