Hope for owners of illegal homes in Spain

Guardia Civil seize 200kg of cocaine hidden on Brazil-Lisbon carrier ship Credit: Guardia Civil

HOMEOWNERS’ groups in Malaga and Almeria have hailed a proposed change to the Criminal Code that would help protect people who purchase illegal properties in good faith, as “a golden opportunity” to take a step forward.

A proposal by the PSOE political party in the Senate on February 18 for an amendment to the Criminal Code seeks to ensure that third parties who purchase an illegal property in good faith receive compensation before the property is demolished. The AUAN group in Almeria and its sister association SOHA in Malaga – who have long campaigned for this change – are calling on all political parties to support it.

Their call comes following the demolition of several illegal homes in Spain bought by foreign buyers who were unaware of any problems at the time of purchase. AUAN estimates there are around 300,000 illegal homes in southern Spain alone.

“The normal practice is that the promoter is given a small fine for building an illegal house, whilst the person who spent their life savings on the house sees it demolished with a theoretical order of compensation that never actually happens,” said Gerardo Vazquez, lawyer on behalf of the associations.

“In reality, the victim receives the greatest punishment and this cannot be right. Certainly, the environment must be protected, but the end does not justify the means if you violate a person’s fundamental right to inviolability of the home, their human right to property and their constitutional right to decent housing. The protection of the environment must be applied in a proportionate way and reach its limit when it affects human rights. The solution is simple, first compensate and then demolish.”

The proposed amendment has also received the backing of associations across Spain, including the Andalucian Confederation for Planning Legalisation (CALU).

“AUAN, SOHA and the other associations have spent many years trying to resolve these problems and this is a golden opportunity to take an important step forward,” said Mr Vazquez. “We trust in the common sense of the political parties, who exist to solve the problems of the people, and we hope that in the next few weeks we will be able to celebrate the entry into force of this change.”

A decision is believed to be due at the beginning of March regarding the amendment and at the end of March there will be a general vote in the Senate.

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