Monday, February 9, 2009

Bulgarian Dreams features on BBC Watchdog Programme

Bulgarian property agent & developer, Bulgarian Dreams, featured on a BBC Watchdog programme this evening. The programme followed the attempts of a Bulgarian Dreams client to contact the company. He visited Bulgaria only to be told by BD's office that they didn't have a phone number for Robert Jenkin, the company's owner. The client then went to speak with his solicitor who claimed he did not know what was wrong but everything was a "complete mess".

We have featured Bulgarian Dreams on the Blog on a number of occassions (and been legally threatened by their legal representatives, DLA Piper, to boot). If you wish to view previous postings to get an idea of what has been in train you'll find all postings mentioning the company here. There is also an article featuring a number of unhappy Bulgarian Dreams clients here and the Irish Times featured a piece on Bulgarian Dreams and its clients which can be found here.

The picture above, featuring Jenkin and his Bulgarian wife Maria Georgieva, featured heavily in the documentary as the Watchdog team failed to track Jenkin down to speak with him.

The programme concluded with the statement that Bulgarian Dreams (which is a trading name for Berkeley Square Trading Ltd.) had ceased trading due to the "extraordinarily difficult economic conditions" and that it wished its understanding customers "all the best for the future."

Nice one.

The Bulgarian Dreams website now features just the following message:

Dear all,

We regret to inform our customers that following the extraordinarily difficult economic conditions we have had to cease trading.

All existing customers who have previously purchased property should refer directly to the development companies in Bulgaria, none of which are directly affected by our closure. A list of contact details is included below:

Interlink BG Limited:

Smart Partners BG:

Interart Group:

We would like to wish all our customers all the best for the future and thank them for their understanding at this difficult time.

Bulgarian Dreams

Here is the link to the BBC Watchdog programme for those affected by this issue. Unfortunately, depending on where you are accessing the content you may not be able to see the video. If it appears on You Tube we'll link to it here. In the meantime the transcript of the piece (which is also on the BBC Watchdog site, is below).

Buying property in England is difficult enough, but buying abroad can be a real nightmare as dozens of Watchdog viewers have found out. They've contacted us because they've all been taken in by the same company.

Bulgarian Dreams is a property business that promises new homes, in a country where the market has been booming. Each of the people we've spoken to has handed over tens of thousands of pounds and now they're worried they've lost it all.

Bulgarian Dreams has won awards, has glossy brochures and a snazzy website. It also offers the reassurance of a head office in London. Chris Dale was really excited about buying a piece of paradise and he thought he'd found an estate agent he could trust. In June 2006, Chris paid Bulgarian Dreams a £500 deposit for an apartment on a luxury development called Windows to Paradise.

Far from completed
Bulgarian Dreams put together a DVD which showed all the apartments it had on offer. It made it quite clear it'd do all the legwork and all Chris would have to do was move in. However Chris's Bulgarian Dream soon went flat. He paid a total of £56,000 for his apartment including solicitor's and management fees. Now, more than a year after the company wrote to him to tell him the development was completed it's far from it. Chris's apartment has no electricity or water. There are power cables on the ground that could potentially be live and rubbish everywhere.

Bizarrely, Bulgarian Dreams told Chris none of the problems with the apartments were anything to do with them. It was full of promises before the sale, but once it'd been paid it washed its hands of the whole thing and then stopped returning his calls. Bulgarian Dreams had said that Chris's contract was with the developers, a company called Interlink BG. He was told to contact the developer direct about any problems, but they haven't returned his calls or email either.

Same story
So far, more than 80 Bulgarian Dreams customers have contacted us with almost exactly the same story. In December, Bulgarian Dreams suddenly closed its London Office without telling its customers. But the company does have another office in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. Chris Dale and Watchdog's Paul Heiney travelled out there in search of answers from Bulgarian Dreams and the couple who run it, Robert Jenkin and his Bulgarian wife Mariya Georgieva.

At Bulgarian Dreams' office Chris was told that it no longer had his money; that it had been paid to Interlink BG, the developer. So Chris and Paul crossed the city to Interlinks BG's registered office address but no one was there either. Unfortunately for Chris, Bulgarian Dreams has lied to him. It may claim it has nothing to do with the developers, but that simply isn't true. Records show boss Robert Jenkin is a former owner and director of Interlink BG. And his wife Mariya is still named as a company manager. In fact, after more digging, we've discovered one or both of them might have been acting not just as the estate agent and developer, but also the property management company, the supposedly independent solicitors, and even the furniture supplier.

Only last week, the company took down its website and announced it had ceased trading due to the "extraordinarily difficult economic conditions". It wished it's understanding customers "all the best for the future."

Bad man?
There's an old saying in Bulgaria - bad weather gets better, but a bad man never does. Is Robert Jenkin a bad man? We don't know. But certainly he persuaded a lot of people to part with a lot of money, for something they've never had. We've tried to contact Bulgarian Dreams but it's failed to respond and seems to have disappeared.

The Association of International Property Professionals advices anyone who's encountered difficulty with the purchase of their apartment through Bulgarian Dreams to contact a lawyer. Even if it does not end up going down the legal route, anyone in difficulty will need someone who knows where they stand legally. The AIPP can help people affected to find a lawyer and have suggested a lawyer representing a group would reduce costs. The AIPP are happy to meet concerned parties as a first point of reference before they start paying for a lawyer, and say this service would be free of charge.

If you've had problems with Bulgarian Dreams or require more information about buying property abroad contact the AIPP on +44 (0)20 7409 7061.

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