The authorities in Spain have been waging a campaign against former officials accused of allowing overdevelopment of coastal regions. The problem stemmed from when local governments issued building licences for the properties, but these were later nullified following court action instigated by a higher regional government. That situation has left many expats, and Spanish, out of pocket and at risk of losing their homes and all because the Spanish authorities couldn’t behave when they saw the Euro signs in front of them.
Chris Bryant, the Minister for Europe, speaking last week during a visit to south-eastern Spain, said that the country was undermining efforts to create a recovery in its beleaguered housing market. He warned that: “The housing market in Spain is not going to recover quickly if pictures of bulldozers knocking down expats’ homes are appearing in British newspapers. Everyone I’ve spoken to in Spain says they want to find a solution but wanting a solution and getting one are two different things but obviously it’s not for the British Government to tell the Spanish what to do. But I’m pushing the message hard at all government levels that I meet here that they have got to put political willpower into these problems, whether it’s an amnesty, whether it’s a change in the law, whatever the solution is that is needed. That is the point I am pushing. I have to say also that there is an enormous difference between the Britons who just make a cursory legal deal – that is always ill advised – and those who have done everything they should or could have done but still find themselves in deep trouble.”
Mr Bryant had spent the weekend advising expatriates in Andalucía on issues ranging from property rights to health care and he visited Torrevieja, Malaga and the town of Albox, where eight British families are fighting demolition orders issued at the end of last year. He also said that he was able to tell worried Britons that the Andalusian regional government was appointing a full-time official to deal with the concerns of British expatriates. The official will provide advice on property regulations, health care and residence requirements. However, Mr Bryant warned: “People buying property anywhere abroad, not just in Spain, have to take at least twice as much trouble as they do at home to make sure everything is legal. It is so easy to go to a particular lawyer because he’s cheaper. Then later you find out that he wasn’t an independent lawyer at all, but was working all the time on behalf of the land developer and you are really stuffed.”