A Blackpool couple have spoken of their shock at being told their dream home could be demolished because it breaks Spanish planning laws.
Allan Peacock and partner Jill Fellows said their €250,000 (£197,000) property in Andalucia faces being bulldozed after a court in Almeria found it was built on rural land without planning permission.
The issue affects hundreds of British expats who bought in Spain in good faith but have since been plagued by legal issues.
Problems arose after the couple, formerly of Cumberland Avenue in Blackpool, discovered action had begun against the promoter of their home back in 2005 – a year before they were sold the property.
Mr Peacock said: “Once you buy the home the lawyer is supposed to register it.
“He did not do it and we did it ourselves – this is when we were told the builder was told to pull the houses down in 2005 – we had no idea.
“We realised it was built on protected land.”
The 69-year-old said the properties were built without permission from the local authority – with 17 other property owners in the development faced with having their dream villas destroyed.
He added: “There are thousands of expats throughout Spain in the same scenario as us.
“We are trying to fight the decision and a judge is currently looking at it. We can only fight it so far – I know one person who spent €10,000 to keep his property and won – only for the local authority to overrule the court and knock it down.
“All our money’s been spent over here. We’ve only got our pensions. We’re not going to be able to afford rent if we return to the UK with two basic pensions.”
The promoter of the 17 doomed houses has been sentenced to 14 months in jail and fined €6,500 (£5,100) for his part in the scam, according to reports in Spain. He has not been ordered to compensate the homeowners.
Mr Peacock said the law works differently in Spain and the promoter is not in jail as his sentence is under two years.
He said he hoped anyone reading their story would think twice before buying abroad.
The former cosmetics salesman added: “I just wish the people back in England could have more understanding of what goes on and stop them coming and making the exact same mistakes we have done.
“Houses are still being advertised. People see a nice looking property and want to invest.
“I just hope my story can save one person from buying a home like I have done.”
John Hillen, a member of ex-pat run group AUAN, which is attempting to fight such housing decisions, said it was a terrible situation.
He added: “Their promoter has been convicted of building without planning permission and ordered to demolish the house. No one involved in the case: the court, the promoter, the town hall or the prosecutor seem to have made reasonable efforts to find and inform the homeowners so that they could defend their interests and now they risk losing everything.
“This is fundamentally unjust and we believe that it violates their rights under the Spanish constitution and we are encouraging home owners to appeal this decision.
“However even if the criminal court was to determine an amount of compensation – as the law stands, it cannot guarantee payment prior to demolition.”