Brits win legal battle 13 years after their Spanish home was bulldozed

Brits win legal battle 13 years after their Spanish home was bulldozed

05/24/2021

British expat couple, both 77, who have lived in a garage for 13 YEARS after their Spanish home was bulldozed finally win legal battle – and can now be connected to electricity and water

  • Helen and Len Prior moved from Berkshire to Spain to enjoy a sunny retirement
  • In 2008, their £350,000 retirement villa was bulldozed by local authorities
  • They have been living in a converted garage without mains water or electricity
  • The newly-won legal status allows the couple to sell their garage home or leave the property to their three children  

A British expat couple who have been living in a garage in Spain for 13 years after their £350,000 retirement villa was bulldozed have finally won legal status for their property.

The small victory means Helen and Len Prior, both 77, can now get their garage home hooked up to mains water and electricity.

The couple’s retirement dream became a nightmare after local authorities sent in builders to demolish their luxury two-storey villa in 2008 due to ‘planning irregularities’.

Len, who has a heart condition, was so upset he collapsed as the bulldozing began and was rushed to hospital.

The couple were forced to convert their garage and two small workhouses into a makeshift home, where they’ve been living ever since.

They’ve made do with bottled water and power from a noisy generator using buckets to collect rain water that drips through the leaky roof.

Their reality is far from the relaxing, sunny retirement the couple imagined when the upped sticks from Wokingham, Berkshire. 

A British expat couple who have been living in a garage in Spain for 13 years after their £350,000 retirement villa was bulldozed have finally won legal status for their property. The small victory means Helen and Len Prior, both 77, can now get their garage home hooked up to mains water and electricity

The couple’s retirement dream became a nightmare after local authorities sent in builders to demolish their luxury two-storey villa in 2008 due to ‘planning irregularities’

 The couple were forced to convert their garage and two small workhouses into a makeshift home, where they’ve been living ever since

The Priors have now learned they’d finally been granted an AFO certificate for their property in Vera, Andalusia.

The licence confirms the legal status of the property as officially recognised out of planning.

They can now have their garage connected to the mains water and electricity, and hope to install a new roof, and either sell the site or bequeath it to family.

The Priors can now have their garage connected to the mains water and electricity, and hope to install a new roof, and either sell the site or bequeath it to family

‘We worked all our lives, we came out here with plenty of money, enough to buy this villa and have the garden landscaped,’ Helen said.

‘We had plenty of money to last us the end of our lives, called the house Tranquillidad (Tranquility) because it was our retirement home.

‘We have since spent most of our savings on the court case.

‘I couldn’t say the life we have in Spain is beautiful but we have had a good marriage. If we had been drinkers we probably would have drunk ourselves to death.

‘We have just got on with it, fighting the regional government kept us going. It’s not the sort of thing you can imagine would happen in a European country. 

‘It has been a nightmare because it was so unjust,’ Helen added.

‘The house was 100 per cent lawful, we had all the paperwork and why the regional government picked on us, we have no idea.

‘We are surrounded by luxury villas all sitting on plots so they probably could have chosen anybody.’

Bulldozers knocked down everything except the garage, two small workshops and the swimming pool. 

 ‘We have just got on with it, fighting the regional government kept us going. It’s not the sort of thing you can imagine would happen in a European country,’ Helen said. Pictured: The couples’ garage home

Five years ago, the Prior’s won a court battle when a judge ruled their local town hall was wrong to send in the wrecking squad.

They were reportedly awarded about £366,000 plus interest, but Helen says the sum was barely enough to cover their massive legal bill. 

The couple converted the garage into a bedroom while one workshop was made into a kitchen and dining room, the other into a bathroom. 

‘In Spain because of the weather, we spend most of the time outside anyway so we have a gazebo where we eat most of our meals and play cards and scrabble,’ Helen said.

‘We had to fight, we could have gone back to England but that’s not the type of people we were.

‘It was unjust, unfair, and we fought it.’ 

‘Len and I are both 77 and we don’t want to peg out and leave our children with a mess to clean so now the house can be lawfully sold or left to our children, it’s a huge relief.’

The couple have three children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. 

In 2015, the Spanish government rolled out new legislation in 2015 to stop homeowners who bought property in good faith from having it demolished. 

Gerardo Vazquez, a lawyer with AUAN – a pressure group representing expat owners in the region whose properties have been declared illegal – said he was pleased that the Priors had finally gained legal recognition for their property.

‘I am happy that, after all these years, the Priors can at last get access to proper services and have a semblance of some recognition of what they have left, and perhaps a little normality in their lives.

‘Having said that, do I wish that the house of the Priors had not been demolished? Of course I do.’

The couple have three children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren and can now choose to leave their home to their children

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