Property owners who have fallen foul of touristic property letting laws in Tenerife may now see previously imposed fines of 18,000 euros reduced to around 5,000 euros thanks to local pressure group Alotca.
Alotca is an association formed to lobby the Government in connection with tourism legislation, and to help those affected by it. The initials stand for Asociación de afectados por la ley de ordenación de turismo de Canarias (Association of those affected by the Canarian tourism regulation law). The association lobbies to create an atmosphere in which the fines as imposed are seen as monstrous which it is hoped will affect both Government policy and legal judgements when fines come to Court.
The following report is reproduced with kind permission from Janet Anscombe, one of five founder members and committee member of pressure group, Alotca.
The first appeals against fines issued to property owners reduced the fine to 13,800 euros. The second appeals under the Plan Especial went to Court last Thursday. Before the hearing, however, the judge called Alotca lawyer José Escobedo and the Government’s lawyer into a meeting. Also present were a legal assistant from Tenerife Litigation (the office of the two Alotca lawyers, José Escobedo and Santiago Saenz), and the two chief inspectors from the department of Tourism.
There are two things that have been the subject of much discussion and rumour and need clarification;
- First, the judge has confirmed that Canarian law is valid, and applicable, to cases of fines levied against individuals for privately letting their property for holiday rentals.
- Secondly, he confirmed that previous judgements concerning “prior authorization” have no relevance at all to these cases.
The judge requested the meeting because he had certain things to say in general terms about the specific cases being heard and others like them still to come to hearing.
He considered the fine amount levied to be disproportionate (proportionality of punishment fitting the infraction is written into the Spanish constitution); that Alotca lawyers had prepared a strong and detailed defence; that the Government nonetheless had a case that could be developed during a hearing; that such cases would take a considerable time to hear; and there were so many of them that court time used would be inordinate. As a result, he had consulted with other judges and it had been decided that all such cases would be heard by that same judge through Court, number 4 in Santa Cruz.
Having made these comments, the judge then asked that a class action be formed for an out-of-court settlement which would apply to all appeals currently under way.
Since Alotca has brought the vast majority of cases to be heard, and was also behind the first appeals to be heard, the class action is to be conducted through Alotca association with cases being handled by other lawyers to form part of the Alotca action.
To agree to settlement the appellants will be required to sign a document acknowledging that they had been in error, that this error had resulted in a breach of the law, that they accept a fine as punishment, and, naturally, confirm that there will be no future breaches.
The document will stand as a legal judgement so that even though the subject of an out-of-court settlement, any future infractions and fines arising from continued illegal letting would be penalised at the second offence level of up to €30,000.
The Government has been given a month to liaise with José Escobedo and Santiago Saenz to negotiate the settlement, involving the final document to be signed and the level of the fine: the judge said that in his opinion, it would reasonably be in the region of €5,000.
The Court provided José Escobedo with a list of all cases involving other lawyers, and any appellant with a non-Alotca lawyer who wishes to join the class action must instruct their lawyer urgently to contact Tenerife Litigation who will require a document to be signed by so that their cases can be presented to Court as part of that action. Those who are already with one of the two Alotca lawyers need do nothing.
Any enquiries of a general nature can go through Alotca member Janet Anscombe but Tenerife Litigation does expect to hear directly from lawyers of those who have been fined and who are to join the class action.
If anyone has just received a fine, or does so over the next few weeks, please also contact Janet Anscombe urgently to find out what Alotca lawyers will need so that time is not wasted with them answering basic initial questions.
Alotca is also about to start negotiations with the OCU (organización de consumidores y usuarios), the Spanish Consumers Organization, which is preparing to fight the recently announced national proposals to limit tourist letting throughout Spain.