Spain: British expats face threat of return to UK warns expert
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A group of 200 mostly British retirees have spoken of their anguish at living without basic amenities for the last two decades. The expats, who live in the Spanish region of Murcia, wrote to the Town Hall about their situation last year. They claim they are the “victims of planning abuses” after they moved into houses that turned out to have been built without planning permission, and are therefore illegal.
One member of the group, Linda House, 72, from Essex, moved to the hamlet of Gea y Truyols in Murcia nearly 20 years ago.
The former company PA and her late husband Vic, who was a policeman, bought a plot of land in the area in 2003.
However, despite assurances from a local developer and a lawyer, the couple’s home was never legalised and as a result was not connected to water and electricity supplies.
Despite writing several letters to MPs in the UK, as well as the Spanish authorities, Linda claims she has not received any assistance with the situation.
Speaking about her life in Spain, she told Express.co.uk: “The UK is not interested in expats whatsoever.
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“My husband was a policeman. He still paid tax in the UK. I still pay tax in the UK on his police pension, because it has to be taxed in the UK.”
She added: “We get no help from the UK with this situation.
“We’re being badly treated. You talk about human rights. We don’t have human rights, not really.
“We haven’t got the right to water. We haven’t got the right to warmth. We can’t even get the heating benefit.
“It was six degrees here the other day. I still pay tax in the UK, but I can’t have a heating allowance.
“It’s just dreadful. We feel everywhere we go, we’re up against it.”
Unlike many of her Gea y Truyols residents, Linda does have some form of electricity supply, but is still unable to access fresh drinking water, and is forced to rely on agricultural water, which is intended for use on farms.
She explained: “We get on with our lives, but it is very depressing.
“If people say to me now, I’m thinking of buying a house in Spain, I say ‘don’t’.
“Even if your house is legal, there have been situations where properties that were legal for a number of years, and the Town Hall government changed and decided that they shouldn’t have been legal and made them illegal.”
A Foreign Office spokesperson 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.”
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Many expats in Murcia are awaiting a change in the law to protect illegal homes in the region, as has happened in neighbouring Andalucia.
A 2019 decree by the Andalucian regional government offered protections to some 300,000 houses built irregularly on land classed as ‘non-urban’, or ‘rural’.
Under Spanish law, only houses built on ‘urban’ land are considered legal, with many ‘illegal’ properties built on the wrong type of land having been demolished over the last two decades.
Spanish lawyer Gerardo Vázquez, who has assisted British expats in Spain with illegal homes for the last 15 years, said he was hopeful of a similar decree being introduced in Murcia to protect illegal properties.
He told Express.co.uk: “That law regularised a lot of houses or allowed them to be regularised, but they were built without planning permission, so they couldn’t be legalised. They’re not fully legal, but pretty much so.”
The group of expats in Gea y Truyols launched an association to address the historic planning abuses last year.
The group, AUN Murcia (Abusos Urbanísticos No – Murcia), was inspired and assisted by a similar association in Andalucia.
So far, it only covers Gea y Truyols and the surrounding area, but local resident Keith Willis (top picture), 71, said he hopes to get “far more people involved”.
The retired Heathrow Airport worker from Windsor said he has been left without access to drinkable tap water or electricity because of his home’s illegal status, and due to the plots of land in his area not being segregated individually.
He told Express.co.uk: “If we were segregated then we’re partway to that legalisation process because we would have our houses acknowledged on a piece of paper.
“At the moment, all we’ve got is a piece of paper saying we own a plot of land with no house on it.”
Murcia Town Hall did not respond to requests for comment.
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