Spanish expats face uncertain financial futures as austerity mounts

Published:  16 Oct at 6 PM
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Spain is home to the largest contingent of UK expats anywhere in the world, but the dream of cheap living in the sunshine is fading fast, even for those who aren’t threatened with losing their homes due to the property scandal.

As Spain’s problems worsen, unemployment soars and the likelihood of a bailout lurks, property prices are crashing and the low pound is causing further falls in expat living standards. Surveys over 2012 have suggested that at least 75 per cent of UK expats in Spain would prefer to go home to the UK, but many are unable to sell their homes, even at a loss, making a return impractical.

The lure of bus passes for the retired, free healthcare and state help over and above pension limits isn’t as attractive as it sounds if you’re living in a council flat on a sink estate while your capital is locked in Spanish bricks and mortar. The UK recession has seen benefits chopped right and left, and care for the elderly is at an all-time low, whether it’s provided in an NHS hospital or in a care home staffed by migrants with little in the way of the English language.

Even if expats have kept their UK homes and rented them out, rental contract law at present gives no leeway for repossession if the owners return unexpectedly from overseas. So, what are cash-strapped expats in Spain to do?

Returning home, however attractive it sounds, is likely to cause even more problems, especially in winter, the preferred time for the utility companies to hit consumers with another 10 per cent rise. Both the UK and Spain are experiencing austerity measures, and at least Spanish summers are warm and inviting, encouraging expats to button down the hatches and wait for better times.
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