The Developer Vanishes

LAST UPDATED: 4 Apr, 2009 @ 13:56
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Developers disappear after court rules that they unlawfully pocketed 50,000 euro deposit from English man, whose home will never be built

EXCLUSIVE – By Jenny Keane in Cadiz

DAVE Wenham was delighted when he found his perfect place to live in the pretty town of El Puerto de Santa María, just across the bay from Cádiz and home to the famous Osborne brandy.

While just the shell of an old building the plans showed a sunny two-bedroom first floor apartment with a huge roof terrace and views across the town.

Two years on, it remains untouched, the promoters have disappeared – and Dave has lost almost €50,000 in life savings, not to mention suffered months of stress.

To add insult to injury, Wenham, from Brighton, has just won a lengthy court case against the promoters but looks like receiving nothing because he has been unable to trace them.

“I’m not sleeping and the aggravation I’ve suffered has ruined this town for me,” explained Wenham, 43.

“I walk past the building as well as the estate agent almost every day and just get more and more wound up.

“It’s got to me so much I’ve decided to move to Sevilla to try to make a fresh start.”

The problems began after estate agent, Saúl Inmobiliaria, showed him around several properties in the area in early 2006.

Finally he zoned in on a property on which work was “about to begin”, but it meant purchasing the plans from the original buyer, who stood to make around 18,000 euros on the deal.

“I had serious doubts about this, but the agent said it was standard practice. After much deliberation I went ahead and paid 28,729 euros to the original buyer to take over the contract.”

This was signed and witnessed in the offices of Alfa Red Inmobiliaria, the original vendors of the plans.

“I also had to pay 3,500 euros in commission to Saúl Inmobiliaria and over the following months, I paid the remaining installments totalling 12,027 euros to the promoters,” explained Wenham, who works in the betting industry.

“I even cashed in my endowment policy in the UK to help make the final payment when the keys were to be handed over on completion.”

Time went on and nothing happened; eventually he knew he was in trouble and found a lawyer who told him that he would make three demands – one to the promoters, one to the original owner of the plans and the other to Saúl Inmobiliaria. “He told me that I simply couldn’t lose,” recalls Dave.

Nearly two years on and Dave has laid out nearly 50,000 euros, including legal fees.

In April he won a case against Promociones Inmobiliarias de El Puerto de Santa María for breach of contract and was awarded 29,000 euros in damages.

‘The judgement is not worth the paper it is printed on’

The only problem, the company and all its staff have apparently done a runner.

“I’ve been back to the original estate agent, Saúl, to ask for the commission back – but they just refuse.

“Back in the UK, I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing a deal like this, and I was very wary. But the estate agent just kept telling me everything was in order.

“Maybe I should have been more careful but I just assumed there would be some kind of safety net if things went wrong. But there isn’t. There’s no comeback against these people.”

Neither Saúl Inmobiliaria, nor a lawyer representing the promoters returned calls to the Olive Press.

For Dave, it’s a hard lesson learned. “I would advise extreme caution when dealing with estate agents and if you only have basic Spanish, like myself, get an English-speaking lawyer on board from day one.”

Dave however, insists that he won’t give up pursuing the case. “Like many people, I came to Spain with high hopes of enjoying a better quality of life.

“Getting my money back would be the difference between me being able to buy somewhere, and having to rent for the rest of my life. But it seems nothing – not even the court judgement – is worth the paper it’s written on.”

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