Essex mum's home sold by Spanish officials to pay ex's debt – Braintree and Witham Times

Spread the love

A British expat mum and her son have been left homeless after Spanish officials sold their home at a fraction of its value to pay off a mere 4,000 euro debt owed by her ex.
Victoria Jenkins, originally from Essex, has lived in the same home in the Marbella area for 22 years while her 13-year-old son Sam was born in the resort popular with British holidaymakers.
But authorities in Mijas on the Costa del Sol suddenly served her with an eviction notice after flogging their home at a cut price in a ‘secret’ auction without her knowledge.
And she is not the only victim of an alleged property seizure scandal, with a string of other homeowners claiming to have also been targeted in similar circumstances.
The scandal has led to campaigners calling for officials and a former mayor of the town to be investigated by police.
Ms Jenkins and her former partner bought the two-bed flat in Riviera del Sol for €270,000 and there was no mortgage or other debt against the property.
But the local authority – similar to a town council in the UK – sold it for a cut price of just €28,000, despite it being worth around €320,000 over an alleged debt of €4,000.
After paying the debt, officials also kept the remaining money from the sale claiming it was used to pay legal fees, leaving Ms Jenkins and her child with nothing – not even the child maintenance she had previously been awarded by a court.
When they were evicted six men – including two police officers, two town hall officials plus the new owner and his friend – arrived at the flat to force them to leave, Ms Jenkins said.
She has been forced to stay on a friend’s sofa after she along with her son, Sam Cohen, on October 5 last year and has been battling the Andalusian courts for answers ever since.
The 37-year-old was first handed an eviction notice in November 2020 and told her apartment had been sold by the town hall to recoup unpaid ground taxes of just €4,000 owed by ex-partner Lee Cohen, who officially owned the property.
She said no one notified her of the debt or of the sale of the two-bedroom flat, which actually took place in 2015 behind closed doors.
Ms Jenkins said the first she knew about the sale was when a final eviction notice was served ordering her to leave the property by April 15, 2021.
The mother and son were left without a home and relying on a friend’s sofa in order to have a roof over their heads.
After a lengthy legal battle, she was finally allowed by the court to see her case file and discovered eviction notices and letters about the sale were being sent to the wrong address.
Ms Jenkins claims this was done deliberately and is part of a wide-ranging scam by town hall officials to snatch properties from vulnerable residents under false pretences by selling the homes at reduced prices.
She said: “Notification about the sale were sent to the wrong address, leaving me not allowed to speak.
“I have had the same address, email and phone number the whole time I’ve been in Spain. All the court documents have the correct address, but the notifications were sent to one that doesn’t exist.
“Because it looked like I was not responding, the judge automatically ruled in their favour without me knowing about it or being given a fair hearing or chance to put my side and legal documents forward.
“When it looked to the judge that I was not responding he granted them the eviction and they had no problem finding me and banging on my door when it was time to kick me out. I don’t know how these people sleep at night.
“I have never heard of a justice system anywhere in the world that believes it is fair to only hear one side and not allow the other side a chance to be heard.
“The procedure had been manipulated in order to not give me a chance to talk or make anyone else aware of what had happened.
“I never had a chance to put my side across. I thought courts were supposed to hear both sides. We are in a really vulnerable position.
“How do people get an invite to attend a closed auction? Why can no one answer that question to start with? I’d love to buy a home worth €320,000 for €28,000.
“There were other homes with much higher debts than €4,000 at the time my home was sent to auction. These homes with higher debts were not auctioned. Why is that?
“The only difference I can see is that my home had the mortgage completely paid off and the others did not, so there was a massive difference in equity and what was to gain.
“We have had our home sold from underneath us and we have not been given a penny, despite there being hundreds of thousands of euros in equity in the home.
“How can this be happening – it just seems so unfair. What about my son? He’s lived here his whole life, he goes to school here.”
The property she lived in was fully paid for, with no mortgage outstanding after it was bought 22 years ago along with her then-partner.
She has not heard from Mr Cohen since he left her and their young son, Sam, in Spain to start a new life in Indonesia in 2012.
Through the Spanish courts, Ms Jenkins had previously obtained the right to stay in the apartment until their child turns 18.
She believes local politicians have taken advantage of her position to swoop on the flat as the force of sale was put on the property by the ex-mayor of Mijas, Angel Nozal.
With no social housing, the only help the authorities gave was to offer to put Sam into care.
The desperate mum was told by Spanish authorities to apply for emergency financial assistance, but a year on has still not received a penny Ms Jenkins said: “There is no social housing here. I went to social services to see if they could help, they said if I did not have a home the only thing they could do is take my son into the care system.
“At the moment we are staying on a friend’s sofa, while I try to save up the money to get a deposit for a home again.
“I feel defenceless, bullied, unable to protect my son, anxious and scared. I’ve never felt so harassed and helpless. I don’t understand why my child’s legal rights have been ignored.”
