Thousands of British expats who unknowingly bought illegally built homes in Spain have the hope of winning compensation after a landmark court case.
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A court in Almeria, Andalusia, has ordered a property developer to pay more than £100,000 to four home owners who bought properties believing the local authorities had given the appropriate building clearances.
Later they found the homes were illegally built and were ordered to be demolished.
A court stepped in to stay the ruling to knock them down while the owners launched a legal challenge against the developer.
The latest court found in favour of the owners. The judge agreed that they had purchased their homes in good faith and were not complicit in the illegal actions of the developer.
Three owners won compensation for ‘suffering and anxiety’ triggered by the episode, while the fourth was reimbursed more than £6,000 paid out in rent as their home was never built.
The case is believed to set a landmark judgment as the first compensation award to British expat home owners embroiled in legal action over the purchase of homes in Spain.
The judge also said in his ruling that if the developers fail to pay the compensation and costs of the case, the local authority should pay because lax planning controls contributed to the impression the homes were lawfully constructed.
Andalusia’s senior local government tier has agreed to change the law so illegally built homes gain planning recognition.
Around 300,000 homes are believed to need planning permission. Not all belong to expats as several thousand Spanish buyers were also trapped by the lies.
Lobbying and legal battles over the right of ownership of Spanish homes have been going on for more than 10 years.
Thousands of expats purchased a home in Spain only to find developers, estate agents and lawyers had lied and forged documents to show they had planning permission.
Local authorities ordered hundreds of homes should be bulldozed, but many expats won a stay of execution against demolition through the courts.
However, many homes have been knocked down and their owners have been left holding mortgage debts they cannot afford to repay.
In some cases, developers have been jailed for their part in the fiasco.
Maura Hillen, president of Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No (AUAN), has headed the expat protests for many years.
“This is a great success. Our aim was to stop demolitions, but these home owners still face a battle to be paid their compensation,” she said.
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