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Spanish property nightmare: Lessons from British expats


British communities in Spain that have been a victim of property fraud and planning abuse in the last decade are receiving signs of hope in order to regulate the situation of their house.

According to the local newspaper “La Voz de Almeria”, local authorities in the Almerian Almanzora Valley are seriously reconsidering an “amnesty” for most of the 11,000 houses that are categorized as “illegal”. As a first stage, the authorities are auditing all the illegal houses.

This positive response from the local government is a direct consequence of the pressure that the organization Abusos Urbanísticos Almanzora No ! AUAN has put on the authorities since late 2007 in order to regulate their housing situation: demonstrations, demands and seminars are some of the actions.


The following are basic points to understand what went wrong in Almeria and some general advice if you want to develop a house on a plot. If you want to develop or buy in Spain, we strongly encourage you to get proper legal advice for your specific case.

1) If you are planning to move to Spain and to develop on land, either rural or urban, it is important to check the local Plan General de Ordenación Urbana (PGOU) in order to know if the land is suitable to build on or not. All further licenses that developers may show you are worthless if the plot is not designated as urbanized in the approved local PGOU. This is what mainly went wrong in the Almanzora Valley affecting more than 5,000 houses – this could only happen in Spain! The Spanish Brick wonders if there were unscrupulous dealings going on within local authorities.

2) The PGOU is in all town halls to advise you. Ask for detailed information from an officer in the Concejalía de Urbanismo. It should be an approved PGOU by the regional government.

3) Rural land in the PGOU is legal and fine. What is not legal is to build a house on rural land.

4) Do not trust developers without clear records and good references. Never rush to buy in Spain: there are no easy bargains and plenty of houses to be sold. Try not to rush.

5) Ask for a building license in order to avoid any further demolition. Keep in mind that in some areas and towns there are a maximum of floors which can be built. So if you can only build up two floors and you build up three floors, you will be forced to pull down the third floor and you may face a penalty.

6) Purchase building insurance to protect against any potential defect in construction. It will be very useful.

7) Do not take decisions without legal advice. Discuss with other home owners or buyers.


  • We are deeply saddened about what happened and we want to make a special mention to Len and Helen Prior after reading about their case on the AUAN website. All our support goes to the affected (British and Spanish) home buyers.
  • Unless “illegal” houses in the Almanzora Valley were placed in dangerous locations such as cliffs, all the properties should now be legalized. It is a matter of justice not to punish innocents that did not have the protection of the authorities in this mismanagement.
  • The image of the Spanish property market has been extremely damaged by illegal developments and political corruption related to property and urban plans.


  • The Spanish Brick does not understand how 11,000 houses can be ¨illegally¨ built up without any obstacle. Culprits who broke the urban law (including authorities who allowed such a disgraceful event) should be made accountable.

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If you like this post please leave a comment. Cheers

4 thoughts on “Spanish property nightmare: Lessons from British expats

  1. Neale

    Totally agree, although ‘turning a blind eye’ by the buyer must take some of the blame in some cases,the main culprits seem to have been those in which we put so much trust…the same ones who now are trying to make out they are whiter than white!

  2. colin taylor

    LOVE your articles.
    Can you supply articles on the market for plots of land for self build

    prices ,local market conditions,legals etc
    Self Build (managing local contractors oneself to build is very common in the UK,what is situation in Spain?

    1. DT&K

      Hi Colin, many thanks for your comment. Self build is a great option that uk buyers are considering to do in Spain. We have received a few enquiries about that. The option is good since land prices is relatively cheap. We have something to do on this fields and definetely will publish more articles about it.
      Regards, Daniel

  3. Rogers

    I am buying a flat
    and have paid nearly all of the money for it to the developer
    however I witheld some whilst waiting for snagging and a habitacion certificate to be produced .

    in the meantime a creditor put an embargo on the property as it was still in the builders name
    The builder now says the property could be sold at aucton unless I go to court and remove the embargo

    I cant see how or why its my responsibility
    Lawyer says it will cost thousands to do this



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