When it rains, it pours

After several years of British (and to lesser degree Germans, Swedish, Irish, etc..) buyers having to deal with multiple issues including illegal builds, retro-active permits, coastal laws, etc… with little or no help from their home country MEPs, they are now receiving support from a variety of sources. Being cynical we could talk about looming elections or the fact that a lot of the hard has already been done. Either way everyone appears to be jumping on the band wagon and is condemning Spain for a range of property related issues, which should help speed up and resolve these issues. The latest is from Roger Helmer.

Spanish Government faces flak over property scams

Yesterday in the European parliament’s Petitions Committee, a Spanish government spokesman attracted widespread condemnation for Spain’s failure, over many years, to act on extensive property scams, affecting British and other buyers of Spanish holiday and retirement homes.

In the meeting, Alicia Paz, Director General for Sustainability of Coastal Regions, asserted that the Spanish Coastal Law, implicated in many of the forced expropriations of seaside property, was intended to preserve Spain’s fragile coastal environment. But she failed to explain how such a law could be applied retrospectively, how it could be used to deny basic property rights to Spanish and foreign investors who had bought property on the basis of binding contracts and land registration, and why the expropriations seemed to apply to private householders, but not to hotels and major developments.

Over the years I have received dozens of complaints from constituents or former constituents, many telling tragic stories of elderly couples who had spent their life savings on a dream retirement home on the Costas, and lived there happily for months or years, only to wake up one morning to find an eviction notice on the doormat, and bulldozers at the gate. Some have seen their dreams, their homes, and their life savings literally reduced to rubble before their eyes.

In addition to the Coastal Law, which has seen thousands of properties taken into public ownership without proper compensation (at best owners are offered a temporary lease on the properties they previously owned), the region of Valencia has seen extensive expropriations based on local planning laws. There are widespread and credible reports of collusion between developers and corrupt local politicians. In some cases, to add insult to injury, owners are presented with bills for tens of thousands of Euros for the provision of utilities to the very land they’ve had taken away.

Yesterday, in the debate, I pointed out that countries wishing to join the EU had to demonstrate that they had a functioning market economy, which required the rule of law, rights of property, and  enforceability of contracts. Spain was failing to meet these criteria. If Spain were now applying to join the EU, it could be excluded on those grounds. I am also disappointed by the attitude of the European Commission, which claims it is unable to take any action under EU law, despite Article 17 of the much-vaunted “Charter of Fundamental Rights”, which states that a citizen “Has the right to own, use, dispose of and bequeath his lawfully acquired possessions” . The Charter came in with the Lisbon Treaty.

Over many years I have been frustrated that there is so little I can do to help victims of these scams. Now at least during the Spanish EU Presidency we are building up the pressure on Spain, and on the EU Commission, to take decisive action. In the past, Spanish MEPs have tended to support the status quo, but I was struck yesterday that all but one of the Spanish MEPs who spoke demanded action to resolve the problems.

Source: Roger Helmer MEP

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