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Thursday October 29, 2009

House Today, Gone Tomorrow

Having a bad hair day? Try being Florentina Mora, a Majorcan chef from my local town of Sóller, who has inadvertently fallen foul of Ley de Costas, the Coastal Laws of Spain, and on November 5 will see her family’s beachside home demolished.

Florentina’s in-laws purchased this romantic old landmark on Cala Tuent beach back in the 1920s with all the legal paperwork intact. Some 60 years later, the new coastal law was inaugurated to nationalise the whole Spanish coastline, protecting it from over-development and private control. The aim was to make beach land accessible to the public and to defend the coastline against erosion and excessive urbanisation.

So far, so good. The problem though, was what to do about the 200,000 privately owned properties that contravened the newly-created 1988 law, 10,000 of which were in the Baleares. After a lot of head-scratching, Ley de Costas came up with a cunning plan. Homes constructed after 1988 within about 500 metres of the shore (or to put it another way, to the point where the worst known storms were thought to have reached) would automatically become public property with no offer of compensation. Those owners who had purchased properties legally before the law was instituted would in certain cases be allowed to lease the property for up to 60 years, but still receive no compensation.

As far as Florentina Moya is concerned, after several years of appeals, tears and huge costs, Ley de Costas has decreed that the property must be destroyed. The double whammy is that the cost for demolition will be €300,000, which the family is supposed to meet. Not only has Florentina’s legally-bought property been whipped from under her nose but she must also pay for the pleasure of having it destroyed. Florentina and her in-laws have, over the years, ploughed their hard-earned money into internal renovation, hoping to turn the property into a little bar-cum-refugio, a mountain refuge, for walkers, but their petition has fallen on deaf ears.

There have been fear-inducing television programmes in the UK featuring poor Brits duped into buying illegally-built properties in Spain, but the fallout from Ley de Costas shows that it’s not just the Brits who are the victims with such retrospective laws.

Thousands of expats, and Spaniards like Florentina who bought coastal properties in all good faith, will now see their homes and dreams crushed. A campaigning pressure group, PNALC “” created for owners affected by the Ley de Costas is at last making waves, so to speak, and hopes to exert more influence in the European Courts.

Still, this is small comfort to Florentina Moya and her family for whom the clock continues to tick.


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