Couple destitute following legal battle to save their Lanjaron home
PENNILESS and desperate, a couple whose property faces demolition have told the Olive Press of their anguish at being forced out of their home in La Alpujarra.
John and Jenny Harvey are now in the United Kingdom after a legal battle with the authorities who want to knock down their home left them destitute.
Having to rely on their family for financial help, the couple are hoping that Brussels will declare illegal the demolition order that has been hanging over their mountain home since 2007.
“Things have not gone too well for John and I recently,” said Jenny, 59. “Yes, our house is still standing but it could be gone within two hours. That is all the notice the regional government will give us before the bulldozers move in.
“We felt like prisoners in our home, scared to leave in case they came to knock it down. But our financial situation has forced us to return to the UK,” she added.
The Harveys’ moved to the spa town of Lanjaron, Granada, in 2003. Prompted by John’s heart problems, the couple wanted to live the quiet life in the mountainous Alpujarra region.
As reported in issue 41, their nightmare soon began when a neighbouring farmer began a vendetta against the couple.
He complained to the Junta de Andalucía that the two-bedroom farmhouse was not correctly registered and that its swimming pool was illegal. He also complained about the balustrades that surround the couple’s property.
Following an inspection visit from regional government officials, the Harveys were told their home, which they bought for 25,000 euros in 2003, would be demolished.
They were also ordered to pay an 80,000-euro fine.
The stress eventually took its toll. John – a 65-year-old former builder – developed more heart problems and needed specialist attention.
“Unfortunately, John was very ill and at the end of May he collapsed. He was treated very well at the hospital in Granada, but he needed to see a cardiologist. We found out our medical cover did not extend to this.
“With the cost of medication and having sold the car to try to help with our finances, we ended up without any money at all,” she said.
After having invested 250,000 euros in renovating their home in Spain, it was left to their son Dean to find them a place to live on their return.
“He managed to find us a flat in Normanton, West Yorkshire, and he has been paying for everything until we find some money. At the moment we are on the breadline having to rely on the generosity of others,” said Jenny, who will return to her former job as a legal secretary once she has recovered from stress.
The couple hope that continued interest will result in a swift return to their home. The European Commission has promised to review a petition sent by the Harveys when it returns from its summer recess in September.
“It really does seem that we have at last got some action going. I hope so as I do not think I can stand much more of this. News of our plight has spread and we actually appeared on local television. Yorkshire TV’s Calender took our story and we have been promised more help. John is looking a lot better but we both miss Lanjaron terribly.
“How long it will be before we can get back I do not know,” she added.
Why are we supposed to have sympathy. Did they get permissions from the local council and the Junta de Andalucia first – I expect not. Did they use a registered solicitor and architect – I very much doubt it. If you build or extend illegally you should have your house knocked down. Surprisingly there are laws and regulations here, it is not the wild west. Would they have done the same to their house in the UK ??
You’re all heart Mike and probably anyone who knows you wouldn’t expect you to show any.You may be right in some respects of course BUT I know MANY and I MEAN MANY people who have used registered lawyers in Cadiz only to be shafted as they are all in cahoots with the estate agents,promoters,mortgage lenders,builders even some bank managers.Some have been arrested AND others await their turn so you see it doesn’t matter how honest YOU try to be the CROOKED SPANISH are always one step in front? You MAY owe this couple an apology.Perhaps YOU need to show some HUMILITY.Chiclana has NO laws or regulations AND is akin to Modern Day Dodge City !
First of all I do not believe they are in Chiclana, I think they are in Lanjaron. As I have bought and renovated properties in this area I think I am qualified enough to say the system in that area is pretty fair and equitable. I cannot comment on your area Paul as I do not know it. I am sure there are many Brits who have fallen foul and if you use the correct paths and get “turned over” I would be very sympathetic. The point is this couple (according to the report) did not follow the procedures. So I do not need to show any humility, I have plenty, as well as empathy to those who deserve it. If you believe your own statement about the crooked Spanish, why are still here?
I totally support Paul’s point of view. Both my husband and I are fluent in both Spanish and English – that has made no difference. The system in Spain is corrupt. My husband and I tried to buy a house with title deeds that was included on land with title deeds and found the process impossible to achieve. To add insult our Solicitor betrayed us by telling us that the property that we bought had the house included on the title deeds – we were advised by the sellers solicitor that was not the case. We then had to hire the sellers solicitor to fix the problem and to also have our ex solicitor charged for stealing our deposit on the house. The system in Spain is a total spam and it does not meet any worthy critiria to defend it in any form.
At the cost of NOTHING you can go to the OFICINA VIRTUAL DEL CATASTRO, web site. There you can locate your property and see what it’s situation is. Size of plot, weather the house is registered etc. Apart from this there is a simple rule, you cannot build in the countryside without permission from the Regional Gouvernment, nor can you cannot enlarge an existing building, and if you do either of these without a licence you will get stuffed. As to people who are conned by estate agents and even lawyers, neither is qualified to advise about buildings or building licences, an Architect is. It is sad that British people who would never break the law at home think that they can do so in Spain. They leave their brains at the airport.
P Santamaria, I never left my brains at the airport because I am spanish native and I have also lived overseas. I have own properties overseas and in Spain too. The system is Spain is pre historic which gives way for predators to indulge themselves in practises that rip of innocent clients. The truth is that the System is Spain is unsophisticated in comparison to the modern western world where all purchases and sales are done with a solicitor and are registered with a government body that controls title deeds, to ensure that no property is sold without the proper legal documentation that is that the title deeds are in order to include house plus land. No sale would go through if there was an unregistered house ontop of the land. That is an example of a weak system in Spain’s property laws or the attidute that the rest of the world is stupid so lets rip them off. In most countries an Architect would hold no value until you did some extentions and would serve of no value to advise in the purchase of a property. So the issue is not about British people who would never break the law at home think that they can do so in Spain however that Spain can run with the cowboys to rip of innocent people and then class them as stupid. By the way I have never lived in England if that was another stupid question on your list.
