UK expats in Spain report ‘dreadful’ living conditions amid bureaucracy: ‘No human rights’

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Spain is home to one of the world’s largest groups of expats, with thousands of UK citizens upping sticks to the Iberian nation, lured by its sunshine, beaches and rich culture. However, for one group of elderly Britons, their Spanish retirement dreams have morphed into a collective nightmare. A neighbourhood of around 200 mostly British pensioners in the southeastern region of Murcia are facing dire living conditions after being left without electricity or fresh running water at their homes.

The expats, who live in the village of Gea y Truyols, are battling to secure legal protections for their properties, due to longstanding town planning issues, which mean their homes cannot receive basic utilities.

One of those affected is Linda House, a retired personal assistant from Essex, who moved into her home in the area with her late husband Vic in 2003.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, the 72-year-old said: “We’ve been here 19 years. It’s a dreadful situation.

“I’ve written to everyone. I’ve written to some MPs back in the UK.”

Linda is one of several expats who bought homes in the area without realising they had been built without planning permission, meaning they are considered illegal under Spanish law.

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The expats claim they received assurances from lawyers and local officials when they moved in that their properties were legally sound.

To resolve the situation, Linda and some of her fellow expats have been holding meetings with Murcia Town Hall.

They have also set up a pressure group to deal with their property troubles called AUN Murcia, which Linda helps lead.

Unlike some of her neighbours, the retiree has managed to get some form of electricity supply at her property.

However, she is still not connected to the water mains and must rely on a supply of agricultural water used by local farmers to irrigate their crops, which is not fit for drinking.

She said: “My husband was a policeman. He still paid tax in the UK. I still pay tax in the UK on his police pension, because it has to be taxed in the UK.

“We get no help from the UK with this situation. We’re being badly treated.

“You talk about human rights. We don’t have human rights, not really.”

Although the expat criticised the UK’s response to their situation, she did praise the work of the British Consulate Alicante, which has assisted her and her neighbours.

However, Linda claimed the process to resolve the situation at the Town Hall has been slow-moving.

She added: “We have a lovely life here. I love it. It’s just the bureaucracy.”

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Linda’s nearby neighbour Keith Willis, 71, is in a similar situation, as his home was also built without planning permission.

The retired Heathrow Airport worker from Windsor, who has lived in Spain for 21 years, has also spoken out about his living conditions.

He resorted to installing expensive solar panels to power his home, and had a series of filters fitted to remove the brown sediment in his tap water.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said: “The water’s the worst thing.

“But then we just buy our water from the supermarkets in bottles and cook with that and use it for making coffee.

“We wash up and have showers in the agricultural water.”

Local Spanish lawyer, Gerardo Vasquez, who is aware of the expats’ situation explained why they do not have access to proper electricity and water supplies.

He told Express.co.uk: “To get access to utilities you need what’s called a First Occupational License, 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.”

Murcia Town Hall did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

A Foreign Office spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “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.”

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