The council in Mijas was coming to terms this week with the possibility of having to pay compensation to some 100 homeowners for wrongfully taking possession and auctioning off their properties.
The Andalusian High Court has ruled against the town hall in an appeal against the first judgement in a scandal involving the forced sale of people’s property for not paying local tax debts.
The auctions took place under the previous mayor of Mijas, Ángel Nozal, and in a separate line of inquiry, he has been facing a criminal investigation, along with the head of Treasury and chief local tax collection officer at the town hall.
This recent, first judgement is a civil case against the council brought after a complaint by a British couple who, in January 2015, found out that a company was trying to make a forced entry into the holiday home they owned. The company gave them the surprising news that it had bought the property off the council.
Despite not having received any notification, the Britons learned that the council had taken possession of their home, worth just under 250,000 euros, in compensation for unpaid local taxes of just 4,000 euros.
They said that, not only was there always enough money in a Spanish bank to pay the debt, but that they weren’t aware of the debt nor of the proceedings against them.
The council was accused of not trying hard enough to contact them and ignoring other contact addresses it had for them and their lawyer.
Without their knowledge, the council had then sold on the home at a below-market price of 80,000 euros to new owners, and it is this undervaluing that is the centre of a separate criminal inquiry.
Investigators are looking at the supposed rapid speed with which the council took over homes then sold them again to trusted third parties.
Now, with this first civil court finding against the council and the company that bought the property afterwards, the fear is that all the other civil cases will go against them and compensation will need to be paid.