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A group of 200 expats in Spain have been left heartbroken as their homes still don’t have legal status after two decades and many are not connected to electricity or water mains. The retirees, most of whom are British, claim the Spanish authorities have left them out in the cold in their bid to get their homes regularised, despite the expats’ attempts to fix their situation.
The group, who live in the Murcia region, claim they moved into their homes in good faith, having received assurances that the properties would be granted legal status.
However, the properties are still not considered legal because they do not have planning permission, a necessary requirement to access basic utilities.
Linda House, 72, from Essex, who is one of those affected, does not have access to a proper water supply at her home in Gea y Truyols, Murcia, and is forced to rely on agricultural water, which is not fit for drinking.
Speaking to Express.co.uk about the situation, she said: “What has driven it is greed, of course, and corruption.”
Linda and her late husband Vic’s home was finished in 2003 and they moved in later that year.
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The former company PA said: “When we came out here in 2003 and had discovered that there was no planning permission actually in place yet, the situation was, they’d just laugh at us and say, ‘Why are you so worried?’”
The expat claimed she and Vic had been told by her lawyer that despite their home being built without planning permission it would be “safe” to move in and that planning permission “would be granted.”
Linda said: “It had been very normal for properties in Spain to be built without planning permission, and then to pay the fines after it had been built.
“The Spanish historically, as far as I could see, built properties without planning permission.
“They referred to the fines as retrospective planning permission.
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“It was quite common for them to do that, because Spanish bureaucracy is so slow, you’d never get anything done if you waited for it.
“So, it wasn’t unusual for properties to be built prior to planning permission. It was the norm in fact.”
Linda said she had struck up a contract with their builder, who agreed to cover any fines relating to the property, and that her lawyer had sent the document off to be signed.
However, a year into her new life in the Spanish sun, Linda said she was left “stunned” after being told by the lawyer the contract had still not been signed.
Linda blames Murcia Town Hall for the situation, alleging that officials knew that properties in her area were not being built legally.
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She said: “The Town Hall is culpable. They knew all along that houses here were being built illegally without planning permission or without planning permission that had been passed and sanctioned.”
Murcia Town Hall did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Spanish lawyer Gerardo Vasquez, who has a wealth of experience helping expats with illegal homes, said the practice of building without planning permission has unfortunately been normalised in some parts of Spain over the years.
He told Express.co.uk: “The law and the practice have differed. People have wanted to buy in Spain. They like Spain. They like to live here.
“The Spanish people like to welcome them, especially developers, because it’s money, and the town halls they see money as well.
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“But Spanish planning law has been historically very complicated, and the gun has been jumped on a number of occasions and it has led to these problems.
“The paperwork hasn’t been ready for people to buy and move in, so they’ve moved in without the paperwork being ready, basically.”
A Foreign Office spokesperson contacted about the situation told Express.co.uk: “We closely engage with the Spanish government and regional governments on matters relating to UK nationals’ rights.
“We encourage any UK national in need of consular assistance to get in touch with their nearest embassy / consulate or call the 24/7 phone line for support.”