Hundreds of expats to lose out in illegal homes scam

5th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

5 October 2006, VALENCIA — Hundreds of expats facing the prospect of losing their homes after being told they were built illegally.

5 October 2006

VALENCIA — Hundreds of expats facing the prospect of losing their homes after being told they were built illegally.

It is the latest in a series of threats by Spanish authorities to demolish homes built without planning permission.

Regional government officials sent shockwaves through the expat community of Catral near Alicante after stripping the town hall of its housing powers and threatening to dissolve the local council over the scandal.

The British Daily Mail reported more than 1,200 homes built on green belt land on the outskirts of Catral hangs in the balance.

Hundreds of the homes have been built inside a nature reserve, with many of them sold to expats seeking a new life in the sun or a holiday home.

The rest have gone up on green belt land next to farms and orchards to the south of Catral, whose foreign population has rocketed in the past five years following a construction boom in the area.

Esteban Gonzalez Pons, director of housing for the Generalitat Valenciana regional government body, said: "The homes built on protected land inside El Hondo Nature Reserve will all be demolished.

"The future of the remaining homes will be studied on an individual basis.

"We've already taken away the housing powers of the local council and will take away its town planning powers and seek its dissolution as a local authority unless it recognises more than 1,200 houses have been built illegally and proposes solutions."

He added: "We will not hesitate in acting against other town halls that break the law, whichever political party holds power."

Expats affected by the shock move were consulting lawyers to try to save their homes.

Many have invested their life savings - paying an average of EUR 200,000 for three-bedroom homes with swimming pools they thought were legal.

A local court is already investigating allegations property promoters bribed town hall officials into turning a blind eye to the building of green belt homes.

It is also probing the alleged falsification of property certificates.

British expat Dennis Archer, who has bought a home near Catral with wife Pat, said: "Our house was finished on time and was very nicely built.

"The problem our solicitors failed to notice was neither our home or the others on the complex had planning permission.

"Our dreams of a new life in the sun have turned into a nightmare."

Another expat, who asked not to be named, added: "I moved out to Spain with my wife and two young children and wanted to do everything by the book.

"The estate agents put us in touch with a local solicitor who assured us everything was fine.

"Now we discover we're living in a house that has built illegally and is likely to be demolished."

"I invested most of my life savings emigrating. We face financial ruin."

Thousands of expats have set up home inland from the Costa Blanca around Alicante in the past five years.

Across Spain, thousands of foreign buyers have fallen foul of cowboy builders who build without permission and dodgy estate agents suspected of buying the silence of corrupt town hall officials.

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Subject: Spanish news

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