By Euro Weekly News Media • 28 January 2011 • 13:28
By British Ambassador to Spain, Giles Paxman – THERE’S some good news recently for British people faced with property purchases in Spain that have back-fired, building projects that did not meet the requirements of Spanish law, or constructors who’ve simply gone bankrupt and left houses unfinished.
At the end of December, Spain introduced reforms to the Criminal Code which increase the penalties for town planning crimes and prevent the perpetrators from profiting from these crimes.
They include punishing public officials who allow illegal properties to be built and stricter penalties for corruption.
Courts can now order the perpetrator to pay the costs of restoring the land to its original state, without affecting the compensation owed to purchasers who bought in good faith.
Much as we would like to help, the Embassy cannot get involved in the large number of individual property cases, all of which are different and often very complex.
But we do regularly raise the issue in general terms with Spanish ministers at a national and regional level.
We also try to give British nationals as much advice as we can about how to avoid problems when buying property and who to turn to if they find themselves in trouble. You can find this information on our web site (ukinspain.fco.gov.uk).
And there is further encouraging news for purchasers who have bought off plan and were issued with a bank guarantee.
In December, a court in Cantabria ruled that a purchaser had the right to demand that the bank which guaranteed the construction of a property refund the amount paid in advance by the purchaser when the property was not completed as promised.
This may sound obvious but, surprisingly, many banks had found ways to avoid paying.
The Andalucian Regional Government has also announced that it is preparing regulations to deal with the large number of properties in the region that have been built illegally.
This includes legalising properties where possible, and in some cases issuing a minimum licence allowing the property to remain even though it is not incorporated into the town plan.
We are working with the regional authorities to get more information on how these proposals will work and the timeframes involved.
In addition, a judge in Almeria has this month ruled that although a property built more than six years ago did not comply with town planning regulations, the owners have the right to be connected to essential utilities such as water and electricity.
It is not clear whether this ruling will set any kind of legal precedent for similar cases, but it may be seen as a glimmer of hope for those who are currently living in illegal properties without access to water and electricity.
While the above news should bring some comfort to those affected, my advice for those considering buying in Spain remains very clear: seek independent legal and financial advice throughout the purchase process and ensure you have all the correct documentation before signing any contracts.
You can find more information about buying a property in Spain on the property section of our website.
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