News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Tax agency searches for illegally rented properties
Hacienda has requested power consumption data for supposedly unoccupied apartments
By David Eade
THE ILLEGAL rental of houses and apartments is a major concern to the tourism sector and the tax agency, Hacienda.
According to the National Institute of Statistics there are around 35,000 rental properties that will be let illegally in Málaga province during July and August. However unions within the hotel sector believe the truer figure is between 15,000 and 20,000 unregulated places. The majority of these lettings are on the Costa del Sol and are rented without contracts to foreigners as well as Spaniards.
While these "pirate" rentals have always existed the economic crisis has seen a rise in the number of owners of second homes who are looking to earn cash from rentals over the holiday season. Foreign residents who live on the Costa del Sol but return home for the summer are said to be involved in the fraudulent rental of their properties to compatriots.
Needless to say this illicit activity has alerted the tax authority which has started a campaign to detect the hidden income.
The Agencia Tributaria contacted the main electricity companies who since March have been giving information on supposedly unoccupied apartments to see if they are consuming energy.
Axarquía supplier takes E.coli legal advice
Spanish suppliers' suffering continues after Germany's error
By Dave Jamieson
THE Axarquía supplier wrongly named as supplying contaminated cucumbers to the central market in Hamburg is taking legal advice in Germany.
Exports of fruit and vegetables from Spain were brought to an almost complete halt last week following the allegation by the city's authorities that produce from two southern Spanish firms was the source of the country's E.Coli outbreak. Last Friday, Qatar joined the list of countries banning the importation of cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce from Spain and Germany.
Frunet Bio of Algarrobo was named by the German authorities, along with another firm in Almería, and its management is now demanding reparations. A team from the company visited Hamburg at the end of last week and have hired a German law firm to investigate the possibility of claiming damages. However, the group's request for a meeting with city authorities was met with, "a wall of silence."
General manager Antonio Lavao told the German media on Friday that they were there to regain the confidence of their customers and that all the necessary controls, and more, are in place. He said the German market was vital to the Frunet co-operative, accounting for around 30 per cent of its exports, and over the last 15 years had become one of its best customers. Sr Lavao underlined that Frunet understood the extremely serious nature of the E.Coli outbreak.
Hospital car park battle reignites
For months Marbella town hall has insisted the Junta de Andalucia should allow free parking
By David Eade
THE HOSPITAL Costa del Sol in Marbella is once again charging drivers for parking their vehicles in the hospital car parks. This move on the part of the Andalucía government has angered Marbella town hall which ceded the land. The on-going row, which had died down during the election period, has re-ignited this week between the two authorities.
Marbella's acting councillor for commerce and the public highways, Alicia Jiménez, has ordered the hospital to remove the barriers giving free access to the parking zones immediately. If this action is not taken by the Andalucía health authority then Marbella says it will report the hospital to the courts for disobedience.
Sra Jiménez said: "The town hall has not discounted returning to the judicial path if the Andalucía government does not act on the notice issued by the local administration."
The councillor points out that the company that has undertaken the hospital building extension is the same that has the concession for the underground and surface car parks. For seven months Marbella has insisted that the above ground car park should be free of charge labelling the move to charge for parking as abusive and totally intolerable.
House prices to drop further, says Bank of Spain
By Dave Jamieson
THE Bank of Spain warned last week that house prices would continue to fall for the next two years as the property market copes with the number of new properties standing empty.
At the same time, the government's property "roadshow" rolled into Germany.
According to official figures, house prices have fallen an average 15.4 per cent since the first quarter of 2008, rising to 20 per cent after taking into account the impact of inflation. The Bank of Spain predicted prices would fall a total of 30 per cent in real terms before they start to bottom out at the end of next year, or the beginning of 2013.
However, the secretary of state for housing says the country's 700,000 unsold new houses will be absorbed by 2013 or 2014. The claim came in Frankfurt from Beatriz Corredor who was presenting Spanish house sales trends to investors and intermediaries. She said much of the housing stock was holiday homes, while homes for first-time buyers were scarce, especially in some major cities.
Insurance fraud soars in economic crisis
New report shows bogus claims in province up a staggering 77 per cent from 2008
By Oliver McIntyre
INSURANCE companies in Málaga province have discovered a huge jump in fraudulent claims during the economic crisis, according to a new report.
