The Agent who has been taking our name in vain.

Ian Wylie has claimed to have the blessing of the  Telegraph in selling homes in the Valencia area of Spain. It is not true. Catherine Moye talks to some Britons who have
been duped

The area around Valencia, on Spain's east coast, has recently gained a notorious reputation for summary "land grabs". Now, name-grabbing has emerged as the latest manifestation of dodgy practices. Recently, lawyers and editors of the Daily Telegraph were alarmed to see the phrase "in association with Telegraph" splashed on top of the advertising and promotional literature of estate agency Yomel, based in Bugarra, just north-west of Valencia. In fact, there was - and is - no link or agreement of any kind between Yomel and the Telegraph.
Seeing our name on the promotional material persuaded some Britons to have confidence in Yomel and its owner, Ian Wylie. Unfortunately, that trust was misplaced, as is clear from the evidence supplied by several people who had dealings with him over the year that he misused the Telegraph's name.

Brian Robinson, from Chertsey in Surrey, first encountered Mr Wylie when he spotted a property that he had had an eye on featured in one of Yomel's "Telegraph" promotions. "Seeing the Telegraph name really put me in a confident frame of mind because I knew that the paper wouldn't deal with just any old Tom, Dick or Harry but only the most reputable of companies and estate agents," he says.
¨I put my trust in Ian Wylie and I feel he took me for an idiot, but he should not have under estimated me just because I am a 70 year old man, on my own with one arm and one eye. I am pleased to have been the person to have brought his terrible business practices and his lack of regard for his fellow countrymen out into the open. If he can do such a terrible thing to me then he would do it to anyone, it is disgusting. He has destroyed my dreams and plans and now I will have to sell the house and consider ending my days back in the UK¨.

"I went along to Yomel's office feeling much more trusting than I would otherwise have been." It was wise for Mr Robinson to be wary about buying property in rural Valencia. He - and hundreds like him - have fallen for this beautiful region of hillsides strewn with orange groves. What makes the area even more attractive is that property here is also cheap, as it is in other inland parts of Spain, where you are more likely to be buying and restoring an old ruin than moving straight into a pristine newbuild. The problem is that such properties have often been built or extended illegally.

Mr Robinson had every confidence in Ian Wylie and his company. "He told me that Yomel had a very good relationship with the local authorities, with the bank, the local architects and of course with the Telegraph," he says.

Indeed, where newcomers to the area are concerned, especially those who do not speak Spanish, it appears that Mr Wylie is only too happy to take total control of all aspects of their relocation - everything from selling and restoring a home to setting up bank accounts and taking in their mail. The trouble is that once they are dependent on him, they are at his mercy. Last summer, through Yomel, Mr Robinson paid €76,000 (£60,463) for a very rundown house in the hills above Valencia that required an enormous amount of work. He was duly handed the deeds to the property, while Mr Wylie took €10,000 commission on the sale.

Mr Wylie also agreed to carry out major works at the property, as well as adding a swimming pool and a garage, for €83,000. "He said he had a fantastic crew and would do the entire job in eight weeks, but for this he needed 50 per cent of the money before he could get started," says Mr Robinson, who agreed and handed over the money. He received no written agreement of the proposed works because Mr Wylie preferred to do everything on a smile and a handshake.

Six months later, Mr Robinson had paid a total of €75,000 for the promised work, but still had an uninhabitable house. Far from settling down to enjoy the good life, he faced a serious financial and personal crisis.

Mr Wylie's men effectively downed tools when Mr Robinson refused to hand over any more money for work that he believed should have been done already. Besides, Mr Robinson had no more money.

"I was living in the house in the middle of winter when I had no water and no electricity," he says. "I had no doors, no kitchen, no false ceiling and no tiling around the swimming pool." Despite being in his early seventies, Mr Robinson now needed to raise a mortgage of €60,000 to finish the work on the property. It was at that point he found out that the Spanish woman who had sold him the house didn't seem to have unencumbered ownership. The house had been left to her by her deceased lover, but could be claimed by other members of his family. Furthermore, there was a debt of €12,500 on the property that had to be cleared.

"Wylie should have known the history and about the debt on the property because he had done all the searches. He just left me wide open," complains Mr Robinson. It has taken him several costly months to get title to the property and even now his property is far from habitable.

Mr Robinson's plight is far from uncommon. When it comes to their homes, the British are resolutely conservative: we like to play safe. In Spain, where corruption can be rife and the rules and regulations something of a grey area, many Britons understandably put their trust in a name synonymous with fair play and solid foundations - a name like the Telegraph

¨My first reaction was not to trust him, but people said he was working with the Telegraph and so he must be fine," says another of Mr Wylie's clients, who wishes to use the pseudonym Martin because he is worried about possible repercussions.

Martin's house has been extended by Wylie, but now he has to wait for four years to find out if it can be legalised or not. "The planning permission he said he had apparently never existed," he says. "He promised me architect's drawings that never appeared. He starts building, wants money up front, but never gives receipts and soon the prices increase."

Natalie and Dennis Marcus-McBride concede that "we've been really stupid in our dealings with him" - especially by not getting a list of proposed works or receipts for money handed over. Mr Wylie sold the couple a property that he owned in September 2007; they moved to Valencia in January, only to find that their house was far from ready and that they would have to spend a couple of months in abysmal rental accommodation that Mr Wylie organised.


