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Law Could Save Homes

Spanish law could save Britons' costa homes By Fiona Govan in Madrid Last Updated: 2:06am GMT 21/11/2006

British homeowners who purchased illegally built property on the Spanish

costas have been told they have a chance of saving their homes from

demolition if they can prove they bought in good faith.

Around 100,000 homes, many owned by Britons, were declared illegal after it

emerged they were built with licenses wrongly handed out by corrupt or

inefficient planning officials. Last month, Antonio Vercher, the special

prosecutor appointed to tackle building fraud and corruption, declared that

all such buildings would have to be knocked and that the only recourse for

owners was to seek compensation through the courts.

But legal experts have said the authorities will only be able to demolish a

development if they have evidence that each individual owner bought in the

knowledge that the property breached building regulations.

Manuel Martin, the dean of the College of Registrars for Property in Western

Andalusia, said yesterday that homeowners are protected in Spanish law by

"the principle of public faith in the registry".

"This ensures that those who purchased homes in the belief that the

information supplied to them by officials was correct must be allowed to

keep ownership," he said.

The Andalusian Supreme Court of Justice confirmed that while it was

determined to pursue the demolition of those buildings that had had their

licenses annulled it would not send the bulldozers in before taking

statements from the owners of the threatened buildings.

The news of a line of defence has brought a glimmer of hope to the thousands

of Britons who inadvertently found themselves the victims of alleged

property frauds.

Gwilym Rhys-Jones, an adviser and investigator at the Costa del Sol Action

Group, which helps expatriates in the region to fight fraud, said it was the

first piece of good news property owners in Spain had heard for a long time.

"It is a straw for the desperate to clasp at," he said.

"In effect it means that if one homeowner in a development can prove that

they bought the property innocently the whole block can be saved. They can

hardly knock down a residential block and leave one apartment standing."

One elderly British couple spoke yesterday of their relief at finally

hearing something positive. "Only last week we heard that the government had

issued a demolition order on our building and we felt totally helpless,"

said Yvonne Burditt, 83, who lives with her husband Jack, 86, in an

apartment at Banana Beach on the outskirts of Marbella.

"But now at least we have something to go on. We have been trying to find

out our legal position but it just hasn't been clear, until now."

Before paying £170,000 for their beachfront apartment three years ago, the

Burditts consulted a local lawyer who assured them in writing that

everything was above board.

"If it's simply a case of proving our innocence I think we have a chance at

saving our home," said Mrs Burditt.

(( Note: The obvious question is the meaning of "information supplied by

officials". Who is an "official" for this purpose and what sort of

information would suffice? Does second hand information via the assurances

of an estate agent, a builder or a lawyer qualify- or only some form of

certification by the Town hall, or the land registry or the Catastral

office? CVS))

© COSTA DEL SOL ACTION GROUP
Against Unlicenced Financial Advisers & Product Providers that support them.