British expats in Spain rejected in illegal homes fight: ‘Like talking to a brick wall’

A group of around 200 expats in Spain is locked in a protracted legal battle with their local authority as they seek to legalise their properties. Many of the residents, who live in Gea y Truyols in the Murcia region, are British pensioners, some of whom snapped up their dream homes in the Spanish sun 20 years ago. Although the homeowners claim they bought their properties in good faith, the houses are not officially recognised under Spanish law and are considered illegal.

This is because – unbeknown to the expats – the houses did not have planning permission at the time they were built.

This has been a common problem in Spain over the last few decades as some developers built homes without getting the official green light and have then accepted fines – a practice sometimes referred to as getting “retrospective planning permission”.

But in the case of the pensioners of Gea y Truyols, no such official permission was achieved.

Now, because the expats’ homes are not legally recognised, they are unable to access basic utilities such as electricity and water.

One of those affected is Keith Willis, 71, who does not have clean drinking water at his home and has had to rely on a supply of farmer’s irrigation water that is not for human consumption.

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The retiree from Windsor, who has been in Spain for 21 years, installed water filters at his home to deal with the problem and solar panels to generate electricity, because his house cannot be connected to the mains.

Keith, who lives with his Partner, Pat and used to work at Heathrow Airport, told how representatives for the expats face a “brick wall” when they try to deal with Murcia Town Hall.

He said: “Murcia Town Hall is totally ignoring them and won’t come back and say, ‘Yeah we’ll have a meeting with them’ or something like that.

“So, it’s like a brick wall. We’re on a limb and Murcia isn’t really taking any notice of the people here.

“And now we have got an organisation, AUN Murcia that are pushing, they’re just not taking any notice of them.”

Linda claimed the Town Hall has dragged its feet over dealing with the expats’ homes, although the group are set to meet officials this month.

The 72-year-old from Essex claimed the British Consulate Alicante’s representatives have helped the group.

Linda, who moved into her home in 2003 with her late husband Vic, finds herself in a similar situation to Keith.

She told “We just assumed as you would when you buy a house that you’re going to have proper water, but we had agricultural water.

“That is still the case today. We have agricultural water. We can’t drink our water. We can’t cook in it.

“We shouldn’t really be washing in it. Sometimes it’s smelly and discoloured.”

Murcia Town Hall did not respond to requests for comment.

A Foreign Office spokesperson told “We closely engage with the Spanish Government and regional governments on matters relating to UK Nationals’ rights.

“We encourage any UK National in need of consular assistance to get in touch with their nearest Embassy / Consulate or call the 24/7 phone line for support.”