Expats face heartache as Junta orders home demolition and imposes 80,000 euro fine
Olive Press Exclusive – Mark Roulston in Lanjarón
A RETIRED British couple in La Alpujarra are to have their home demolished in a dispute with the regional government.
John and Jenny Harvey have been ordered to pay a fine of 81,000 euros and face the prospect of losing their home in the peaceful mountain region.
In a case that mirrors the recent demolition in Almería (see last issue), the Harveys deny their retirement home is illegal, claiming they have all the correct documentation given to them by the town hall in Lanjaron.
“We have always done things by the book. We made sure we had all the correct licences to make sure our home is legal.
“We are faced with financial ruin,” Jenny, 58, told the Olive Press this week.
The couple moved to Lanjaron in 2003, after buying their two-bedroom, converted farm warehouse home for 25,000 euros.
But what was to be their dream, soon turned into a nightmare following a visit by Junta de Andalucía officials.
This followed a complaint by a neighbour, alleging that the building was not correctly registered as a home.
“All these allegations are cuckoo, totally crazy. We are just normal people who want to lead a normal life,” former builder John, 64, said.
“Now, we are trapped. We do not want to go out, as we are afraid the bulldozers are going to turn up any minute,” he added.
The Harveys were told in a letter on December 28, 2007, that their home was set to be knocked down on February 1 this year.
Even though the couple’s lawyer managed to delay the demolition until the end of this month, the Harveys need to obtain a bond for the 81,000 euro fine.
“How can we do this? We can’t afford to buy a plane ticket home. When we came here we moved lock, stock and barrel. The regional government is going to make us homeless,” Jon said.
The retired couple, who spent 200,000 euros in renovating the former farm warehouse, claim they are being victimised by the Junta de Andalucía.
“We have come to a country we love and we are passionate about the area. We have invested a lot of money and we employed local people to work on our home.
“We have been left devastated by the whole affair,” Jenny said. “With regional elections coming up, I think it is political.”
In desperation, they have turned to Euro MP Michael Cashman, who recently slammed the housing situation in Spain following an official visit to the country.
Following his advice, the Harveys have sent a petition to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, from which they are awaiting a reply.
“We believe we are being treated inhumanely. We have not slept for weeks,” Jenny, a former legal executive, said.
“A life sentence is hanging over us. We cannot sell up nor can we mortgage our home to pay this fine.”
Friends are rallying around the couple to offer them support. “I feel terrible for them. They have done everything they were supposed to and now this is happening. The town hall in Lanjarón told them there would be no problems for them and now this.
“They could lose everything,” Raffael Bellandini claimed.
News of the demolition comes after an English couple in Vera, Almería, had their villa knocked down after the regional government claimed it was illegally built.
The Junta de Andalucía has also issued demolition orders on 300 homes in Mijas.
Following international media coverage of the Vera case, Spanish property expert Mark Stucklin believes people should not be dissuaded from buying homes in Spain.
“The vast majority of properties in Spain have absolutely no legal issues. But people should be cautious. If you want to buy in Spain, you just have to take care.”