The Provincial Court of Murcia has ruled this week that off-plan deposits in the failed Trampolin Hills Golf Resort must be repaid to affected buyers, delivering a major victory for both consumer rights and confidence.
Trampolin Hills, located in Campos del Rio, began to sell units in 2005, but despite off-plan purchases from clients in the UK, Spain and elsewhere, none of the properties were ever completed.
The development was declared insolvent by the Commercial Court No.2 of Murcia in October 2009, as it joined a number of projects that were hit by the financial crisis. Five years on, though, buyers were still waiting for any sign of their money from Caixabank, let alone the property they were initially promised.
Over a decade later, the Murcia court this week officially found in favour of affected buyers in a case. This is despite the fact that the Court of First Instance No.14 of Murcia initially did not consider the bank responsible. Indeed, Section 2 of the Provincial Appeal Court of Murcia has now revoked the bank’s challenge, instead condemning Caixabank to refund the full amount that was entered into their accounts, plus legal interest.
Reinforcing the law
The ruling in this case reinforces one of the crucial points of the regulation of the protection of funds paid for off-plan housing in Spain, which is the inalienable character of the rights granted by law to the buyers and the anti-formalist interpretation, always in favour of the buyer who advances quantities for the purchase of a house.
This law dates back to the 60s, when the country experienced similar problems. The interpretation of the law, which states the responsibility of the banking institutions in an unquestionable way, now acts as the safeguard for thousands of buyers in hundreds of developments all over Spain.
The turning of the tide
Costaluz Lawyers welcomed the work of the judiciary in the Trampolin Hills case. The legal firm is no stranger to the legal disputes that have plagued Spanish real estate since the global economic crisis. The tide notably turned in favour of buyers in 2012, with their landmark victory for 47 buyers in a lawsuit against Banco CAM.
The case saw father-of-two Keith Rule team up with other buyers who had invested in the Las Higuericas Finca Parcs development in the Spanish town of Hellin, only to lose their deposit when the project was suspended due to the recession. With no bank guarantee on his deposit, despite it being required by Law 57/68, Rule formed the Finca Parcs Action Group, which took legal action against the bank and developer Cleyton GES SL in 2009. The group ultimately won in 2012, and then defeating an appeal in 2013.
Keith’s quest for justice has helped shape the law of one of the world’s most popular property destinations.
The jurisprudence that existed when he first began his fight was very low. After written complaints, protests and a petition to the government, Keith worked with Jaime de Castro from Costaluz Lawyers to submit the Finca Parcs lawsuit to the court. The pioneering victory won back over £1 billion from the bank, as well as winning him a part-time job, managing the legal firm’s UK office. But it also helped to win rights for buyers in Spain.
In December 2015, the arguments first discussed by Keith and the Costaluz team became jurisprudential doctrine in the eyes of the Supreme Court. That was reinforced in March 2016, with a case won by Costaluz against Bankia (previously Caja Canarias), thus creating Case Law for the developers’ banks liabilities.
Winning back confidence
The firm’s battle is not over yet. A growing number of sentences from Provincial Appeal Courts have emerged regarding bank responsibilities in similar cases over the last five years. Since 2011, Costaluz have won more than 240 cases against developer’s banks and on more than 120 off-plan projects across Spain. Other firms have also jumped on the bandwagon with their own No Win-No Fee offers for clients, although many do not have Costaluz’s headline-grabbing track record.
Nonetheless, each victory is another step in the country’s positive recovery from the days of the financial crisis. This month’s verdict on Trampolin Hills is the latest to help boost confidence in the Spanish legal system – and, as a result, Spanish real estate overall.
Spain may now be the safest country in the world for buying and selling off-plan properties, says the firm.
“As more cases are won and more Case Law is created, clients are more confident about the possible success in their own action,” Keith explains to TheMoveChannel.com. “Although at one point, they may have been resigned to writing off their money, they are now hopeful of a successful outcome. I think this gives new buyers entering the market the confidence to see that consumer rights are protected in Spain.”Google+