Footballer turns Chief Exec to fight crooked developers

Footballer turns Chief Exec to fight crooked developers


An ex-Premier League and England Under-21 winger is now taking on dodgy foreign property developers and cartel lawyers. He was one of the thousands of Brits to have fallen prey to a doomed property investment during the boom years in the run up to the crash in 2008.

Neil Heaney is the CEO of the Judicare Group and founded the UK Legal Services company with Jose Dorta. Mr Heaney was a keen sportsman from the age of 16, playing for a number of clubs including Arsenal, Manchester City and Southampton throughout a thirteen year career as a professional. He had to retire due to injury in December 2002.
At the end of his playing career Mr Heaney turned to the property investment market in the UK. It wasn’t long before he looked to expand his portfolio to off-plan opportunities overseas, but he started to encounter drawbacks. In 2006, he invested in a property on the Costa del Sol in Spain, which encountered serious problems and resulted in him taking legal action with a group of fellow investors through the courts to recover their monies. The experience gave him the desire to fight for justice on behalf of people who have innocently lost money in overseas property investment and feel helpless to recover what can be on occasion their life’s savings.
On the company website, Mr Heaney, spoke of this experience. "Along with many friends from football, I set about investing in a dream property development in Spain; the development was later to encounter problems, resulting in my group of investors pursuing the developer through the Spanish courts to recover our initial deposits.

"After numerous failed attempts and struggle by our group to find trustworthy firms and lawyers to represent us, I came across Judicare. The company had a good track record of addressing issues like ours and went to the lengths of flying their legal team to the UK to meet with us to explain the route to recovery of our lost monies. They simplified what was an extremely complex procedure and were a constant reassurance throughout the course of action.

"I put down a deposit on an apart-hotel that was going to be on the beach in Manilva," recounts Mr Heaney. "Each of the 25 investors in our group signed for a single unit, and our deposits, paid to the developer's solicitors, totalled around £1.5m. I believe more than 300 units were sold on the project,” he told the Independent.
Three years down the line, though, the investors received confirmation that the project had been stopped by the government and had never had planning permission. "Despite this, the developer had continued to sell the project and [is] now facing a large criminal case in Marbella, although the company has been liquidated in a number of jurisdictions," added Mr Heaney.
He and his co-investors asked a number of lawyers in Marbella to take on their case against the developer but were unimpressed by the legal service and advice. When they were introduced to Jose Dorta, chairman of Judicare, one difference stood out: "The firm was from Tenerife, which meant they weren't part of that 'club' of law firms on the mainland, who all knew each other. They also had a track record of recovering property investments."
"Many clients used local lawyers who also represented developers, which meant they didn't check contracts were water-tight or that bank guarantees were in place – they were only protecting developers' interests," says Mr Heaney. "This has led to many affected investors developing an inherent distrust of foreign lawyers."
He subsequently teamed up with the Chairman of the Judicare Group to create a UK based legal services company offering specialist advice and recovery action for investors with overseas property disputes all around the world.
Unsurprisingly, demand for his company's services has rocketed in the past couple of years, reported the Independent.
"We have more than 200 cases in court in 12 countries," Mr Heaney told The Independent on Sunday. "At the moment we have class actions in the Emirates, as well as cases in Spain, Cape Verde and Cyprus, to name a few. More far-flung destinations recently added to our list include the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Dominican Republic."
At the start of the month, Mr Heaney was in Madrid opening an office to complement Judicare's UK base in Hertfordshire and its Tenerife offices.
Scenarios facing disgruntled overseas investors include failure to complete a project; late delivery of off-plan properties; projects sold on land not owned by the developer; sub-standard build quality; and disagreements over the right to reclaim deposits.
Invalid powers of attorney are another example, but more specific to the Cypriot market. "Cyprus is different because you take a mortgage at the point of reserving a property," said Mr Heaney. "So you're paying the loan as the developer builds – or doesn't build, as in some circumstances.

Buyers are and need to continue to be aware of the precautions they should take abroad. One must look at which insurances will safeguard buyers in the areas of land title and build quality. For example, if a developer goes bankrupt there is little that can be done for the buyer unless that buyer has taken out insurance. One must also be weary of which lawyers to use. In these tight economic times, the Judicare Group is leading the way in property investment and off-plan opportunities overseas.

By Jason McGee-Abe

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