In 2010 the companies detected 5,644 bogus claims in the province, up 30 per cent from 2009 and a staggering 77 per cent from 2008, according to the data from ICEA, an association of insurance and pension companies.
However, the surge in cases may be misleading. In its report, Insurance Fraud in Spain, the ICEA notes that "the increase in the number of cases does not necessarily mean that the incidence of fraud has increased, as it could be due as well to an improvement in the detection capabilities of the companies, likely stimulated by the economic situation."
The vast majority of the fraudulent claims detected by the companies are related to auto insurance, making up nearly 80 per cent of all cases.
More people go to bars following smoking ban
Study contradicts cries from the sector of lost business
By Oliver McIntyre
CONTRARY to complaints from bar and restaurant owners about lost business due to the smoking ban, a new study shows that in fact more people are going out now that the establishments are smoke-free.
In a survey carried out by the Spanish Society for Family and Community Medicine (SemFYC), 70 per cent of respondents said they go out to bars and restaurants with the same frequency as before the ban, while 18 per cent said they go out more and just 12 per cent said they go out less.
According to the survey - carried out at health centres among 4,000 people including smokers, non-smokers and ex-smokers - 86 per cent of respondents believe that the smoking ban will result in improved health for the general public, while 93 per cent say it will improve the health of children and of hostelry workers. Even 50 per cent of smokers say they would be against going back to allowing smoking in bars and restaurants.
The number of smokers attempting to quit the habit has continued rising, according to SemFYC's Vidal Barchilón. This year some 36 per cent of smokers have attempted to quit, compared to 31 per cent last year and 25 per cent the year before. "There is no question that the [smoking] restrictions have a positive effect" on quit-smoking figures, he said.
Despite the study's findings, bar and restaurant owners continue to maintain that the smoking ban is costing them money in lost business. Rafael Prado, president of the Aehma hostelry association in Málaga province, said the SemFYC study "does not correspond with reality." Smokers are "the best customers of the restaurant and bar trade," and the only establishments that may be benefitting are those with outdoor terraces, he said.
Violence as protesters moved for soccer match
Riot police clear Barcelona plaza ahead of Champions League final
By David Eade
VIOLENCE flared in Plaza de Catalunya in Barcelona in the early hours of Friday morning as riot police moved in to clear the city's major square of 'los indignados', the protesters who since May 15 have been staging a sit-in against political corruption in Spain and calling for major changes to Spanish society.
The reason for the confrontations, in which 120 people were injured, was not political but soccer related. On Saturday night Barcelona played Manchester United in the European Champions League final at Wembley and the plaza had to be cleared so that giant TV screens could be erected for the crowds to watch the game.
At the time the police moved in, around 200 people were sleeping in the plaza as they have been for the previous two weeks. Soon another 1,000 protestors came to the square to attempt to prevent the officers from removing the protesters, giving rise to a clash between baton-wielding police and the peaceful demonstrators.
The authorities said they just wanted to clean the square ahead of preparing it for the soccer match, after which 'los indignados' would be welcome to return.
Return they did, for by mid-afternoon over 9,000 people were said to be in the plaza. Now Jueces para la Democracía has called for an investigation to hold to account those officers of the Mossos d´'Escuadra and the Guardia Urbana who attacked the protestors.
Two injured as ‘balconing' concern grows
Briton, 19, falls from seventh floor of Mallorca hotel
By Dave Jamieson
TWO people were seriously injured in falls from hotel rooms on Mallorca last week. Police are concerned that both may have been new victims of the dangerous fad known as balconing.
The first incident was at the Torrenova Playa hotel in Magaluf, which is the same one where a 17-year-old Briton died under similar circumstances last year.
A British 19-year-old, identified as Jacob Evans, was admitted to hospital in Palma after surviving a fall from the seventh floor. His injuries were described as "serious," including a broken arm and an ankle injury. He is reported to have been saved from worse injuries because he landed on a sunbed which cushioned his fall.
The second incident, also in Magaluf, involved 35-year-old Swedish man who fell from a third-floor balcony. He landed on the roof of the hotel's restaurant and was rushed to hospital where he was admitted to the intensive care unit.