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Home demolition video sparks expat outrage

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Home demolition video sparks expat outrage
The 30-second video shows a bulldozer knocking down the walls of a house in Cantoria, Andalusia, which belonged to an elderly UK man.
14:27 CEST+02:00
A video of the demolition of a British-owned home in Andalusia on Monday has once again highlighted the plight of the many foreign homeowners in Spain who find their properties under threat because they were built illegally.

The 30-second video shows a bulldozer knocking down a house belonging to John Brooks, from Somerset in the UK.

His home was one of four foreign-owned houses slated for demolition in the village of Cantoria in Spain's southern Andalusia region.

To date, his is the only property to be razed but the other three homeowners could now be facing a similar fate.

Millions of houses were built during Spain's building boom but many did not have the property planning permission as developers and promoters sought to cash in quickly.

There are an estimated 300,000 illegal properties in Andalucia according to government estimates.

The consequences for homeowners have ranged from fines to difficulties in arranging connection to services or even court proceedings.

In the worst case scenario, people have seen their dream homes demolished, as was the case in Cantoria.

The demolition of the Cantoria properties comes after legal proceedings launched by Andalusia's government in 2004 against a local developer who illegally built the four houses, the homeowner support group AUAN said in a media release.

Read The Local's article on how one UK man beats Spain's banks on their home ground.

A demolition order was handed down in June and the promoter was ordered to knock down the properties at his own expense.

He was also ordered to compensate the four British home owners, who had acted in good faith, the court said.

But AUAN president Maura Hillen told The Local that — as far as they were aware — the affected homeowners had yet to receive any compensation.

The four houses have been vacant for some time, with services cut off some time ago.

"I'm just glad the owner wasn't there to see his house demolished," Hillen told the Local.

"Spain's complicated planning laws are a shambolic mess," said the property rights campaigner. "Unfortunately, it's the homeowners who purchased in good faith are the ones facing the real consequences."

Hillen also highlighted the negative impact the demolition video would have.
 
"This video does untold damage to Spain's damage to Spain's reputation, and the ordinary people in these Spanish towns are just shaking their heads.
 
"They can't believe these demolitions are taking place when the local economy is so bad: it is devastating for the property sector."
 
For people still thinking of buying property in Spain, Hillen has one main piece of advice: "Do your research."
 
"It's also good idea to rent first and get to know how things work in that part of Spain," the AUAN president said.
 
She also recommends that would-be buyers obtain official documents relating to properties they are interested in from both the local municipality and the regional government.
 
"And make sure you get everything in writing, so that it is dated, stamped and logged into the system."
  
The British Embassy Madrid told The Local it was aware of the media reports of demolitions of UK-owned homes in Andalusia and was currently investigating the circumstances.
 
There are thousands of homeowners across Spain who could potentially be affected in some form because their properties did not receive property planning permission, an embassy spokesperson said.
 
The UK's Foreign Office has very useful Spain-specific property advice pages at gov.uk and a new video on YouTube.
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