MOVING to Spain with their toddler, Maria Jordana and husband Inigo looked forward to a relaxing life raising their son on the Costa del Sol.
Coming from the Philippines in 2019, Maria had worked hard to find her family their dream home.
But she claims their rental property ended up being the house from hell, after they encountered a host of issues including a blood-stained mattress in their little boy’s bedroom, a damaged boiler and cockroaches crawling all over the flat.
“It was absolutely awful,” Maria exclusively told The Olive Press, opening up about her fight against dodgy estate agents
Maria believes her family were swindled out of €390 by Malaga-based rental agents OPAU who offered the family the horror apartment.
The couple had been recommended to the agency by a friend and Maria handed over the €390 service fee believing the agents would soon find her family their ideal home.
“But it was three months and all we had seen were ugly apartments. We were so tired, viewing two-three apartments a day, two to three times a week. We were walking all over Malaga with our four year old son to see apartments we didn’t even like.”
As the start of the school year got closer, Maria started to panic that the family still didn’t have a place to live. Finally on August 26, they picked an apartment very close to their son’s school.
“It was old and dated but we figured we could work with it. We were just so tired of seeing apartments. On the same day after the viewing OPAU rushed us to their office to sign the contract.”
The family paid €700 a month for the two bedroom property in La Trinidad but claimed their new home was ‘inhabitable’.
“When we moved in we opened the kitchen cabinets and saw roaches crawling all over the utensils, plates and glasses. About 20-30 tiny roaches crawling over everything,” said Maria.
“The boiler broke twice and the second time it broke we were blamed for breaking it by the owner and she made us pay partially for the repair but we had only been in the apartment about two weeks at this point. We paid but we told her it couldn’t have been us.
But ‘the last straw’ for Maria was waiting for her in the bedroom.
“When I removed the sheets covering the mattresses, the beds were absolutely filthy,” she said. “The one in my son’s room had big blood stains on it.”
On September 23 Maria told her Iandlord that they found the apartment inhabitable and the owner agreed the family could move out at the end of the month and receive their money back.
Maria claims the next day she was contacted by OPAU who told her that she was to move out.
“They asked us to leave the apartment they had found for us. Basically, the choice was taken away from us. He told me the owner said I complained too much and I said my complaints were valid but he would not listen to any of it,” she said.
Maria claims that the OPAU representative suggested that she apologise, and emphasis that because she was from the Philippines she had become confused over the living situation.
“He wanted me to call the owner and say ‘I’m sorry, I’m from a different country and we do things very differently in my country’. I found the comment racially prejudiced and I told him I was not going to do that.”
Maria said she was given six days to find a new apartment because OPAU wanted to start viewings with prospective new tenants.
Despite the horror eviction, the family were fortunate to find a new apartment nearby but are still fighting to get their €390 ‘finders fee’ back from OPAU.
“It caused us a tremendous amount of stress, imagine moving twice within 30 days. We had to uproot our child twice.It was a massive mental stress.
“They have offered to refund us 50% but in order to receive the money we have to go to their office and sign a piece of paper that says they did their job and we received the service.
“We responded that we would as long as they were willing to sign a piece of paper that said that they asked us to leave the apartment they found for us. They have basically disregarded that message.”
However, the Jordana family are not the only unhappy customers.
We previously reported how Joyce Su, from Taiwan, paid over €300 to OPAU to help secure a property in Malaga.
Expat Joyce, who first raised the alarm, said she was determined to speak out in a bid to drive out the rogue estate agents.
The former fashion student said OPAU frequently gives misleading information about properties, and accused the firm of purposefully taking ‘agency-fees’ from house hunters to line their own pockets.
The 33-year-old said: “If you are looking for flats, please avoid an agency called OPAU. They have many nice flats on Idealista to lure you in, but mostly are not available.”
She went on to accuse the company of ‘playing games’ by not answering phone calls, always being unavailable and sending clients on wild goose chases to find properties.
“You pay an up front €390 agency fee and then sign a contract, which they can’t give you a copy of because they say it’s ‘private for the company’,” she said.
She added they send you viewings spontaneously, but give you little time to get to appointments and don’t send photos.
“As a result, there is a big chance you will be running around to visit some horrible flat which is far from your requirements,” added Su, from Taiwan.
She continued that after the viewing, clients are instructed to call back to the office or send an email and advise whether or not they like the property – but no one ever picks up the phones.
“The only time you are allowed to call is from 4 to 8pm. 80% of the time all lines are busy and it is impossible to reach them,” she continued.
“If you send an email there is still no response after days, weeks.”
Su claims she is still ‘homeless’ and is determined to get a refund for the agency fee she paid in good faith.
Dozens of expats shared similar experiences, complaining about poor value for money, gazumping, unnecessary delays and failure to communicate.
One, Anna Indricane, said: “After the whole September spent with OPAU looking for a long term apartment, it has been a waste of time and money.”
Tom Stenberg called OPAU a ‘scam’, while Don Simon Bolivar, from Bristol, said: “I’m amazed that they are still in business. There are many warnings about them.”
Sheila Almas said: “We were lucky that we left the ‘nice looking’ office and said we are going to think about it. But I never got back to them after seeing many posts and stuff about them on the internet.”
UK expat Maria said that she had gone to the company’s office in Malaga having seen a very nice flat advertised.
“They made me believe I was going to the office to meet the agent who was going to show me the flat, but of course it was not like that.
“The flat was not available and there were no agents, just this obnoxious lady who tried by all means to make me sign their contract.
“Thank God I felt that something was off. I followed my instinct and left the office.”
The Olive Press reached out to OPAU, but they did not respond to our requests for a comment.
EXCLUSIVE: Expats unite to fight back against ‘scam’ estate