A development of terraced houses on the beach front, with a swimming pool and spacious gardens. This sounds like a place in many people’s dreams, but for about 50 people who live in La Borboleta development in Manilva the maintenance of this residential complex is becoming a real nightmare.
So many people have failed to pay their community fees that, after already having had to cut back on the number of hours spent on maintenance work and gardening, the water supply could be cut off within a few days, says property administrator Rafael Mena.
Five British owners are responsible for the largest part of this debt, because between them they owe more than 25,000 euros. A debt recovery company in the United Kingdom is now looking for them so they can be brought before the courts.
Although traditionally British people who live on the Costa del Sol have been good payers, since the economic crisis began the amount owed by them has been increasing, says the head of the Association of Property Administrators in Malaga and Melilla Fernando Pastor who signed an agreement with a law firm in London a few days ago to locate those who have failed to pay their community fees in apartment blocks and residential developments, many of them luxurious.
The firm, Wellbeck Law, has received more than 300 cases from Malaga province since June last year, because before this agreement was signed some property administrators already used them to try to reclaim outstanding debts, says Jeremy Boyle, the founding partner of the firm.
According to this lawyer, the average debt of British owners who owe money to communities is about 6,000 euros, although in one case it is 100,000 euros because the fees for four properties in a luxury development in Marbella have not been paid for more than four years.
British experts are being appointed to try to recover the debts because of the difficulties encountered by property administrators in Spain when trying to locate the debtors and because the legal processes can go on for months.
This, says Fernando Pastor, is because under Spanish legislation it must be established that all notifications have reached the debtor. However, the Law of Horizontal Property only obliges property owners to provide a contact address in Spain so it is not uncommon for there to be no information about any address in the United Kingdom.
Many foreigners spend most of the year in their own country or they return there permanently when they can no longer pay their mortgage. “Some of them hand over the keys of the apartment to the bank and then think they are not responsible for paying community fees,” says Jeremy Boyle.
Once the community provides the legal firm in London with the information about the debtor, the search begins. With just the name and place of birth, they can be located within a few days, says Jeremy Boyle. However, if the lawyers are unable to achieve this by their own efforts they use a private detective. In that case, it can take a few weeks to locate the person in question.
Once the debtor has been found, the legal process begins in Britain and is resolved in less than one year. The professionals at Wellbeck Law receive about 20 per cent of the money which is paid by the debtor. If in the end the case is not resolved, they receive nothing.