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SNP MEP Ian Hudghton is asking the European Commission to bring forward proposals to protect people who get into difficulties when buying a home in the EU. Mr Hudghton says he has been dealing with an increasing number of calls for help as more and more Scots exercise their right to live and work elsewhere in the EU. Unfinished developments, poorly constructed houses and insufficient planning and maintenance laws are behind why constituents are getting in touch with him.
Planning and property conveyancing are the responsibility of each of the 27 member state governments. However, when purchasers look for help to the local and national authorities in the country they are moving to some have found that laws governing planning, construction and land ownership as well as the provision of water and electricity are inadequate or not properly enforced. Quoting two such cases, Mr Hudghton said:
"I've been contacted by a constituent who rightly has refused to complete the purchase of his house in Italy until it is finished, has been warned that his refusal risks him forfeiting the thousands of Euros he paid as deposit. To make matters worse he's discovered that part of the property on his title deeds does not in fact belong to him. Efforts to seek legal redress have allegedly met with threats and suggestions that the court system is rigged against them.
"Maintenance problems besetting a property in Cyprus were brought to my attention by a constituent 3 years ago. He and his neighbours are still waiting to be connected to the mains electricity supply and had to fight tooth and nail to get the developers to resolve problems of raw sewage draining onto the ground adjacent to the building. No planning permission had been granted to the developer which was at to the root of some of these problems. In spite of my involving the European Commission and Parliament's offices in Nicosia the matter had to revert to the local council which displayed little urgency in resolving these problems.
"These are just two cases which have come to my notice – I'm sure that other MEPs could cite a catalogue of other similar stories."
The Commission intervened a number of years ago to protect timeshare owners. Mr Hudghton believes that the time is now right for the EU to be looking seriously at what protections require to be granted to house buyers in cross-border transactions and said:
"There is a growing sense of irony amongst constituents that EU funding for roads, sewage systems and so on is being spent in countries where there is apparently little or no effort to ensure that property planning, development, construction and sales are regulated. Its time for the Commission to see what it can do to protect citizens for whom living the European dream has turned into a nightmare."