DOZENS of expatriates – many infirm, seriously ill or with babies – have been left in turmoil after their landlord cut off their electricity and water supplies.
The mobile home community is taking legal action after being subjected to bully-boy tactics and forced to live without the basic services for over a fortnight.
Many of the mostly British group, living at Villa Alta, in Alfarnatejo, in the Axarquia, are being forced to drink from a nearby cattle trough.
Others have been forced to go out and buy expensive generators, in order to power their homes.
The group claims they have been living under “Big Brother style” 24-hour surveillance from the site´s owner Daniel Pertica.
They claim the Italian American, from New York, has cut them off after they refused to pay a 250 per cent increase in their monthly energy and water bills.
They say that it is illegal to make such an increase and insist they cannot afford it.
The residents have now instructed solicitors to pursue 30 individual claims against Pertica in court.
The stress of the situation has had a hugely detrimental effect on the health of the largely elderly population – many of whom came to enjoy a peaceful retirement.
Ron Smith, 63, who has been fighting liver cancer for the past 18 months, has noticed a sharp decline in his health since the furore began.
Smith – who has lived in Spain for two years – explained: “My health normally takes a turn for the worse after my chemotherapy sessions but this past week has been something else.
“I can barely stay awake at the moment, I am so weak. I went shopping with my wife the other day and I just had to sit in the car and sleep while she did everything.
“But it’s not just me, there are people in their 80s here, I don’t know how they are coping with all this stress.”
Others such as Clare Melvin, 33, are extremely concerned about a lack of basic facilities for her young family.
“I pleaded with one of these guys not to do it,” said the mother-of-two.
“I told him I have a baby, and that it’s crucial I have access to water. They need to be bathed, and not only that, it’s about 35 degrees here. But he simply didn’t care.”
Her mother Susanne Husband, a retired shop owner, has been living at the site for a couple of years.
“My pension is 366 euros a month and suddenly this man asked us to stump up 300 euros, what am I going to live on,” she said.
“My husband and I worked 12 hours a day to save up for this place – it’s all we have and right now I can’t see an end to this ordeal.”
When they refused to pay the inflated energy costs Pertica sent in his henchman to remove their water and electricity meters.
Police and the local mayor were apparently powerless to stop the moves as the dispute is on private land and therefore out of their jurisdiction.
“My pension is 366 euros a month and suddenly this man asked us to stump up 300 euros, what am I going to live on?”
But the residents have vowed to fight on and have now united to take on the landowner, who lives in a huge heavily-fortified mansion nearby.
They are sharing the few on-site generators – enough to power the bare essentials – and take turns to collect water.
Keith Hogsden, 58, has helped to set up a committee to make a stand against the monthly payments being demanded by Pertica.
The committee regularly calls community meetings to rally support and maintain residents’ quickly-faltering morale.
With legal proceedings set to get under way with the reopening of the Spanish courts this month they are hopeful of the swift return of their meters.
Hogsden, a retired RAF engineer, said: “We all want to make it clear that we love living in Spain, but our lives are currently being destroyed by the actions of one man.
“Nobody asked for any of this but we were being forced to pay extortionate sums of money for quantities of energy that we just weren’t using.
“We had to make a stand otherwise where would all this end?”
Boss Pertica meanwhile defended the actions taken by his employees and blamed it on a portion of residents who never paid their bills.
“There are people who have never paid anything which has made life difficult for the whole of the community,” explained Pertica, a claim roundly denied by the committee.
“I have been making a loss for the past two years so payments had to rise to cover my own costs.
“I hope to resolve this situation as soon as possible and want to talk to those particularly suffering to come up with a solution.”