An example of inhuman bureaucracy

Wildfires Mijas

Some may still remember the wildfire in September 2011 that ravaged nearly 700 hectares of forest and land, including a large part of the Sierra de Mijas up to La Mairena. It was a terrible disaster, turning the beautiful green Sierra de Mijas into a charred, treeless expanse.
The fire was caused by a private barbecue on a riverside. The hot and dry Terral wind fanned the flames, setting the horror in motion. Firefighters on the ground and in the air battled the flames for days, a David versus Goliath struggle. Only a shift to the moist Levante wind helped the forces get the fire under control.
Shortly after the disaster, a homeowner contacted me, asking if I could come by because his house had burned down. It was a wooden structure house with a special tar membrane, instead of roof tiles, for better rain protection.
During my visit, there was little more than a concrete slab and a few protruding copper pipes left, aside from ash. It smelled of burnt electrical cables and plastic. The fire had come so quickly that the owner couldn’t even take his most personal belongings. Everything was gone: the deed, tax notices, documents, valuables, photos and priceless memories…
Who would have imagined that such drama could escalate further? But it did!

Although the house was originally built on land designated as “no urbanizable” (non-buildable), it was constructed in 2001 with building permits and approval from Mijas town hall. However, in 2007, the land was reclassified as protected, and a new land law (LOUA, 2002) came into effect, strictly prohibiting construction on such areas under penalty of law. This law was replaced by the LISTA law in December 2021.

Undeterred, the owner decided to swiftly reconstruct the property using the same materials, size, and design, opting for a timber frame construction. Despite knowing that obtaining a formal building permit was impossible due to the current LOUA and landscape protection laws, he chose to proceed anyway. A team of men rebuilt the house in timber frame construction in just six weeks – an impressive achievement.

However, this bold move did not go unnoticed. It triggered a series of events: police visits, building inspections, demolition orders, and numerous stern letters from Mijas council. Despite all this, the owner refused to demolish anything and persisted in completing the residential building. His rationale echoed an age-old sentiment: once inside, it’s hard to get me out.

The municipality of Mijas began to tighten the screw: they showed up to issue fines and even involved the police. Faced with this, the owner decided to take legal action against Mijas town hall. He argued, how could it be that a house, which had passed inspections from the building authority, now faced demolition?

Years passed, and the legal battle against Mijas was won; the house could stay. Congratulations were in order—it was good to see justice prevail.

But the story doesn’t end there: the same owner, who has lived in the property since 2012, now wants to sell it. However, they’ve since discovered that the Spanish Catastro, controlled by the tax authorities, is blocking the sale with a veto; a notary is unable to proceed with the sale. Now, we’re working on removing this final obstacle.

But where does this veto originate? We’re not sure, but we suspect it relates to the demolition order issued by the municipality of Mijas during the “reconstruction” period. Since there was no response and the demolition wasn’t carried out, the municipality has prevented a resale through the financial authority, and the bureaucratic machinery keeps grinding on. However, the veto could also stem from other reasons, such as unpaid taxes at the tax office or similar issues.

We haven’t yet resolved the financial authority’s veto; it appears that no one is taking responsibility. Documents either don’t exist, can’t be found, or, like so much from that time, were lost to fire.

This all seems absurd: once there’s a snag, it’s challenging to untangle. This case vividly illustrates the sometimes inhumane nature of the Spanish authorities.

Nonetheless, we’re persisting in our efforts and wish the owner success. We hope we can still close this matter in favour of our client and finally sell this property, putting an end to this ordeal.


Building Law Andalusia


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