16 Jul, 2021 @ 16:34
2 mins read

EXCLUSIVE: British expat loses home in southern Spain after 13-year legal battle with builder neighbour over dodgy wall

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A BRITISH pensioner has lost her dream home in the sun over a decade-long legal dispute over a boundary wall.

Margaret Townley, 75, claims she has been the victim of a miscarriage of justice after being forced to walk away from the house on which she has spent more than €300,000.

The retired social worker, from Bath, has handed the keys to her neighbour after a vicious 13-year legal battle.

She told the Olive Press she believes corruption and fraud has caused the loss of her retirement home in Salobrena, Granada.

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The villa in the hills above Salobreña. Photo: The Olive Press Spain

Her nightmare began after she got into a legal battle with her builder neighbour over a dodgy collapsed boundary wall, which led to a judge ordering the house to be sold at a closed auction.

To add insult to injury it was bought ‘under value’ by the family of the very builder responsible for the collapsed wall.  

Townley and her Chilean husband Roberto had first purchased their plot above Salobreña on the Costa Tropical in Granada in 2002.

Conveniently they hired a local builder, who lived next door, to build the house and a boundary wall at a cost of €18,500

All went well until in 2008 a section of the wall collapsed after a winter of heavy rains and it emerged it had been built without proper foundations and drainage.

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Margaret Townley (inset) and the collapsed wall. Photo: The Olive Press Spain

“We carried out technical surveys which determined that the wall had not been built to the specifications agreed and attempted to seek legal redress for him to replace it or pay compensation,” said Townley.

But the builder died, and his wife then sued Townley for the damage caused to her fruit trees when the wall collapsed.

Incredibly, she was successful when Motril court ruled that she was responsible for repairing the wall to avoid further collapses and appointed a technical architect whose report quoted a rebuild cost of €117,000.

“It was an absurd amount and as the ruling didn’t say we had to actually follow that plan we instead forked out €30,000 on a new wall that was given approval by Salobrena town hall,” said Townley.

The case was referred up to the Provincial Court in Granada where a judge ruled that it had no jurisdiction as it was not a criminal case but acknowledged that she had suffered ‘a gross injustice’.

But it was ordered to return to the judge at Motril Court 2 for yet another technical report for the Town Hall.

However, despite evidence put to the court by technical architects that the fixed wall was adequate, the judge ruled that the debt was outstanding.

He ordered the house be sold at auction and the proceeds used to build the new wall.

“It went under the hammer in a sale that took place when travel restrictions meant I couldn’t even fly into attend it,” said Townley.

“It was sold to a company owned by the son of the builder and bought for the hugely under-the-market value price of €65,000,” she said.

The neighbouring family who now own it will most likely not rebuild the wall but enjoy the fruits of their ‘swindle and fraud’ to use her lawyer’s words.  

“The only conclusion I can come to is that either the judge simply hasn’t done her job properly and read the notes or she is corrupt and in collusion with the family next door,” said Townley. 

“I never, ever believed it would come to this because the level of injustice and corruption is so enormous, but it has,” she said. 


Fiona Govan

Fiona Govan joined The Olive Press in March 2021. She moved to Spain in 2006 to be The Daily Telegraph’s Madrid correspondent and then worked for six years as Editor of The Local Spain. She lives in Madrid’s Malasaña district with her dog Rufus.

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