Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Letter to UK MEPs

I am writing to you in the hope that you can help to bring the Auken Report and the recommendations made therein to the forefront of Parliamentary activity.

At a recent meeting in El Albir, Spain, attended by Margrete Auken, it was noted that the Spanish government had effectively ignored the adopted text of the Auken Report, along with that previously of Michael Cashman into the building problems and land grab in Spain.

How long can the European Parliament allow the Spanish authorities to blatantly ignore EU decisions that are taken? There are many thousands of people whose lives are being ruined by this scandal, and all they want is a satisfactory end to this nightmare, to be able to live in peace and harmony, and to enjoy their life in Spain.

This was part of my submission to the Auken Report, but which could effectively apply to tens of thousands more people caught up in the property scandal:

I belong to a group of mainly British third age people who bought houses in El Fas, Cantoria, in the Province of Andalucia, who are from all walks of life, most of us were very careful when we made the big decision to embrace the Spanish way of life and purchased our houses. Checks were made on agents, Spanish solicitors were employed, notaries processed the escrituras, and we were constantly assured that all was in order and that our houses in Spain were completely legal according to Spanish law.

You would find it hard to imagine the horror, stress and strain of discovering that your house, into which you have put your life savings was to become subject to demolition because it was illegal.

The first any of us knew about this was when we discovered that the builders were being prosecuted and that the public prosecutor of Huercal Overa wanted to demolish 19 houses on El Fas where we live. Oblivious to the fact that we were all victims of fraud, and making us double victims by threatening our houses.

We fully understand that the laws of Spain have to be upheld, but where was the law when we were cheated and lied to? Where was the “Law” when our house where being constructed?, the authorities did not control the situation, the “Town Hall officials”, “Mayors” and “Councilmen” Police, Guardia Civil ALL turned a blind eye. WHY? We are now told that no building licences have been issued by Cantoria for 25 years. Why are we being punished when we had done all we could to ensure that we complied with the law and bought in good faith.

It is inconceivable that the Spanish authorities were unaware of the situation regarding the illegal building, and thereby condoned it. Where did they think the extra revenues were coming from? Why has Spain been booming in recent years? Where did all the businesses that profited from the mainly British investments think that the money came from? It really is shameful that they should suggest that we should pay more. What about sharing some of the profits that have made out of us. Profits which the government has shared with the taxes which have been paid.

Our Dutch builders have received around 4 million euros from us just on our small estate. We now find that we have no electricity except from a very expensive to run generator (generously provided by the Mayor of Cantoria), and water from who knows where ( NOT drinking water ). All because we have been misled, lied and cheated to by Agents, Developers, Solicitors, and above all by the Administers of the Laws of Spain, the Town Halls, Andalucian Parliament, Andalucian Junta. We cannot now get the correct paperwork for our houses.

Tens of thousands of people now find themselves in the same situation.
Why was this allowed to happen?
This is the shame of Spain!
The realisation that so many houses are now classed as illegal was the main cause of the property slump in Spain, long before the current worldwide economic problems.

All we want is to live out our lives in peace, and enjoy this wonderful country, among the good Spanish people. Surely this is our fundamental basic human right.

We think the Spanish government should consider the following:
1. Take away the threat of demolition.
2. Allow us to gain mains electricity and water. We can then contribute to the local councils and pay our bills correctly as we would all wish to do.
3. Sequester the assets of the builders and developers who have acted illegally, and use this to carry out any further work to enable developments such as ours to become fully legal.
4. Further punish those responsible, by applying the criminal laws of Spain.
5. Use any money remaining to compensate the victims (legal expenses, etc.). Those of us who are taking legal action are doing so at our own expense, against these builders/developers who are criminals, and we are having to pay huge amounts of euros to bring them to justice.
6. Make the Spanish Authorities, ADMIT that they have been complicit and instrumental in the making of this situation, as highlighted by Michael cashman, MEP; Margaret Auken MEP and recently by Willie Meyers MEP.

These actions would bring much needed revenue into the towns and the service industries, and would cost very little. We estimate that the population of our few houses in El Fas spend in the region of 4000 euros per week in the locality. Multiply this by the many thousands more properties and you can see that this is a massive amount of money being put into the Spanish economy. Most of us are on the padron, and have our residencia.

As you can hopefully see from above, the Spanish authorities have little or no regard for the victims of their property scandal. Which they themselves have caused.

Some members of our group are facing severe harassment including death threats, both physically and by e-mail, a live shotgun cartridge placed on a front doorstep, and abusive and malicious e-mail and press campaigns.

There has been some movement towards regularising most of the illegal properties (Certificate of Ordenanza), but that has proved to be unworkable, and will merely result in extracting more money from the victims. There are then all of the other irregularities, ie, the land not being properly segregated, problems over who actually has title to the land, the payment of urban prices for rustic land, etc.

In the case of the 19 houses at El Fas, some of us have grouped together and employed a solicitor who is properly versed in Spanish law, and a barrister from Madrid. Their estimate of the costs to sort out the illegal mess is 50,000 – 60,000 euros. Yes, that is 50 to 60 thousand euros. Where is that money supposed to come from.

As I have already stated, the authorities were complicit in this scandal. They have received taxes from the developers (where the developers have bothered to declare), and taxes from the profits made by the many businesses who themselves have profited from the illegal building. All those people who have profited should now be paying for the problems to be sorted out.
The scale of the fraud is immense, not only are there rogue builders and developers, there are rogue property agents, solicitors, notaries, town councils and especially some Mayors. All have played their part in this shameful scandal.

The authorities would appear to be trying to pretend that they knew nothing, and that they have no say in the judicial process. What rubbish! They could allow the majority of properties to be connected to the mains services tomorrow, if they so wished. At least that would go some way to helping the victims, many of whom are having to pay for very expensive to run generators for their electricity.

Apart from the horrendous legal costs, we are now threatened with the costs of infrastructure, which again can run into many thousands of euros. Where will the money come from? The victims should not need to pay even one cent more.

Most of the victims of this scandal are pensioners living on a set income, much reduced as the euro gets stronger. Many have had to return to the UK to beg for help from friends and family. Their properties in Spain are virtually worthless in the current economic climate. Many are trapped in Spain, existing as best they can.

There is a belief that the houses were purchased very cheaply because they were built on rustic land. Whilst that may be true in a few isolated cases, we certainly did not pay rustic prices. We have paid urban prices for rustic land, and the developers have made massive profits. Possibly more than 4 million euros from our 19 houses alone. Many of these developers are now pleading poverty, but we are assured that much of the money has been salted away. Even if the properties were legal and had correct paperwork, where is the market for selling?

Many of these victims need help, help towards the costs and stress of living as victims of this massive fraud.

The Spanish authorities have no regard whatsoever for the victims of their housing policies, and have been quite happy to turn a blind eye as long as the economy was booming on the back of this scandal.

Unless action is swift, these problems are going to rumble on for years, many of the victims are in their twilight years, they do not have years to wait for their life to begin again. Four local males have died in El Fas in the last eighteen months.

Many of us were overjoyed that at last the European Parliament was taking up our case. We call on you to get the help and justice we deserve.

1 comment:

  1. I am interested in your comment re the Certificate de Ordenanza being an unworkable solution.
    This is part of the process Catral town hall has declared as an essential step towards, regularisation.
    People in Catral are looking into the legality of this move, but it sounds like you already have valuable experience of this. If you can elaborate, it would be much appreciated.