Ms Jenkins is now taking the case to a tribunal at the Supreme Court in Madrid to challenge the legality of the sale, but it could be years before the case is heard.
She added: “We were kicked onto the streets in the middle of a world pandemic and left with nothing over a €4,000 debt.
“I just tried to give my son the best upbringing, but I can’t spend enough time with him because of all the pressure of what’s going on. It’s just horrible.
“My son only gets one childhood. I don’t know how we are going to manage now.
“This is an awful way for the system to treat and leave a fatherless child. It is shocking. I feel the very people who were supposed to be protecting my child have stolen from him instead.”
A Fuengirola court in 2015 gave Ms Jenkins full child custody, the right to stay in their home until her son turns 18 or for alternative accommodation to be provided.
But Ms Jenkins, originally from Chelmsford, but is now a Spanish citizen, said: “It suddenly happened in November 2020, there was a knock on my door and I was handed an eviction notice.
“I have asked why I was not notified of this or given the chance to pay his debt, or even the chance to be heard by the judge but because the home was not in my name and I only had the right to stay there they said they did not legally have to notify me of the sale. The first eviction notice I was handed was a final one.
“I don’t see how they can take our home and all the money from the sale and leave me and my child in the middle with nothing.
“I have never been able to contest or have any legal proceedings over the sale of the house because I was never the owner. I have tried but was shot down at that first hurdle.
“There was a lot of money in the flat and we were in a vulnerable situation and they [the town hall] have taken advantage of it. But I never believed they would put us through this.
“Why was the money for a €4000 euro debt taken? My son also had years of alimony owed to him. Why was this not taken into account? How can they claim their money but my son be ignored?
“In the UK the authorities help find you alternative accommodation, but here there’s nothing, no help at all, we’re just out on the streets.”
Ms Jenkins warned other Brits of the dangers of investing in the region, as other expats have also fallen foul of similar legal problems.
She said; “There are all the TV shows showing people buying homes in the sun, especially in this area, but no one sees what happens to them afterwards and I feel there should be a strong warning to people thinking of investing any money in the Mijas Costa area until the people in authority are looked at.
“It is an area massive with tourists and people hoping to start a new life. I have seen so many people come and have sold their homes back in the UK to invest here, only for 12 months later to leave with nothing. It is heart-breaking.”
Former mayor Mr Nozal testified in court in 2016 over the forced sale of a couple whose home worth €368,000 was sold for just €110,000 over a €20,000 debt.
The same year, the Andalusian regional parliament launched a probe into Mijas town hall’s process of auctioning off properties embargoed over tax debts during the period from 2010 to 2015. That investigation is still ongoing.
Some cases involved homes that were allegedly seized over minor debts and sold off quickly at majorly discounted prices. Locals have dubbed it the ‘Official Scam’ as it is allegedly being carried by the authorities.
Local media reported that in 2015 a British couple’s €250,000 home was sold for €80,000 without their knowledge, also over a €4,000 tax debt.
These cases led to the former mayor, the ex-head of the treasury and a tax collector at the town hall potentially facing criminal investigations.
When asked why these auctions were being carried out despite the former mayor being investigated, a spokeswoman for Mijas Town Hall said she believed the last sales were “carried out between 2012 and 2016”, but did not know the exact date.
She claimed the auctions were not being carried out in ‘secret’ and were “in accordance with the legal guidelines”.
The spokeswoman added that information about the auctions is published and is publicly accessible, but could not say where and how this information is available.
She said she would have to look up these details, but no one from the town hall has since replied to numerous requests for clarification on why the sales were carried out without notifying the property owners or giving them the opportunity to pay the debt themselves.
The Andalusian regional government as well as local police have been contacted for comment.
We want our comments to be a lively and valuable part of our community – a place where readers can debate and engage with the most important local issues. The ability to comment on our stories is a privilege, not a right, however, and that privilege may be withdrawn if it is abused or misused.
Please report any comments that break our rules.
Last Updated:
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
This website and associated newspapers adhere to the Independent Press Standards Organisation’s Editors’ Code of Practice. If you have a complaint about the editorial content which relates to inaccuracy or intrusion, then please contact the editor here. If you are dissatisfied with the response provided you can contact IPSO here
© 2001-2022. This site is part of Newsquest’s audited local newspaper network. A Gannett Company. Newsquest Media Group Ltd, Loudwater Mill, Station Road, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. HP10 9TY. Registered in England & Wales | 01676637 |
Data returned from the Piano ‘meterActive/meterExpired’ callback event.
As a subscriber, you are shown 80% less display advertising when reading our articles.
Those ads you do see are predominantly from local businesses promoting local services.
These adverts enable local businesses to get in front of their target audience – the local community.
It is important that we continue to promote these adverts as our local businesses need as much support as possible during these challenging times.

source

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: