We paid a deposit on a villa on 7th February 2003 (36,000 euros). In Spain when you pay a deposit on a property it is given to the owner of the property immediately. On 9th February 2003 we paid a visit to the villa and saw that half the garden had been dug away, there was a large crack in the terrace (garage roof), with rain pouring into garage. The huge retaining wall which supported the garage, garden and house had moved substantially.
The owner assured us it was repairable and had started work to rectify the problem. We contacted our lawyer immediately. This legal company is a very large and well known company on the Costa del Sol with mainly English clientele. It also has a branch in Madrid and has over 50 lawyers working for them. They assured us it was not a problem to get our deposit returned if the damage was too serious and they sent a surveyor along whose report said it was a major problem.
We allowed the repairs to carry on but the wall continued to move and the repair was very unsatisfactory. When we felt we could not carry on and buy this villa, our lawyer said that it was not any problem and with the evidence – photos and surveyors report – we would receive our deposit back immediately. We were told in legal terms that the property had become defective.
The deposit was not returned by the owner of the villa and again we were reassured that this was still not a problem but we would have to institute court proceedings to get our deposit returned. We asked what costs were involved and were given a written estimate of approx 5,000 euros which we were told would be returned to us as there was no doubt we would win the case and the case was a mere formality. It would not be necessary for us to give evidence since they had everything they needed to win the case.
The court case was on 5th May 2003. Neither our lawyer nor surveyor showed up. We automatically lost the case because of no legal representation. The judge waited an hour for us to be able to try and contact our lawyer but we could not even contact the company. Our lawyer eventually arrived at the courts when the court case was completed and therefore too late and said she had a slight mishap with the car. She said she had forgotten her mobile phone, which is why she could not phone the courts, which of course is nonsense because she seemingly managed to contact the breakdown people if you were to believe her story. As the case was at 9.15 am on a Monday we felt she had overslept, but of course could not prove it.
The company apologised and said they would take responsibility but only if we allowed them to go appeal. We wrote to them telling them we had very strong reservations about winning the case on appeal and we just could not afford to lose any more money. They said that there would be no further costs to us as they would meet the cost of the appeal, which they were very confident they would win.
On 6th October 2004 we were informed we had lost the case at appeal. They tried to persuade us to allow them to appeal onto the Supreme Court in Madrid.
On December 9th 2004 we were sent a fax telling us that we had to pay all the other parties costs which would be approx 58,000 euros, which we could appeal against (more costs).
We now know that when the wall first became defective our legal representatives should have taken the Notary to see the property and we also now know that no new case was presented to the appeal court which is why we lost.
At various times this legal company said when it was all over they would have a meeting with us to negotiate their responsibility, this has not happened
We contacted loads of other lawyers to see if they would help us and all the other lawyers said that there was no doubt our legal firm had been negligent but unfortunately they could not help us as they all came from the same college and lawyers do not take on other lawyers despite how obviously there is a negligence case. Then we did find a young lawyer (Diego) in March 2005 who was very sympathetic and said he would help us with a negligence case, which would be very easy to prove. With his help we had the costs of 58,000 euros reduced by approx 5,000 euros, but now that seems to be swallowed up by his own costs.
On September 12th 2005 we were informed that we had three weeks to pay approx 36,000 euros otherwise we would lose our home as there would be an embargo put on it and it would be sold. We managed to get the money to the court the day before deadline
In May 2006 we were informed we had until 20th June to find the remaining 17.000 euros. This we have now paid.
Our total losses are approx 96,000 euros.
We have now been informed by our new young lawyer (Diego) that the other legal company will not answer any communications and therefore will now not take any responsibility leaving us to find this enormous amount of money. There have also been other legal costs. At the last meeting with Diego he seemed to have been “got at” and seemed to be pulling away from us saying the other company was too big and as we were foreigners we needed to be afraid if we took them on as they had big arms and knew where we lived.
This has ruined our lives as we had just retired and were looking forward to a comfortable retirement. There does not seem to be any direction to which we can turn for help.