As an American artist who is currently looking to buy a house for reform in Spain, I find this very troubling. Is this something that is mostly happening to foreigners, or is it across the board?
I have had a good experience thus far dealing with
our search, and can say only positive comments about the legal and practical advise I am getting. I have not decided on a property yet, but do plan to purchase one in the next 6 months. I am a law abiding person and hope the laws of Spain are fair to both visitors who have invested in their infrastructure and for it’s own people equally.
Am I living in a fantasy to believe I can buy a house and live in peace with my neighbors and local regulatory agencies? ART FOR PEACE.
In response I would like to place on record as one of the owners of the property the subject of this matter that ALL planning permissions were obtained and not only from the local authority but even so far as being stamped by the Royal College. And yes we did use all the proper channels by way of architects etc. As far as I can gather the Junta de Andalucia has in fact got the various properties and plans mixed up and instead of the 90 m2 we had to build actually now admits they have only been using a m2 of 42. Their error!!!!! The matter is now in the hands of lawyers, architects and Brussels.
Sr.P.Santamaria,I have noted on MANY occasions and on many websites that whenever a writer has in anyway commented against a particularaction by an Ayuntamiento,the Junta de Andalucia or this Socialist Government led by Zapatero YOU have ALWAYS SINGULARLY DEFENDED IT and attacked the writer of the comment or letter,as in this very case? The comment YOU make about British people thinking they can break the law here is not only offensive but where YOU say “they leave their brains at the airport” has been plagiarized.As for other points in your letter I will disect them thus:-1. A Lawyer WOULD be able to tell you IF a building licence was in existence 2. An Architect would draw-up the plans and measurements of the house or building but the lawyer or yourself could then apply for the building licence 3.Permission to build the house in the country comes from the Municipal Council “representing” the Regional Government.Sr.Santamaria, are you really so stupid to think that everytime someone wants to build a house in the country in Andalucia they have to go to Seville?Finally – Weather = WHETHER
Paul, the adage “no case, abuse the plaintif” seems to apply to you perfectly.
While the Spanish legal system may be different to those of other countries,it does in fact have the oldest land registry in Europe and the system of Notaries is at least 400 years old. The catastro dates from around 1300 and you can consult it free on line. The planning system is very simple and if followed is sound. However the tendancy for people to take short cuts can end in the whole thing blowing up in someones face. Finally permission to build in rural sites is as you say obtained through the Town Hall, but it MUST be approved by the Regional authority. That Authority is dealt with at provincial level. In most small villages the local authority send all planning aplications to the nprovincial planning office as they don’t have their own one. Finally Yes Paul, I do mean that if you want to build on non urban land you have to deal with the Junta de Andalucia if you want to get your permission. It may seem stupid to you but it happens to be the truth.
Sorry Mike, you speak a complete load of twaddle. Where ever you are or what ever you do, it is very clear you have absolutely no idea about what is going on in Spain or the Spanish system. There are literally 10’s of thousands of citizens from all over the EU caught in exactly the same trap. That is the corruption that exists in Spain and for ill informed toss pots like you to make such half baked comments serves no purpose but to demonstrate your own ignorance of the facts. Therefore it would be much better for youto just shut up and go away!
Mike can we have a retraction now that the owner has confirmed the error that the planning imbeciles made? Lol, Mike and Pedro, the dunces of reality. They post a load of cojones, get totally contradicted by the owner and then mysteriously all go quiet… lol.
Pedro speaks the law as we would all like it to be. But Pedro, it ain’t! What if the local authority does not communicate with the Junta? Where does that leave the planning permission just granted by the Ayuntamiento? Who will tell the buyer that the Ayuntamiento has not done the job required of it? The buyer’s lawyer? the estate agent? The Notary? of course not, they are all in on it, which is why there are so many so-called illegal homes.
Just tell us Pedro, who is going to tell a prospective buyer all the pitfalls of buying in Spain? Why should Spain be different to most other European countries? There is a word for it which you should remember – CORRUPTION. And most innocent buyers cannot imagine the scale of it in Spain, which is why anyone with common sense will just not buy.
The corruption scandal has made millionaires out of many Spaniards and fortunes for thousands of others. But they are ok, it is the humble labourer, small builder, shopkeepers, etc., who are now paying the price for the reluctance of most Europeans to invest their hard-earned retirement in Spain. And for proof that the corruption is still live and well? Look at the Ronda golf-course fiasco. It’s the Spanish property market in miniature, corruption down to the lowest and up to the highest. But all just simply thieves and crooks.
Pedro is in hiding…
Aranza y Jose,
it is decent honest Spanish people like you who have to make a social revolution in Spain – just don’t get conned by a Spanish version of Tony the lying lawyer.
Pedro – when the Norsemen (don’t call them Normans) from Norsemanland conquered the Engli/Saxons Freislanders/Jutlanders et al collectively known as the ‘English’ they made a survey of all the land holdings (they stole most of them) and numbers of inhabitants – that was over 950 years ago.
I’m sure other Europeans can say the same about their countries.
Jenny Harvey – heartfelt sympathy for you and your husband, this Mike character is a cowboy builder – a complete prat and should just be ignored. We all wish you well in Brussels