Having forked out €41,000 for works they say were agreed, but which were never written down in a contract, the Marcus-McBrides still need a kitchen, five internal doors, a fence and gate around the whole property and a paint-job inside and out. And those are only a few of the details on which Mr Wylie seems to have failed to deliver.

"We saw the Telegraph ad in the free papers," says Natalie. "At the top of the ad it implied that he was working in conjunction with the paper and so you assume he's legitimate."

Claire Gregory and her husband, who are also unwilling to give their real names, didn't see the Yomel advertisement using the Telegraph's name until after their first meeting with Mr Wylie. But they, too, are still waiting for a long list of work to be completed at the shell of the home that they bought from him. Even more worryingly, they are uncertain whether the house is even legal.

"It was only this week that we got the title on the property but I went down to the town hall to try and get my children registered for the school and they said the house wasn't legal because it was built on rural land," says Natalie. "We paid €110,000 for the house and €40,000 for the renovations, but we ended up renting somewhere for six months because the house wasn't ready."
As with other clients, this temporary home was arranged for the Gregorys by Mr Wylie. "He always deals with older properties that he knows will need a lot of work, and is always ready to put you into rented accommodation that he organises while the work is done," says Claire.

Her lawyer assured her that the house was indeed legal. However, this was not as reassuring as it might have been because the lawyer was recommended by Mr Wylie and is a close associate of his.

For building surveyor Mark Paddon, who has worked in the area for several years, it is an all-too-familiar story. "The Spanish have long built illegal houses on rustic land, often belonging to the family, and they understand the risks," he says. "Only an 80 square-metre casita is legal. But the floor plans are then extended and another storey goes on top. You need an official Project of Execution and an architect's drawings to extend a home, but I doubt many of these have one."

Mr Paddon has seen many foreign purchasers come a cropper after buying an illegally built or extended home. He doesn't think the future bodes well for British property owners in the region.

As for Mr Wylie, despite being given ample opportunity to comment on the allegations made against him, he has declined to do so. Having claimed that his use of the Telegraph name was by "someone else who was director of Yomel at the time", he has failed to name that person. He has also failed to deny that he sold Brian Robinson a house that was saddled with an unpaid debt or say whether he is even in possession of a building licence. And he has not addressed the numerous complaints about the standard of building work and unfinished work at properties under his care; nor has he provided proof that any were legally extended.

After the Telegraph contacted him and asked for his response to the allegations, a number of Mr Wylie's former clients were contacted by people purporting to be from the Telegraph. German-born Christa Muths had not participated in this article in any way, but she received such a call. The caller asserted that "we know you have spoken to our journalist and wanted to know if you were willing to go on the record".

Subsequently, she received another call from a "Spanish newspaper". "A man rang me and told me that he had got my name and number from the Telegraph," she says. "He said that he wanted to come round and interview me for 'the Spanish version' of the same article and wanted to know where I lived. When I told him that I didn't want to speak to him, he said that he would go to the town hall and find out where I lived, and come to my house anyway."

Presumably, Yomel used the Telegraph's name in the first place because it knew that it could be trusted. So trust us when we say we would have nothing to do with his company.

Some questions Ian Wylie has failed to answer

·  Why did you use the Telegraph name in your promotional material and on Yomel's website?
·  Did you/Yomel do a thorough search on Brian Robinson's property before proceeding with the sale? Mr Robinson says that the woman who sold the house to him had been left it in a will and that it could have been claimed by other members of the deceased's family for a period of up to six months after he bought it. He further claims that there was an unpaid debt of €12,500 on the property. Were you aware of this debt at the time of the sale? And if not, why not?
·  Several of your clients have complained of the standard of building work that your firm has conducted at their properties. They further complain that much of the work has been left unfinished (for agreed amounts of money) and of your reluctance to give detailed written contracts, claiming that you prefer to do work on a "verbal" basis. Why is this?
·  Do you have a Spanish builder's licence?

·  Are the properties that you extend done legally, for which you need professional architect's drawings and a 'Project of Execution'?

Comment from Mark Paddon 

I originally made comment to Catherine Moye who writes a property section on behalf of the Telegraph, subject to her agreement that the draft article would be forwarded for my approval prior to publication. Despite a reminder, she failed to forward the article and it was published with the false statement that 'He..' (Mark Paddon) '..doesn't think the future bodes well for British property owners in the region'. I immediately e-mailed Catherine in complaint that I did not make that statement and that such a generalisation would only be relevant to owners of 'illegal properties'.
In contrast it is my view that the region still presents considerable investment opportunity for property buyers and owners, with many people getting some great deals in what is a buyer's market. It is however important that all buyers do their homework and have the key aspects of their proposed purchase property checked by independent professionals.'
I am disappointed that Catherine Moye failed to stand by her agreement to forward the draft article only to then include a line that did not come from me.
Mark Paddon
Article and photographs provided by The Daily Telegraph
By Catherine Moye on behalf of the Daily Telegraph

Photographer: Geoff Pugh, Telegraph.

Inland Trader would like to thank The Daily Telegraph for providing this article.

We would also like to invite any one who has had similar experiences with this

company to contact us. Contact will be treated in the strictest confidence.

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