Last Monday, the 13th of December, I read an article in the newspaper EL MUNDO in which they inform that about a hundred people from Northern Ireland were victims of a property fraud through the Ocean View Properties agency. It was supposed that the development company would build a housing estate in a plot located in Estepona (Malaga). Apparently fraud people made important payments on account of the purchase price in 2005 and 2006 for their future homes in Spain.
Concerning these off-plan property sales, directly from the developer (new property), apart from confirming whether the developer that sells is the owner of the buildable plot, and the relevant Town Hall has approved the urbanization project of this land, the buyer should request the immediate handing of the bank guarantee along with the interim payments that the buyer are going to carry, guaranteeing every payment for the building process until the granting of the purchase title deed. In this way, if the urbanization project may not be completed because of an administrative cause, because of the insolvency of the developer or any other cause non attributable to the buyer, then he can get back every payment made by enforcing this bank guarantee.
In this case, it is obvious that buyers and their solicitors did not require these bank guarantees to the developer. Now, the buyers should associate each other to force in the judicial proceedings, relying on a competent legal team that may advice them properly. It is essential to bring a lawsuit against them (civil action) or criminal charges (criminal action depending on whether it is considered a fraud or not) expeditiously so to call for the preventive seizure of all the goods that the developer may have, and all the administrators’ goods in any country, to study if the administrators have other companies opened so to attack all these goods.
When trying to get back money, the judicial proceedings is very long, so fraudsters or possible insolvents can hide or squander their patrimony and the trail of the money would be lost. The result of it may not guarantee the success.
Conclusion, if you are going to buy off-plan directly from the developer, make sure of who is the owner of the plot, of the urbanization project, and, specially, do not pay anything without receiving the corresponding bank guarantees for these interim payment until the granting of the purchase title deed. If you have signed a purchase private contract with a developer and you have not still the bank guarantees, it is time to require them, because the financial situation of the developer is complicated and, in short, you never know. Our advice is, if in doubt, you consult a solicitor in order him to analyze your situation.
Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)
Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)