‘Lawyer cost us dream home’
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