British expats caught up in legal challenges over the ownership of their dream homes in Spain have won the hope of compensation in a landmark court ruling.
Thousands of homes have lay under the shadow of bulldozing after shady developers and estate agents built them without planning permission to cash in on the expat appetite for a new life in Spain.
Now, a decade after starting court action to protect their homes, a court has order developers should pay them more than £100,000 compensation and put the brakes on the bulldozers threatening to raze their properties to the ground.
The ruling is believed to be the first giving hope that illegal developers will be brought to book for scamming unwary homebuyers.
The judge in Almeria decided that the homeowners had bought their properties in good faith and were not complicit in attempts to break planning laws.
However, winning the victory could backfire on local authorities trying to kick expats out of their homes as the judge ruled if the developer does not pay up, the local government must settle the compensation claim.
The decision brings hope to around 300,000 homeowners in Spain involved in title and planning disputes with developers and local government.
Thousands of these homeowners are expats from Britain, Germany and Scandinavia who invested their life savings in a new life in Spain only to find they had been conned by developers who put up their homes without legal clearance.
Maura Hillen, president of Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No (AUAN), has led the expat protests.
“This is a great success. Our aim was to stop demolitions, but these home owners still face a battle to be paid their compensation,” she said.
Recently, the Spanish national government has ordered local authorities to give retrospective planning permission to the illegal homes and taken action against developers.
In two cases, builders have been jailed for their part in the plot to scam expats.