The Spanish legal term prescripción doesn’t have a direct UK translation, despite it being such a useful get out of jail free card.
It means “to fall outside of the statue of limitations”, and what that means is that whatever criminal offence you’ve committed, if you keep quiet about it for long enough, you can no longer be prosecuted.
For example, let us assume you go into your local friendly supermarket and “lift” a jamón serrano. Since the jamón is worth under 500€ you’re not going to get into penal trouble anyway, but that’s a different story. If you keep quiet about it for six months and a day, you can then go to the media and boast about it, safe in the knowledge that your falta has prescrito and the law can’t touch you.
Which is why a number of these supermarkets employ an alternate security / justice system, known as Ramón and his baseball bat. But that’s another story.
Back to the illegal homes.
Prescripción being an integral part of the Spanish Penal Code, the current building law in Andalucia (the LOUA) specifically states, in article 185(1), that urbanistic protection measures can only be enforced / commenced within six years of the completion. Ie, build something illegal, and if no do-gooder goes running to the Authorities within six years, it’s legal.
Sadly, this doesn’t actually mean illegal homes can be made illegal. The article continues in part 185(2) to exempt urban parcels on non buildable lands, or special protection (natural parks, beach, etc).
Now, the Junta de Andalucia, being a bunch of weasels, admitted last year (November – they then proceeded to setup a judicial commission) that they were studying the “reinterpretation” of article 185(2) to see if it could be used to make illegal homes legal.
The thinking was, if we read this article in a different way, can we stop prosecuting illegal home owners and let the statue of limitations of six years apply?
Well, if you’re going to make it up as you go along, yes you can. It’s a bodge, and doesn’t help anyone who’s been denounced, but for those illegal home owners sitting with their hats firmly jammed down over their ears in the hope it will all blow over – well, it just might.
After all, it might be against the Constitution to actually prosecute someone in this manner! So everyone went off to think about it for a while.
Anyway, the judicial commission has now broken up for the holidays and isn’t expected to make any ruling until the autumn. They were supposed to have issued a guidance by the late spring, but didn’t come to any sort of agreement.
La Voz notes that no timescale has been mentioned for when guidance will be issued.
In theory, if article 185(2) is “reinterpreted” then if your illegal home was built over six years ago and you haven’t been denounced, then you now have a nice, legal home. Just with no paperwork.
Is this a fudge? Well, I reckon we’re up to our ears in bloody turrón here. But it’s the best we can hope for.