The period of confinement due to the coronavirus in Spain has increased the concern of our clients about the possibility that their second homes have squatters taking advantage of the fact that the owners could not keep an eye on their houses.
There is a lot of confusion about what the owner of a home that has squatters can and cannot do. The owner who owns a house with squatters is in a weak position compared to squatters who are well versed in the law and how to illegally occupy other people’s houses for free
Sometimes these squatters have even extorted money from the owners asking for a certain amount of money to vacate the property.
Can I wait for squatters to leave my house momentarily, change the lock, and get my property back?
Legally, no. Once the home has been occupied, no action can be taken other than through the courts since otherwise the owner would be exposed to being denounced for trespassing and facing a criminal complaint, even if it is their home.
Can I hire a company specialising in removing squatters?
On many occasions, our clients ask us if they can opt for this solution that obviously seems faster and more effective, but unfortunately, we have to advise them not to do so since these companies usually use methods of dubious legality that may end up involving the owner with another legal problem. Which is much more serious.
What do I do then if I have squatters in my house?
Since mid-2018, a new judicial procedure came into force that eliminated the obligation to identify the squatter in order to evict them. Notification of the lawsuit will be made to whoever opens the door or is living in the house when the Court staff serves the lawsuit.
This has made things much easier for property owners to be able to initiate legal proceedings to remove those who have illegally occupied their homes. This rule in principle only applies if the owner, beneficial owner or lessee of the home is a natural person. Therefore, in no case may banks and real estate companies linked to those banks or other companies of a private nature whose activity is the business exploitation of homes be able to resort to this procedure.
Therefore, if you have squatters you must start a lawsuit in the Courts as soon as possible. For this you must hire a lawyer, we can help you if you wish (firstname.lastname@example.org) In the demand we will request the immediate delivery of possession of the home. The Court will require the occupants to provide a title within five days that justifies their occupation of the home. If they do not provide sufficient proof, the Court will order the immediate delivery of possession of the home to the plaintiff, in this case, you the homeowner. If the squatters do not comply with the order of the courts, the homeowner can go to a ‘sentence execution’ procedure and the Court will send the police to evict the occupants.
What if there are minors in the house with the squats?
The law establishes that the sentence must compel the eviction of all the occupants of the house, whether or not they are of legal age; but if there are minors, the Court will notify the social services so that they can adopt the protection measures for those minors if deemed appropriate.
How long does the judicial process take?
The law established shorter deadlines for these cases, so it should be faster than the rest of the judicial procedures, but this is only from a theoretical point of view because the truth is that with our 30 years of experience in judicial matters we know the operation of the Courts and we know that the reality is very different. Therefore, depending on the court where the matter has to be brought, the workload that Court has, the vacancies, or the number of officials that the Court has, the resolution period of the issue can vary between 6 months to a year. So we recommend filing the lawsuit as soon as possible.
For what type of housing is this judicial procedure?
For all, since the law does not distinguish between empty or inhabited homes. Therefore, any owner, lessee, or usufructuary who is a private individual may resort to this type of procedure.
Is the tenant not paying the rent a squat?
No, a tenant who does not pay the rent has his own judicial procedure to be able to claim the unpaid rent or evict him from the house for lack of payment.
In any case, we recommend that our clients, to prevent if possible, put some type of security measure, notify the neighbors, the local police advising them that the house is empty during any period, or hiring one of the many maintenance service companies. If squatters enter the house they have 24 hours to report ‘usurpation’ of the house and the police will have to act, which will save a lot of time and expense.
In any legal matter, preventive and adequate advice can be much more effective than waiting for the problem to appear and then solving it. As always for any legal matter is Spain we can help from a residencia to a property purchase, online and in-person, native English speaking lawyers and the whole of Spain covered. Join our Facebook group ‘ Spanish Legal Questions by Marisa Moreno’