British expat faces eviction from Spanish home after 14-year ordeal

Janet Hayden

WHEN British national Janet Hayden first clapped her eyes on an idyllic plot of land for sale in La Viñuela in 2003, she could hardly have known that her ideal home was to become a house of horrors.

While Janet had been told the land could not legally be built on, she claims she was assured that works could go ahead simply by paying a small fine.

Organising the sale, bank loans, architects and builders through a solicitor, Janet says she soon had concerns after building costs quickly spiralled to almost double the original estimate. While she accepts she asked for some extras, Janet says she was surprised to learn the bill had reached €536,000 from an original quote of €270,000. Worse still, she claims the appropriate licences had still not been received.  Taking out bank loans to cover costs, Janet already owed significant sums of money.

-- Advertisement --

Soon after work on the imposing three storey house was complete, her dream was abruptly shattered after signs of damage began to appear.  Large cracks formed in the walls and a hole opened up in the ground under one corner of the building.  Hoping to have this fixed, Janet says she was astonished to find that the standard 10-year insurance for new building works had not been secured by her legal representative.

She then researched the land she had built on and found that it locals call it “the land that walks” because it is renowned for suddenly slipping, a fact she assures she was never told at any point by lawyers, banks, architect or builders.

Fourteen years on, Janet’s bank have taken possession of the house, which she says now needs significant sums of money spending on it, and is evicting her on April 4. Worn down, the now 70-year-old says she has lost her marriage and been diagnosed with a potentially fatal heart condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. While she admits she is nervous living in a house with structural issues, Janet explains she is desperate to stay in her home and cannot afford to move.  She is now trying to negotiate with the bank in order to stay put.

Viñuela’s former mayor, Juan Millan Jabalera, was sentenced to 27 months in prison in 2011 for granting illegal licences to build in the area.  This begs the question, what is the recourse for those like Janet who are left to deal with the consequences?


  1. I despair for this woman, another person caught in the trap created by a shambles of a system that is that of Spain. These things should not happen in any country let alone a country that has been a member of the EU for over 20 years, I just cannot understand the total lack of effort by the EU to stop these things from happening in Spain, it’s not like its accepted as common practice…. well OK, in Spain it is, but what other reason is needed by the EU to get them to sort these issues! Another case of take the money, screw the innocent and move on… can’t really get much lower but then some people don’t understand any other way to do things for making some money… but it doesn’t move on and most people will reach the end of their lives before anything in many of these cases and similar are resolved.

    I can only think of the number of people things like this have put off from investing in Spain, come to Spain to spend your retirement in the sun… not on your life I hear some say, and I am not surprised, but then what can we expect from a country that is run by people who shoot themselves in the foot time after time with their greedy methods rather than actually trying to make the country work. I think a case of: I’m alright Jack!

  2. My heart goes out to this poor lady. Spain is a great place to live until things go wrong and, for the majority of people who come to live there, this isn’t an issue. But when, like Janet, you are the victim of officialdom, justice is difficult, expensive and often impossible to get.

  3. Well, I’m sorry but whereas I accept the Spanish system can be seen as a shambles, I think in any country, I would be wary of having a house built when I was told it would be illegal.
    I’m afraid I cannot be sympathetic as this person seemed to have had more money than sense, and blaming others when she obviously didn’t carry out proper research is just plain stupid.
    You wouldn’t so in UK so why do it in Spain.

  4. You are missing one very important point – the first sentence “While Janet had been told the land could not legally be built on, she claims she was assured that works could go ahead simply by paying a small fine”. I am sorry but people who go ahead and try to buck the system only have themselves to blame. It’s illegal for a reason. There are many ex-pats who have been duped and for those I do feel sorry for but those who think they can build where they want then i’m sorry but they can only blame themselves and not the Spanish system. Would they do this in the UK? No is the simple answer.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here