For those who don't already know, there are properties in Spain without the proper planning permission. They have been in the news for the past few years and these illegal builds, can with little notice, be bulldozed with as little as 48 hours notice; traumatic as you can imagine. How can this happen in a civilized society? First and foremost people take risks.
There are two specific areas during the purchase that identify a weakness. A poor solicitor, who deliberately turns a blind eye to suspect planning applications; and advice from a solicitor to a prospective buyer, who then themselves choose to carry on with the build regardless of potential problems. The fraudulent Spanish lawyer cum solicitor, who surprisingly uses the language barrier as one reason for any errors, and the other reasons base themselves around communication errors with planning authorities. In my attempt to defend Spain and their procedures, allow me to draw a comparison. If we compare with the UK as a parallel, then we can find there are fraudulent solicitors trading in the UK and several go to court for their actions. Journalists enjoy a meaty story, something that will not only be a good story in the newspapers and television, but eventually bringing the said criminals to justice.
That is all well and good for journalists. but why don't they study the fraudulent actions of solicitors more often? The simple reason is the legal profession has plenty of clout to deter any nosey journalist. So any invasion comes with a threat of legal action and subsequent lawsuit should they get any small aspect of their reporting wrong.
So. unless the legal profession themselves have cast a certain individual aside; the ranks close. and delving into a solicitors affairs is rarely successful. Yet the same closed ranks do not occur in Spain, as law-suits between countries are more difficult to pursue. Allow me to clear up one aspect of the illegal builds in Spain.
New builds can be illegal unless they have the proper documentation; properties built before the year 2000 are less likely affected. Using that theory therefore, 'resale' properties are a better alternative to buy. Those bulldozed illegal properties are generally in the 'campo' areas. These are the areas on the outskirts of small villages and towns. The temptation to buy such properties, are clearly obvious as they are substantial in description with a good deal of land and physically built property upon the plot. What money may buy a three-bedroom apartment on the coast, would buy a 3 bedroom villa 5 miles inland, with a swimming pool and landscaped garden.
Such temptation is on every individual intending to buy overseas property. So here are the two main areas that property buyers need to be aware of. Firstly, the so-called dodgy solicitor.
These are obviously unscrupulous and similar to the dodgy people in the UK. They seem to settle in one area for a few years; do their dirty work and as their working environment begins to get tough, they move up and down the coast. An option to overcome this possibility is to get another solicitor to follow their tracks.
Tell your original solicitor that this is going to happen; and see whether he shakes in his boots. The cost maybe and extra £100, but the extra security and confidence you'll get through 'double-checking' will makes the buying process so much more comfortable. The second possibility is the more frequent.
The system of authority for building is different here in Spain. In the UK for example, planning permission is sought from the local council; once approved everything is fine. Here in Spain they have a two-tier system. More often than not the local council will approve development; if only for no other reason than injecting funds back from central government, as population quota improves the Spanish councils grants. The other tier within the system is the 'Regional Province' authorities, they have the last authority on planning. To ease the friction between the two, the Regional Authorities have designated areas that have urban development rights; allowing development.
Without this right of development, more scrutiny and approval is needed. Under this scrutiny comes 'delays' and doubt. Here the solicitor will advise a client that a previous application was approved by the local council, and then subsequently approved by the 'Regional Authority'. The decision to build as a consequence is put back onto the prospective buyer of the land; as the approval may take up and over a year. Big Risk!. But the prospective buyer is so eager that they approve the purchase of land.
With this approval comes the risk of everything going belly up and the house demolished. As with some houses, that have the risk of being bulldozed, the owner at the time try's to sell the property. More often than not as explained earlier the property is substantial, beautiful and close to all amenities; so the likelihood of potential buyers is huge. Again, in theory the property should never sell, as the solicitor does the necessary checks.
But invariably the estate agent initiating the sale; knows of an unscrupulous solicitor who will scurry through the proceedings. Downright scandal. but wherever there are people, there will be one dodgy character willing to earn a quick buck off someone. This scenario applies to any community it the world. At this moment in time 95% of property are fine; a further 3% have no plans finalized but will get approval eventually; and the remaining 2% need further clarification before you consider purchasing.
My conclusion on Spanish Property. Not too much different to the 'builder's bodge jobs' cunningly hidden before the property is sold in the UK. Unscrupulous activity happens everywhere, wherever there are people, there will be two or three in every hundred that should raise suspicions. When buying check thoroughly and perhaps get a second solicitor checking over the final drafts.
Phil Booker Online Estate Agent Copyright (c) 2008 Phillip Booker.
Mr. P. Booker Villas in Spain