THE Balearic tourism ministry has detected at least 280 cases tourist flats being sold as residential flats in various parts of the island, it was revealed yesterday. This infringes existing regulations on tourism as well as planning and development. The ministry has notified the Council of Majorca, the town councils concerned, the consumer board, the College of Notaries and the College of Registrars. According to ministry sources, the buyers are unaware that the flats they have bought are considered tourist accommodation. “These sales are completely illegal because they infringe all the regulations and have not followed the ‘change of use' process,” the sources said.
They added that the flats were being sold direct to the buyer, without being adapted to planning regulations, and without being taken off the tourism ministry's register of tourist flats. The town councils have been informed and they will use the law to stamp out the sales, the ministry announced yesterday.
The vendors face hefty fines, it was announced.
The tourism authorities are currently debating the change of use of buildings (that is, converting obsolete hotels into flats, or tourist flats into residential accommodation) and the ministry's findings have sent alarm bells ringing. Josep Aloy, the director general of planning, said that the College of Notaries and the College of Registrars have been informed of the fraud so that they can verify the real use of the flats which are being sold in the holiday resorts. In order to change the use of a building from tourism to residential, it must be removed from the ministry's register, labour matters must have been settled and the building must adapt to island and town planning regulations. “These points have not been fulfilled, and so it is vital for action to be taken, investigations with a view to imposing fines opened and town councils should apply the stiffest fine, which could come to several million euros,” Aloy said. The Balearic government has issued a general warning to consumers, not to become involved in fraudulant transactions involving tourist flats sold as residential property, because such operations are illegal and will be subject to the application of town planning regulations. Tourism ministry sources said that double use, tourist and residential, is banned by the General Law on Tourism.
Unions have also been alerted to report any irregularities which they may spot in resort areas.