The British Minister for Europe has hit out at Spain for failing to help its beleaguered property market after visiting expats who face having their homes demolished.
After seeing for himself the plight of British expats who could lose their properties in the south east of Spain after authorities declared they were built illegally, Chris Bryant said there appears to be deadlock.
'The housing market in Spain is not going to recover quickly if pictures of bulldozers knocking down expats' homes are appearing in British newspapers. Everyone I've spoken to in Spain says they want to find a solution but wanting a solution and getting one are two different things,' he said.
'Obviously it's not for the British Government to tell the Spanish what to do. But I'm pushing the message hard at all government levels that I meet here that they have got to put political willpower into these problems, whether it's an amnesty, whether it's a change in the law, whatever the solution is that is needed. There is an enormous difference between the Britons who just make a cursory legal deal -- that is always ill advised -- and those who have done everything they should or could have done but still find themselves in deep trouble,' he added.
The expats bought their properties at the height of the Spanish development boom which was also when many local officials issued planning permission in turn for taking bribes and these are now being declared illegal in a move to clean up Spain's planning system. Even lawyers were involved in the corruption in some cases.
Bryant also spoke to expats about other issues including health care during his visit to Torrevieja, the fastest-growing town on the Costa Blanca, Malaga, the capital of the Costa del Sol, and the town of Albox, where eight British families are fighting demolition orders issued at the end of last year.
Bryant said he was able to tell worried expats that the Andalusian regional government was appointing a full time official to deal with their concerns. The official will provide advice on property regulations, health care and residence requirements.
'People buying property anywhere abroad, not just in Spain, have to take at least twice as much trouble as they do at home to make sure everything is legal. It is so easy to go to a lawyer because he's cheaper. Then later you find out that he wasn't an independent lawyer at all, but was working all the time on behalf of the land developer and you are really stuffed,' said Bryant.
'Through our travel advice we suggest that prospective buyers seek independent legal advice and contact relevant local associations of those affected by property problems. We will continue to work with the Government of Spain and relevant local authorities on resolving the issues that the people of Albox face,' he added.