Demolition of expat homes in Spain still ongoing

Published:  30 Mar at 6 PM
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Spain’s history of demolishing expat homes is repeating itself in Andalucía as another expat couple is denied retrospective planning permission after more than a decade.

Retired British couple Noel and Christine Payne began their Andalusian house purchase in 2001, after visiting the local town hall and verifying the necessary construction permit would be granted. Some two years later, the couple obtained a license of first occupation apparently signed by Albox’s then mayor, Francisco Granero. The license stated the property in Los Guillenes complied with current regional planning laws. Throughout the process, the couple double-checked that all permissions and licences were in line with planning laws.

The first shock came on Christmas Day 2009, when officials visited the couple and told them the house had been illegally built and that the demolition process was now being enforced through the courts. After consulting a lawyer, the couple found a recent change in regional planning laws regarding rural land had rendered the 2003 license invalid. Apparently, Albox town hall officials had advised the Andalusian government the house could easily be made legal, but the request was refused as the government maintained the couple were not ’buyers in good faith’ and had ordered the local authority to enforce the demolition order.

Expat advocacy group Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No’s president Maura Hillen told reporters the couple are under increasing stress which is now affecting their health, and are unable to sleep for the fear they’ll finally lose their home for no good reason. Hillen considers they’re being subject to inhuman treatment, especially as there are now some 300,000 illegally-erected homes all across Andalusia which are clearly unable to be demolished even although they have no licences. Mr and Mrs Payne, she added, have acted correctly all the way though the debacle, but by the time their planning license was granted the new law was in the process of being activated.

Britons looking to become expats in Spain before Brexit is finalised should take note of the couple’s personal tragedy, and ensure any property they may be considering purchasing has all the correct permits pertaining to the present law. They should also check that changes in the law aren’t being considered. The news of the couple’s plight came just a short time after another British expat couple finally won their case for compensation after an eight year battle during which their home was demolished. Rather than giving up and returning to the UK, Len and Helen Prior lived for almost five years in their garage whilst the case was ongoing. Finally, they were awarded a settlement of £236,000.
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