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Spain has always been a popular expat destination with retirees seeking sunshine, culture and value-for-money. For years, even new-build properties were available to expats far cheaper than they could be found in their home country. For those willing to buy an older property and renovate it, the bargains were even more tempting.
However as they say, if something seems too good to be true then it probably is, and never was this truer than in the Spanish property market. After tens of thousands of Brits, Italians and Eastern Europeans bought up swathes of land and property in Spain, an uncomfortable truth surfaced. In essence, many of these properties were actually illegal.
It has been suggested that greedy local construction firms, working in conjunction with planning officials that were either misinformed or corrupt, led to millions of Spanish properties being built on land without planning permission. Unwilling to grant retrospective planning permission for so many properties, the owners who to their knowledge were buying legitimate homes have struggled ever since.
Since the news broke of the problem with the Spanish property market an estimated 100,000 illegally-built homes, many of which belonged to expats, have been razed to the ground. Compensation has generally not been offered to these home owners who, in many cases, have lost their life’s savings and their dream of retiring to the sun.
Many have had to return to their home country, penniless and homeless, hoping that their government or family would offer them shelter.
Many others have been living in what many have called ‘legal limbo’ for up to ten years as the problem of illegally-built property has been discussed. Many have lived in daily fear that their home could be bull dozed at any time.
Even in cases where the bull dozers were kept at bay expat home owners have struggled to maintain even a semblance of normality because utility companies usually refuse to supply ‘illegal’ homes. That means that hundreds of thousands of expat retirees have been forced to live by candle light or use expensive diesel generators in order to watch TV.
Now, for the first time in years, there may just be a glimmer of hope. At least in Andalusia, it seems the government is preparing for action and is proposing an ‘amnesty’ on these illegal houses that were unwittingly purchased by foreigners and Spaniards alike.
Susana Diaz of the Andalusian government claims that she is working on a plan to accept the estimated 300,000 illegal homes into the community so that natives and foreigners alike can put this unfortunate experience behind them. It seems that, at least for some expats, it really will be alright on the night. After years of worry they’ll be able to get on with their dream life in the Spanish sunshine without the lack of electricity or the looming threat of demolition forcing them away.
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Expatriate Group & Expatriate Healthcare are trading styles of Strategic Insurance Services Limited who is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). FCA Firm reference Number is 307133. Strategic Insurance Services Limited is authorised to carry on Regulated Activities in accordance with the permissions granted by the FCA under PART IV of the Financial Services and Markets ACT 2000.