A RETIRED British businesswoman faces losing her UK property over a defunct Spanish property investment.
Pensioner Joan Deak has been threatened with an embargo on her London home after a Costa del Sol-based buyer came after her UK assets.
The 61-year-old – who has diagnosed with cancer which she claims has been brought on from the stress of the 10 year case – has been forced to stump up thousands in legal fees to defend herself.
She is even being forced to fly to Spain to attend a crucial court hearing in Fuengirola next week or face the possibility of being found guilty in her absence.
The case is the latest to involve disgraced property firm Palmera Properties, which still has hundreds of clients trying to bring action against it.
The vast majority put down deposits on developments promoted by the firm owned by Ferrari-driving church-goer Jesus Gotardo, who lives in Fuengirola. Most of these homes were never built.
Deak’s nightmare began when she and a business partner invested in two unfinished apartments in Mirador de Torreblanca, near Fuengirola in 2004.
They put down a deposit of €69,000 on the two apartments, which were due to be finished later that year.
However, the following year, with progress moving increasingly slowly they decided to sell the option – at a loss – on one of the unfinished apartments.
“Palmera Properties found us a buyer, acted as agent and negotiated the deal for one of the properties that I had paid €32.000 for,” she told the Olive Press.
“I agreed on a reduced price of €25,000 with the new Spanish buyer deciding to cut my losses on this particular apartment”
However, little did she know that her nightmare was just beginning, when she began to receive letters from the disgruntled Spanish buyer now demanding his money back.
“But as far as I was concerned it was Palmera who he should have been going after… they were responsible for making sure the property was built.
“Ultimately we both lost money because Palmera did not comply with the original deal.”
However, her decision on taking legal advice to ignore the buyer has backfired.
Unknown to Joan, under Spanish Law, the buyer is able to come after her UKassets and force the sale of her UK residence, a four-bedroom property in Stanmore, in order to get his money back.
“It came as a massive shock when I was served papers on my doorstep in London.
“I certainly had not realied that my UK assets could ever be in danger” she continued. “I was resigned to biting the bullet and taking a loss, but I didn’t expect this. If I do not defend myself in court, Spanish law will find me guilty and liable to repay this deposit back to the new buyer, as well as all the court costs. I have had to engage a Spanish solicitor and also a barrister at great expense. It is costing me at least €50,000.”
Joan’s case meanwhile could have huge implications for many other UK residents who sold on options to third party buyers.
“If this case goes through and the plaintiff wins, it could open the floodgates to everyone who sold on an option to build… even, as in this case, the property was never built,” she warns
Ultimately her health has suffered as a result of the stress involved.
“This has all been a huge nightmare. It has stressed me and I’ve just had a second diagnosis for cancer. I don’t expect to see any money back from this in my lifetime. This has blighted my life for the past 10 years”