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02/04/2013 - Spain to change its planning laws - but can they get it right?

The Spanish government in Madrid has published proposed changes to its national Land Law (Ley de Suelo) aimed at reinvigorating the country’s ailing property market. The homeowners association, AUAN, has formally submitted suggested modifications in order to address some of the gaps and injustices which they believe have caused such a loss of confidence in the Andalucian real estate market.

The groups suggested revisions include protecting the fundamental right to enjoy a property acquired in good faith and steps to be put in place to ensure that compensation is paid up front before a property is demolished. They further suggest that individuals should have the right to be compensated by public authorities when they are found to be at fault.

It is also suggested that the supply of public services should not be denied to properties currently categorised as outside of an urban area. According to Mrs Hillen, "We have many members whose properties are earmarked to become urban. They can easily be connected to existing public services but are not permitted to do so because of the wording of existing legislation.

Thus, some homeowners are forced to wait years to connect to a pylon across the road causing needless hardship which benefits nobody. We are suggesting that the government recognise the reality of rural life as it is on the ground and allows the law to reflect that reality.”

In this vein, the group also calls for a clarification in the law regarding the illegal division of rural land for the creation of building plots, an act which, currently, is never proscribed from prosecution. “In a large number of cases these plots are now occupied by dwellings giving rise to the strange situation where the house is so old that its existence cannot be challenged but the plot can be called into question at any time, with very messy legal implications”, said Mrs Hillen.

Other suggestions made by the group also call for the true reflection of the planning and legal situation of properties in the Land Registry, a requirement to inform third-party purchasers of any legal action against their property in order that they may represent their interests in court and improved transparency in the planning process.

The national Land Law (Ley de Suelo) takes precedence over regional laws and any regional legislation must reflect any changes made to it. President of AUAN Maura Hillen said "There have been over forty amendments to regional and national laws in the last (10) years to try and deal with problems, including the latest Decree, but nothing has been of much help to our members, most of whom are British families who invested their life savings in a Spanish property in good faith, only to find themselves in a legal limbo due to the confusion and ineffectiveness of different authorities and government departments.

"Because the Junta de Andalucía has consistently failed to provide adequate measures to address the problems, we sincerely hope that the central government in Madrid will consider our suggestions and be willing to take the necessary steps to restore some confidence in the housing sector, and lift the threat of homelessness from the shoulders of thousands of investors who bought property here in good faith."

AUAN, 2nd April 2013