UK expats in Spain risk buying condemned houses

Bulldozer grafitti in Spain

The Spanish government is attempting to clear up ten years of corruption in the construction industry, with terrible consequences for many British expats who have relocated to the sun.

Up to 100,000 already own properties that are set for demolition, and failures in new initiatives mean that many thousands more run the risk of buying illegal homes.


The government wants to build confidence in the property market, so it has embarked on a radical demolition process, to destroy a million homes that it says have been built illegally.

It means that tens of thousands of British expats, who received documentation from local councils showing them that their home was legal, are now being told by the regional government that they have been misled, and as a result they will be losing their home.

Last month we reported the horrible tale of John and Jan Brooks from Taunton in Somerset who saw their dream home in Spain destroyed, after an eight-year fight to save it. They had been duped by the developer who had not had permission to build the property. The first they knew of it was after they had already moved in and they were visited by police with a demolition notice.

Campaign group Almanzora also shared the experiences of Helen and Len Prior, who bought a villa in 2002 after their lawyer confirmed that he had received proof of planing permission from the local council. Four years later they were informed that building permission had been revoked, and they had 15 days to demolish their illegally-built home. They fought the ruling for two years, then in 2008 their home was destroyed without notice, their belongings turfed out in the rain, and Len collapsed. They have spent the last five years living in a caravan, campaigning for compensation.


And it's not just those who have already bought who are at risk. The second strand of the initiative to rebuild confidence is to establish a register of properties that are available to buy - and have been built legally.

However, a report by the Daily Mail has revealed that the official list includes a number of illegal properties. It means that those buyers using the list for the peace of mind that their home will never be bulldozed could be in for a horrible shock.

It goes to show the care that has to be exercised when considering buying property in Spain. At the very least it's essential to employ an expert lawyer to check that the building is built legally. However, as the Priors found, even with these checks, things can change.

It begs the question as to whether it's worth taking the risk of buying in Spain at all while the process of bulldozing properties continues apace.
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