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
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.