British dreams at risk on the Costa

Marbella property investigation

03.04.2006

North Easterners, who have bought a dream Spanish holiday home in the sun, could face a nightmare of foreign red tape following yesterday's arrest of the Mayor of Marbella and several senior members of the Town Hall.

They are under investigation in relation to several corruption scandals, some of which are connected with the issuing of thousands of illegal building licenses.

The local authority in Marbella granted property developers licences to build thousands of homes and businesses in the popular town and the surrounding region on the basis of a General Building Plan, which had not been approved by the Regional Government of Andalucia.

Illegal property licenses

These licences are now considered illegal, making the future of thousands of properties uncertain. It is estimated that 30,000 properties are classified in the illegal part of the General Plan.

However, a new Plan has now been prepared by the Regional Government, with a view to legalising the great majority of them. This is not yet approved and around 5,000 properties may still be at risk, many of which may could be the homes of British ex-pats.

The final outcome is to be decided by the Regional Government (Junta de Andalucia) and the Court.

Marbella and the Malaga region are popular with non-Spanish nationals who choose this sunny area of Spain to live, the majority of whom are British.

Current estimates indicate that 70,000 Brits buy property in Spain every year.

That said, the licence issue may affect not only thousands of British but also Spanish nationals who have bought or are considering buying their dream home for a life in the sun on the Costa Del Sol.

Finding out if your Spanish property is at risk

How do you know if your property is at risk and, if you are affected, what can you do?

Jose Maria de Lorenzo from national law firm, Irwin Mitchell, which also has offices in Marbella, has already received a number of calls from worried Brits who own homes in the area.

I am concerned that the latest news will affect the image of Marbella, says Jose Maria de Lorenzo. However, on the positive side, it is hoped that once this saga is over it will stabilise this region once and for all.

The question of the legality of the licences highlights the absolute necessity of taking proper, independent legal advice before buying a property.

Anyone looking to purchase a house in Spain should seek advice from a reputable and experienced abogado - solicitor - who will thoroughly investigate the property. This is the most effective way to safeguard your investment.

What if you already have a property in Marbella and don't know if your house is affected?

A solicitor will be able to help you find out if your house is at risk explains Jose Maria. In general terms, anyone who receives any kind of notification from a local authority should consult a lawyer immediately as time limits given by public authorities are extremely short and are effective from the moment notification is given.

This might, in some cases, be as little as 20 days or less.

Anyone who is concerned that their property may be affected can contact either Irwin Mitchell in the UK on 0370 1500 100.

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