(“I’m turning into a nomad”)
by Bob Fretwell
(ex El Burgo, ex Fuente de Piedra, ex La Roda de Andalucia)
(previously ex-Warrington, Swadlincote, USA, Mexico, Paraguay and a few others)
Six months of builders overhead and in the street, a smoking chimney, two perpetually barking dogs next door, and the imminent prospect of yet more building works have finally driven Bob and Julie Fretwell to move out of their rented home in El Burgo. Now read on…
We scanned the papers and found a house without neighbours. We found one in the middle of a field. Julie blurted out, “We’ll take it!” even as we turned into the 300-metre drive from the road. (The prospective landlord rubbed his hands – no arguing down the price for me here.)
For me it was too small. The kitchen was 1.5 metres long with just two halogen rings that couldn’t be used at the same time, as even a small pan overlapped the other ring, but Julie was adamant. There was a swimming pool (dark green and full of branches) and after my demand for somewhere to store all our stock (remember, we did have a business still to run) the landlord promised he would build a workshop/storeroom for our stuff provided we paid for half.
We started moving our stuff in during the last week of October and went “home” each night. The day we put stuff in the lounge (like boxes, etc.) and left, it started to rain… and rain… and rain. Next morning when we arrived the place was flooded, rain was pouring through the roof (only a year old) and had soaked and ruined everything we’d stacked. There was a crack around the chimney.
“I’ll fix it,” (this landlord could, at this point, speak English) “but I can’t do it while it is raining.” Fair enough, but when it stopped he couldn’t do it as he was a serving member of the Spanish Air Force and wasn’t there to do anything. When we saw him again he said he couldn’t see any leak (of course it wasn’t raining then!)
This house was, as I said only one year old and though impractical should have allowed us to enjoy the amenities. He told us that as farmers (it was built on his brother’s farm land) got cheap electricity the Electricity Board would not send us a bill, but the power was run through a meter outside the house…fair enough, except that Sevilliana charge €0.08 per kWh, and we were charged €0.12 using the “cheaper” electricity. Further, the solar powered water heater was shared by another family whom we hadn’t seen for the first two weeks.
They were a Spanish family (and we are still good friends) but worked on markets. This meant that when they returned in the afternoon all five of them would want to shower the dust off themselves and would drain the hot water completely. Of course, in November, there was little late sun, so there was no hot water that night, nor next morning, in fact there was no hot water at all. (At least, not until they came home in the late afternoon to use it all again.)
“I have a solution,” said the landlord, “I will put an immersion heater in and I will pay the bill.” What a man! Just one thing; the “bill” he was going to pay suddenly appeared on the meter of Alfonso, our neighbour. He got a demand for more than €300 for the month. As he pointed out, he spent only the evenings there and had no electrical appliances except a TV and the water heater…The landlord insisted he pay, he wouldn’t, so (with apologies to us) he clicked the switch off! I can’t say I blame him.
Then we opened one of the built-in wardrobes and found that more than €1,000 of stock was tainted with mould. As Julie made “Aromabears”, which are teddies, etc, perfumed with essential oils, the idea of selling “mould flavour” didn’t appeal, so out they went. Next wardrobe… all our clothes, shoes etc. the same. The landlord’s answer? “You shouldn’t close the wardrobe doors!” There’s lots more this atypical Spanish landlord did (including never cleaning the pool) and I realise I’m rambling on a bit here, so enough to say… we moved!
To La Roda de Andalucia, a large house with everything we wanted, enough room for all the stock, an actual shop front to open our new craft store and super landlord and landlady who just couldn’t be more different from the last one. Wonderful… except for an upstairs neighbour, who (apparently for the last four tenants of our house) disliked having anyone living below him. Each day his wife would clean her house and shake her brush from her balcony onto us. When they’d finished eating she would shake her tablecloths from her kitchen window over us as we were eating out on our enclosed patio. It’s not pleasant being showered with prawn shells and chicken bones while you’re eating, I can tell you.
We stayed there for more than a year and eventually left with Danny, Julie’s son, and his partner taking over the rent. They have split now and Danny is back with us at our new house. Now we have no neighbours, except for our landlords, who live in an apartment at the other end of the property, they are English and treat us well and are very friendly. So… happy again.
Just one cloud on the horizon… Our neighbours bought this house two years ago when it was just about derelict. They spent a lot of money getting everything approved and paid for at the local town hall, and now are settled to living quietly. A couple of weeks ago they got a letter from the town hall saying they owed several thousand euros for “unpaid taxes” and it must be paid within two weeks. Enquiries show that many Spanish authorities are clamping down on the deliberate undervaluing of houses (which means paying less tax for the buyer and seller, who often asks for some of the amount in cash) In this case they didn’t undervalue the house, but the town hall say that it is worth more than the declared value as it now has an apartment built, a swimming pool, etc….
We have pointed out that the place was derelict and that the new value of the house IS paid for each month, but despite this they are trying to force them to sell the house to pay the “owed” taxes. I therefore, have a job acting as translator as they don’t speak Spanish all that well.
So…where will I be writing from next?
Other than all the above we are very happy here and despite (or because of) the quaint, frustrating, amusing, nonsensical, strange, impossible “laws” we have never regretted our move here.
Sierra de Yeguas, Málaga