By Jess Grieveson-Smith
A mum claims her dream of living abroad was torn apart after squatters took over her Spanish house – costing her more than £10,000 and leaving her homeless.
Helen France, 45, from Rotherham claims she has lost more than £10,000 on unpaid rent and bills, solicitor’s fees and damage to her property in Alicante, Spain since the ‘tenants from hell’ entered the home last year.
The single mum-of-one bought the dream property in the Orihuela province in the Spanish resort in December 2015, initially using it as a holiday home and deciding to let it out in January 2018 so she could save to move to the country permanently.
But things quickly turned sour as she claims the tenants proceeded to destroy her home – throwing furniture out of the windows, breaking walls and flooring and racking up unpaid electricity bills of more than 250 euros per month.
Helen moved to Alicante full-time in June last year assuming she could move into the property but claims the squatters have ignored multiple eviction notice since and threatened her physically.
She claims the police and other official channels won’t help and both her UK solicitor and letting agent have reached dead ends against Spanish law because of its protection for tenants – leaving her no choice but to put the eviction notice through the courts at her own expense.
Helen is currently stuck in Spain sofa surfing with friends with no fixed address as she doesn’t have the funds to return to the UK and is still locked in a furious battle with the residents.
She said: “This has been a nightmare and it’s taken a physical toll on me.
“I poured all I had into the property, and it’s only now I’ve realised that here in Spain, the tenants’ rights outweigh the homeowner’s.
“When the letting agency first approached me with these tenants, they seemed like good, ordinary people.
“I requested that there should be no pets, yet the next thing I knew there were animals in there and my furniture had been tipped outside onto the balcony.
“When I arrived in early June, they said, ‘we murder you’ and threw a brick from the roof at us.
” I was told I had to pay the bills from my account because it’s in my name – but they’re not even paying the rent and I can’t afford to keep paying for the bills for the property when I’m getting nothing in return.
“Since coming out here to Spain, I’m literally living hand to mouth.
“It’s like living a nightmare, I feel so alone – I don’t feel in control in any way.
“I’ve been to the police, and to the letting agency but it seems no-one knows what to do. The tenants have had an eviction notice, and that’s it.
“Now, I feel like I’m stuck with no help – I can’t even afford the plane fare home.
“Living in Spain was supposed to be my dream, but it couldn’t be any further from that.”
Letting agents Compass Property Services helped Helen find the tenants originally – but said they have also encountered road blocks as they attempted to take them out.
Company owner Peter James has now spoken out to support Helen and advise those looking to let a property abroad ‘not all tenants are as they seem’.
He said: “Helen signed with us in September 2017 and requested that we find a long term tenant, which we did in January 2018.
“Yet the tenants quickly stopped paying the bills and it was decided to inform the tenant that if they did not pay the outstanding bills then a letter of termination would be served.
“This was done when the tenant came to pay the rent but refused to pay for the electricity.
“Aa letter of termination was given on the spot giving the tenant one month’s notice to vacate, as stated in the rental agreement.
“During the one month’s notice we was in talks with Helen’s solicitor and provided all the necessary and requested documents required for the solicitor to start the legal eviction process just in case the tenants did not vacate on the specified date.
“This is an example of the worst case scenario of what can happen – Spanish law and procedures are different than that in the UK.
“Any eviction process has to go through the courts via a solicitor and we assist the solicitor by providing any documentation that they may need.
“Unfortunately Spanish law leans heavily towards the tenant rather than the owner.
“This is a horrible on-going situation in which we will help in any legal way that we can.
“On average, 97 per cent of tenants are good, honest people but you do get the odd tenant that is not all that they seem.
“Anyone looking at buying abroad needs to make sure they have full understanding and aren’t going in blind – they need to have their eyes wide open.”