‘Lawyer cost us dream home’

Glamorgan Gazette - - Front Page - PHILIP DEWEY philip.dewey@waleson­line.co.uk

A RE­TIRED cou­ple from Porthcawl say they lost their dream hol­i­day home in Spain – along with thou­sands of pounds – due to the neg­li­gence of their lawyer.

A RE­TIRED cou­ple from Wales lost their dream hol­i­day home in Spain and thou­sands of pounds due to the neg­li­gence of their lawyer.

Ste­wart and Lynda For­rester, of Not­tage, Porthcawl, worked hard all their lives to give them­selves a com­fort­able re­tire­ment and at the be­gin­ning of the new mil­len­nium they de­cided to pur­chase their own place in the sun on the Costa Blanca which had its own swim­ming pool.

Lit­tle did they know that they would end up los­ing their sec­ond home, more than £300,000 and spend six years bat­tling in the UK’s top courts, along with other cou­ples and in­di­vid­u­als from across the UK who had also lost their homes in Ali­cante.

Last month, grand­par­ents Ste­wart and Lynda were told at Lon­don’s Court of Ap­peal that they would be com­pen­sated af­ter los­ing their home, which they had bought out­right for £120,000 but found them­selves lum­bered with an un­ex­pected mort­gage.

With de­vel­oper Tec­nolo­gia Ur­ban­is­tica and agents At­las In­ter­na­tional Prop­erty Ser­vices in liq­ui­da­tion, the buy­ers sued Span­ish lawyer Miguel Angel Aroca Sei­quer, who had been rec­om­mended to them and whose job it was to en­sure that they got good ti­tle to the flats in re­turn for their money.

De­scrib­ing how they came to buy the house, for­mer post­mistress Lynda, 68, said: “We went with At­las, we were both work­ing at the time and went to look for prop­erty. They ad­ver­tised as a one-stop shop. They ar­ranged to show us the house and we stayed in their ho­tel. They or­gan­ised it all for you.

“It was a hol­i­day home but every time we went there we would have it painted, put in a new gate. There was al­ways some­thing and a lot of money was spent on it over the years.”

For­mer busi­ness man­age­ment con­sul­tant Ste­wart, 70, added: “We had nine happy years where we thor­oughly en­joyed it and we went there hun­dreds of times. We had hol­i­days there and friends used it and had fam­ily Christ­mases there. We loved it and the life­style was bril­liant. I have never quite un­der­stood what re­ally hap­pened.”

In 2012, the cou­ple went out to Ali­cante to live, but kept their house in Not­tage. It wasn’t long be­fore they re­turned af­ter they dis­cov­ered that all was not as it seemed.

The ini­tial prob­lem came af­ter the foun­da­tions of the house col­lapsed, caus­ing ir­repara­ble dam­age – but the de­vel­op­ers gave them a sec­ond prop­erty, which they ac­cepted.

They then found out that neigh­bours who had bought prop­er­ties from the same de­vel­oper were dis­cov­er­ing that mort­gages had been taken out on their homes, de­spite buy­ing the prop­er­ties out­right.

Ste­wart said: “We were sold houses which had debt on them and the law firm we all used was the favourite law firm of the de­vel­op­ers.

“I in­no­cently found out we didn’t have the house from other peo­ple who had flown in because they had the same prob­lem. We had com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the so­lic­i­tors say­ing don’t worry and we’d have the ti­tle deeds soon.

“We went out there in 2012 to live there for a pe­riod of time and we found out that other peo­ple’s houses were up for re­pos­ses­sion. We found out our house could be re­pos­sessed, so we came home and sought le­gal ad­vice.”

The cou­ple de­cided to part with the house vol­un­tar­ily and put it in the pos­ses­sion of the bank.

Lynda said: “We emp­tied it of ev­ery­thing we had, we cleaned it and took the fur­ni­ture out and said good­bye to the house. That was June 2012 and we haven’t been back there since.”

Ste­wart and Lynda joined a group of peo­ple in­clud­ing seven cou­ples and two in­di­vid­u­als taking le­gal ac­tion against the de­vel­op­ers, agents and law firm.

Their le­gal bat­tle be­gan in 2012 and has so far in­cluded four court hear­ings at the Royal Courts of Jus­tice and the Court of Ap­peal. Af­ter the third court hear­ing, At­las In­ter­na­tional Prop­erty Ser­vices were liq­ui­dated, which left lawyer Sei­quer as the only re­main­ing party in the case. In July this year, the Court of Ap­peal up­held the de­ci­sion that Sei­quer had been neg­li­gent.

Lord Jus­tice David Richards said Sei­quer failed in his duty to ad­vise the buy­ers about the risk of pay­ing fi­nal in­stal­ments on their flats with­out en­sur­ing that they would get mort- gage-free ti­tle to the prop­er­ties.

The lawyer had been rec­om­mended to the buy­ers by Bri­tish prop­erty agents who mar­keted the de­vel­op­ment in the UK and of­fered a “on­estop” ser­vice to pur­chasers.

The judge said Sei­quer failed to tell buy­ers that the trans­ac­tions were not guar­an­teed by banks, as re­quired by Span­ish law.

And he ne­glected to ad­vise them not to part with their cash un­til the de­vel­oper could prove it had mort­gage-free ti­tle to the flats.

De­spite their le­gal or­deal com­ing to an end, Ste­wart and Lynda will have to wait to find out how much of their money they will get back, with a date for the next court hear­ing not de­ter­mined.

The cou­ple’s re­tire­ment plans have been left in dis­ar­ray, with Ste­wart go­ing back into work to help fund their le­gal bills.

He said: “The worst thing for me, apart from the fact I have not been able to spend enough time with Lynda while we see our friends go­ing to the beach or for a pic­nic, was I needed to go back to work because we were un­sure what money we had and un­for­tu­nately I couldn’t get a job de­spite my ex­pe­ri­ence and qual­i­fi­ca­tions. I just found the ageism in­cred­i­ble.

“We feel silly. I have had peo­ple say to me, ‘you’re an in­tel­li­gent man, how could you make such a mis­take, how did I al­low this to hap­pen?’ but we trusted two Bri­tish firms. I will never trust an­other lawyer again.

“They have ru­ined lives. We were re­tired, not rich, but com­fort­able.”

Lynda added: “It has to­tally changed our lives because of the stress of it.”

Lynda For­rester at her and her hus­band Ste­wart’s hol­i­day home in Ali­cante, Spain

Ste­wart, 70, and Lynda For­rester, 68, at home in Porthcawl

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