La Palma home ownership crisis caused by volcano

The loss of property caused by the volcano in La Palma is well documented, however the same does not apply to properties on the island. The lack of deeds and outdated documentation is causing a home ownership crisis according to the dean of the Professional Association of Notaries of Catalonia, José Alberto Marín.

Among the first to travel to La Palma as part of the emergency effort, Marin says that “they come to the notary, sit down and ask us what they can do, how can you help, where do we start? We tell them don’t worry, this will be solved, we are here for that.”

Resolving the La Palma home ownership issue is proving a little more difficult than first imagined. At least half of them do not have the title deeds to their home, whilst others have paperwork that is outdated or have no paperwork as the properties were shared. According to Marin “no one expected a volcano to buy them in lava.”

Continuing he said “Many think there is no hope, but we are here to open a door and seek a solution” and ” we fight until the last loophole file by file to give them hope and prove what is now under 20 meters of lava.”

Establishing La Palma home ownership and completing the paperwork is necessary as it will enable these people to collect compensation or to have their property expropriated, a service that is being provided for free bearing in mind many people have been left with nothing.

Because properties in more dispersed, traditional and rural areas are less likely to change hands often staying in the family for generations, paperwork often does not exist. The residents know each other and whose property is who’s so there are no conflicts, however the authorities need more definitive proof in order to compensate owners.

Currently there are more than a dozen notaries from the Canaries, Valencia and Catalonia working on the home ownership cases. They are all providing their service for free with established shifts and rotas in place, with up to 100 more notaries waiting in the wings to get the call to go to the island to help. For now it is trawling through evidence to prove home ownership, the existence of the property, evidence such as aerial photos, witnesses, registrations, tax payments etc… It is hoped that these notaries will be able to overcome the home ownership crisis in La Palma quickly so that people’s lives can return to normal.

“Goosebumps and a heavy heart”

The resolve and strength of La Palma residents has impressed Marin, “the stories they tell you gives you goose bumps.” These are emotional times for these people and the notaries are having to deal with the emotions as well. “Their biggest fear” he says “is that we tell them that there is no solution.”

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]


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