British Expats Hit By The Spanish Homes Scandal

A British couple that was duped by a developer has seen their dreams of a owning a Spanish home ruined after planning officials ordered for the home to be bulldozed. John and Jan Brooks thought that they would end their days spending long and peaceful summers in their villa in Spain but it was not to be.

Their dream turned into a nightmare after being told by officials that their home had been built illegally and therefore had to be demolished. They paid £170,000 for the villa but after an eight year battle the villa has now been bulldozed. All that remains is an empty pool beside a pile of rubble.

The couple’s nightmare began back in 2005 when they used the money from their pension to buy the villa, which was located on a hillside in Cantoria in Andalucia. Within a year of the purchase the couple were informed that the property had actually been built without planning permission. The villa is one of four on the development, all of them bought by unsuspecting British expatriates.

The developer, Mr Francisco Pedrosa, received a five month suspended jail sentence last year. As part of the sentence he was ordered to give full compensation to the British people that he duped with his scheme. However Pedrosa then made himself bankrupt, meaning that the Brooks and the three other parties will never receive any money back.

More surprising is the fact that the local Mayor, Pedro llamas, was also involved in the scandal. He authorised the illegal supply of water and electricity to the homes and as a result he was also given a two year suspended prison sentence. Although Llamas challenged his conviction it was upheld and he was also ordered to give up public office for 23 months, though not entirely.

Government officials flattened the home this week with the other homes set to be demolished in the coming days. What is more surprising is that campaigners believe that there are around 300,000 illegal properties built in Spain over the ten year housing boom by corrupt developers. Many expats are attracted by the all year sunshine that Spain has to offer so thousands have swapped their life in Britain for a new one in Spain. However there have been hundreds so far that have lost out to the planning ‘red tape’ of Spain.

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Some British expats have had their properties demolished even though they did have planning permission. Helen and Len Prior were left with just a garage after their villa was demolished due to ‘irregularities’ in their planning permission in 2008. Just days later there were ten other demolitions of properties nearby, at least four were bought and owned by British expats. The Priors have since received £26,000 compensation from Spain’s Ministry of Justice because they did in fact have all of the necessary paperwork and a Judge had signed the order to have their £350,000 villa demolished. Even though the Priors feel that £26,000 is better than nothing they still feel that if the judge had not signed the order and thrown the case out then they would still have their luxury villa today.

The problem is so bad that The Telegraph newspaper has set up a campaign to support the thousands of expats who have fallen victim to urban corruption in Spain and its confused state of the property law there. The newspaper has received many horror stories of British expats who have been issued with demolition orders. It is vital, when purchasing property in Spain, that you employ the services of a good lawyer to read through all of the fine print. Others decide to rent for a period of time so that they speak to other expats in the region and learn if any properties have met with a similar fate.