Irish expat in Spain awarded MBE for her expat property rights campaign

Published:  14 Jul at 6 PM
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Maura Hillen is a heroine to over 500 British expats whose properties were demolished after being declared illegal during the infamous Spanish property scandal.

As leader of the Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora NO! (AUAN) campaign, Maura fought at national, regional and local levels for the rights of those who’d purchased Almanzora Valley homes in good faith. The majority of home-buyers in Almeria province were British retirees who’d made the decision to sell their British homes and relocate to Spain.

The buyers later discovered their villas had been built illegally, leaving them facing demolition and the loss of their investment. The scandal, involving deals between developers, Spanish banks and local authorities, soon became a media frenzy of reportage about expat homelessness and desperation, with one couple affected setting up home in their garage rather than returning to the UK after their home was knocked down.

Maura began her campaign in 2008 by fighting for basic amenities for those affected, and succeeded in getting electric and water supplies connected. She became a conduit between desperate home owners and local councils whilst demolition appeals were heard in Spanish courts.

Determined never to give up, in 1915 she finally saw the result of her dedication via the introduction of an historic new law forcing Spanish judges to consider the innocence of expat homeowners duped into buying illegally-built homes. The ruling resulted in the awarding of proper compensation to those whose properties were demolished, and should help prevent any similar scams in the future.

On awarding her the MBE for his tireless work, British Ambassador to Spain Simon Manley said he was very happy Maura’s efforts had been recognised by Her Majesty the Queen, adding that under her leadership AUAN had secured expert legal advice as well as giving Spanish authorities realistic solutions to the problem.
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