Apparently locksmiths and firemen in Spain are refusing to assist local authorities with eviction orders and can one blame them? Imagine arriving at the homes of frail and confused pensioners or families unable to keep up mortgage or rental payments and having to help turf them out on to the street. Personal morality aside, there would be the shame of pushing through crowds of protesters to do the dirty deed, a veritable executioner sending a potentially vulnerable individual to a life of spiraling poverty and despair.
But of course while as many as 50,000 Spaniards were evicted in the first half of 2012, leaving scores of repossessed homes peppering villages and towns, another 2 million vacant properties lie abandoned across the country, victims of the greedy real estate explosion that dribbled to an ignominious halt during the last decade.
Meanwhile an estimated 300,000 properties in Spain have been declared illegal with many due for demolition. Bravo! That’ll mean even more people cast out onto the street: the Spanish authorities really must be on a roll. Take Almeria’s Almanzora Valley where there are 12,000 ‘illegally’ built homes, nearly 1000 of which are under threat of the bulldozer. Many of these are owned by British expats who completed all the correct paperwork at time of sale and were cruelly given ‘illegal’ building permits by corrupt local councils. One retired English couple, Len and Helen Prior, have already had their dream house razed to the ground and are currently living in the property’s garage, the only building left standing.
The Priors who have been fighting their case in the Spanish courts since 2008 have had their first small taste of victory. The Ministry of Justice has at last ruled that the demolition was illegal because the Priors had not at the time been informed about the case being made against their property. They have been offered £26,000 compensation but half of this will need to be set against legal costs incurred. Rather deftly the small matter of compensation for their £350,000 demolished villa has been brushed under the carpet. Instead the Priors have been left to battle it out alone with their local Spanish council that was responsible for issuing them with the rogue building permit in the first place.
So just to recap, while many of Spain’s unemployed and evicted are setting up camp on the streets, others such as expats Len and Helen Prior are living surrounded by rubble because their homes have been demolished illegally. And all the while millions of empty properties are sitting like dead ducks on a barren landscape. Quite frankly, no wonder Spain is in a mess.
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