A bank is ordered to refund 227,000 euros to the purchasers of an illegal apartment
Although an appeal against the sentence is still possible, it looks as if the ordeal may be coming to an end for a British couple whose dream of enjoying their retirement in Spain turned into a nightmare. A court in Malaga has ordered Banco Popular to refund 227,000 euros to a married couple who live in the UK; this was the amount they paid to a developer for an apartment which could never be registered because it did not comply with planning laws.
The case goes back to 2003, when the couple bought the apartment in Los Lagos de Santa María Golf, a residential development which, like many others when the GIL party was in power in Marbella, was built without paying heed to town planning regulations.
The apartments were sold off plan and the purchasers made stage payments into the developer’s bank account, which was with Banco Popular. Three years later, when the time came to register the property, the scandal at Marbella council was at its height and the Town Hall was being run by a management board. The board was reviewing all the works licences which had been granted in 2002 and 2003 and which clearly did not comply with the Urban Plan which was in force at the time.
The complex of apartments in question had been built on land which was only classified for single-occupancy townhouses, a public street, parks and gardens. The licences had not been granted to the developer who finally took over the works but to a company called Sur Inversiones Sema SL, whose representative was Italian businessman Giovanni Piero Montaldo. He was sentenced to eight months in prison and fined 150,000 euros for bribery during the ‘Malaya case’.
The residential development also lacked a first occupancy licence, which the developer considered had been granted because there was no evidence that it had not.
When they discovered that their property was illegal the couple, like many other foreign purchasers, refused to sign for the title deed and demanded their money back from the developer.
This was refused, and they took the matter to court, represented by the Ley 57 legal firm. When the court found in their favour, announcing that the contract was invalid and ordering their money to be refunded, the developer had filed for bankruptcy and was insolvent, so was unable to comply.
The legal firm decided to claim against Banco Popular, the bank into which the monies for the purchase had been paid. The bank said that by law it was obliged to deposit themoney in a special account, but that the regulations did not oblige it to ensure that the vendor issued guarantees for the payments, and that it was therefore exempt from the obligation of refunding them.
Nevertheless, the court found in favour of the purchasers, considering that the fact that individual guarantees had not been given was no reason for the expectation of a guarantee not to be satisfied.
It has ordered the bank to return all the money which the couple had paid, which was 227,696 euros, plus interest from 8 September last year, the date upon which the couple demanded their money back.
The bank, which can appeal against the decision, has also been ordered to pay the costs.source surinenglish