Brexit: British expat on difficulty of living in Spain in 2021
The Britons bought their dream homes in the Spanish region of Murcia at full market price, in some cases more than 20 years ago. However, they claim that Murcia Town Hall has now demanded fresh sums of up to €15,000 (£13,000). The surprise fees are allegedly to cover the costs of building unfinished roads and putting in access to basic services. Water and electricity mains were never installed in the area because the developer vanished during the construction of the properties, the expats say.
Around 200 expats, many of whom are pensioners in their Seventies and Eighties, are now locked in a battle with the Town Hall to resolve their situation.
One homeowner said he is worried about how his elderly neighbours will cope if they are confronted with new costs on top of what they originally paid for their properties.
Tony Malpass, 60, claimed that his fellow residents in the village of Gea y Truyols “cannot support themselves”.
He told Express.co.uk: “Because of the situation with the deeds and stuff they can’t afford to sell the properties because they won’t get much.
“So, even if they wanted to go back to England, they can’t, because there is no way they will have enough money to be able to support themselves.”
The security analyst from the Midlands bought his home in the area with his wife Anne 15 years ago.
JUST IN: The safest country in the world to retire to is ‘fantastic’ – full list
British expats face hidden FIVE-FIGURE property fees: ‘Cannot support themselves’
Expats: Are left without water or electricity
He is one of many British homeowners who does not have a deed to his property because the land it is built on is classed as an undivided share of a field, rather than a segregated plot.
When he and many of his neighbours moved into their homes, they say they were assured by lawyers and Town Hall officials that their homes would be legally sound.
Mr Malpass said: “We were told that the builder had planning permission and it was all legal and above board.”
However, it later transpired that the developer did not have planning permission, meaning the homes are technically considered illegal under Spanish law.
The lack of planning permission and undivided plots mean that the homes cannot be connected to water and electricity mains.
Like many of his neighbours, Mr Malpass was forced to find his own solution to not having basic utilities.
Solar panels: Tony forked out for own power source
He and his wife installed a 10,000-litre water tank and forked out around €20,000 (£17,000) to put in solar panels so they could get electricity.
The Briton explained how he has had to rely on a supply of agricultural water from local farmers, which contains chemicals and is not fit for drinking.
He said: “You cannot drink it. Apparently, there are things like arsenic in it and heavy metals and all sorts of crap.
“And the main filters that people have – if they have a tank in a pump room – are essentially sand.
“So, you are just filtering it through sand and sand is not going to filter out all the chemicals and stuff.
“We shower in it, but you would not want to swallow a mouthful of it.”
Tony Malpass: Homeowner affected by planning issue
Asked how he felt about the situation, he said: “I feel incredibly angry, but that emotion is not a particularly worthwhile one.”
Another of the expats affected is Keith Willis from Windsor, who has been in Spain for 21 years and lives with his Partner, Pat.
The retired Heathrow Airport worker, 71, also had to install solar panels and filters for his electricity and water.
Asked by Express.co.uk what his priorities were, he said: “Getting fresh water that we can actually drink or cook with”.
He added: “Because the water now being agricultural water, you can’t do much with it at all really.
“It comes out of the taps brown most of the time. So, fresh water will be the main thing.”
Water filters: At Keith’s home in Murcia
Like Mr Malpass and many others in the area, Mr Willis does not own a segregated plot of land on which his house sits.
He said: “Ideally, the first thing is segregation. That’s the most important thing.
“Because then we can all say, ‘Yeah, we have a house. Here’s the deeds for the house. We’re actually homeowners’.
“Once that’s achieved, then we need either a developer to come along and take over the urbanisation of this land or for it to become rural land.
“But I don’t know legally if that’s something we can do. But the most pressing thing is segregation.”
Local Spanish lawyer Gerardo Vasquez, who has been speaking to the expats, explained that planning permission is required for the houses to get access to utilities.
Keith Willis: Expat without clean water access
He told Express.co.uk: “To get access to utilities you need what’s called a First Occupational Licence, which is a document given by the Administration to say the house has been built with planning permission, what has been built is in accordance with the planning permission, it’s got the services.
“Therefore, it can be used, and you can connect to services like electricity and water but those houses don’t seem to have that.
“What they have is an undivided share, so they have a share of a big piece of land, so that is what they can sell. So, it’s irregular. Their title is irregular.”
The expats have tried to resolve the planning issues surrounding their properties with Murcia Town Hall.
They set up a pressure group called AUN Murcia to encourage local officials to give their homes legal recognition.
They also petitioned the Town Hall with a joint letter on behalf of local residents in February last year.
Brown: Tap water at Keith’s Murcia property
Part of the letter read: “We beg of you to find a solution to the planning issues in order to enable us to live the last years of our lives in peace without the worries that we have now because of the lack of clean water to our homes coupled with substandard electricity connections or none at all.”
However, progress has been slow-moving and some of the expats have accused Town Hall officials of dragging their feet over the legalisation of their homes.
Murcia Town Hall has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
A Foreign Office spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We are in contact with the local authorities and British residents in the area.”