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Spanish Squatter Laws: Protecting Your Property As An Owner

Someone living illegally in your property is a frightening thought for any homeowner. Yet it’s increasingly becoming a reality for some with a second home in Spain. Imagine finding out your home has been taken over by squatters (or Okupas) and, worse still, there’s not a lot you can do about it right away. 

So what are your legal rights as a property owner in Spain when it comes to squatting? Why is this such a problem all over the country? And what can you do to prevent it from happening in your home?

In this article, we’re going to give you all the answers so you can ensure your property remains safe and you know exactly what to do should squatters enter your home.

What Exactly Is Squatting And Why Is It Such A Problem In Spain?

Squatting is when a person (or people) illegally breaks into a home or prolongs a rental lease and refuses to leave. In Norway or the UK, this is obviously an illegal act and homeowners have more rights to quickly evict squatters from their properties. 

In Spain, however, it isn’t quite as simple. 

Spain was one of the worst affected countries by the financial crash in 2008 – mainly due to its previous property boom. The aftermath of the crash meant that many buildings across the country were left abandoned or half-built. The perfect places for squatters to ‘claim’ as their own.

Then, of course, the global pandemic arrived, meaning that many holiday homes were left uninhabited and were easy targets for those looking to occupy properties. There have also been high levels of homelessness in Spain, forcing some individuals and families to find their own accommodation.

Not only have global events made squatting easier, but Spanish law around the subject is very complicated. In Spain, squatting tends to get split between Okupación and Allanamiento de Morada. Okupación refers to people squatting in uninhabited property and Allanamiento de Morada can be seen as breaking and entering. But what constitutes an uninhabited property, especially if it’s a second home, can be difficult to define. This, combined with Article 47 of the Spanish Constitution which states that all Spanish citizens have the right to decent and adequate housing, is where things get complicated… 

Wait, So Someone Can Just Live In My Property In Spain And There’s Nothing I Can Do?
Well, not exactly. It really depends on when you find out that people are squatting in your home. Under Spanish law, squatters can only be evicted right away if they’ve moved in within the last 48 hours (something called Immediate Eviction). If they’ve moved in within the last 48 hours and you can prove that the property is yours, police have the right to evict them without a court date.

But, especially in the low season, it’s common that property owners aren’t made aware of the situation until way past this 48-hour window. After that time, you’ll need to hire legal help and take the correct judicial measures. 

What Can I Do If I Have Squatters Living In My Property In Spain?

The main thing is not to take matters into your own hands. However tempting it may be, it’s not worth putting yourself in a potentially risky situation and there may even be legal consequences if you do. Don’t change the locks, intimidate the squatters or stop them from re-entering the property. 

The first step if you find out there are squatters in your property is to report it to the police. If it’s within the 48-hour window, the police can order them to leave and some squatters may leave anyway once a report has been filed.

If it’s outside of this window, you’ll need to get legal counsel for a court eviction. You’ll likely be asked to prove that the property is yours through a number of ways, including proof of ownership, photos of you in the property, flight tickets and even neighbor witness accounts. If you can show that you use the property regularly you’ll be in a better legal position.

The squatters will then be formally made aware of the legal action being taken against them. They’ll have the opportunity to present their legal rights to ownership of the property or prove that they’re paying to be there. A decision will then be made and a date set for the squatters to leave. If they’re still there, the police will be able to forcibly remove them on this date.

It’s important to hire a lawyer who is experienced in this branch of the law as it means the process will get completed quicker and with fewer emotional and financial consequences for you. 

How Long Does It Take To Evict A Squatter From A Property in Spain?

This might be a bitter pill to swallow, but evicting a squatter from your property can take a while. Depending on where your property is in Spain, the legal process could take between 18 months and 2 years (although in many instances it happens much quicker). To ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible, contact the police as soon as you’re aware of the situation and hire an experienced lawyer who knows what they’re doing.

Of course, you could also put in the correct safety measures to make it less likely that squatters will move into your property.

How To Prevent People Squatting In Your Spanish Property

There are a couple of simple things you can do to make your Spanish property more secure and less of a target for squatters when you’re not there. Here are the top ones:

●    Think about renting the property out. A great way to deter squatters and get some extra income from your holiday home is to rent it out when you’re not there. This will also ensure squatters are found within the first 48 hours.
●    Install automation systems. Automated systems, such as lights that turn on automatically and blinds that go up can make it look like someone is living in the property even when they’re not.
●    Install an alarm system. Not only can this alarm system be a deterrent for squatters, but it can also be connected to the police and be used to identify the important 48-hour time period.
●    Have a neighbor check on the property. Getting someone you trust to water plants and collect post means it looks like someone is living in the property and they can also keep an eye out for anything unusual. 

Is There Property Insurance For Squatters In Spain?

Yes, many insurance providers offer well-priced property insurance with illegal occupation cover. If you leave your home unattended for long periods of time, it could be worth taking out insurance which could help with any financial losses during the period in which your property is being occupied.  

So, How Can You Protect Your Spanish Property From Squatters

The best way to deal with squatters in your property is to prevent them from entering in the first place. Take the correct measures so your home doesn’t become a target. If squatters do enter your property, it’s important to contact the police as quickly as possible and know the steps you need to take. Whilst unlikely, it can take several months to have squatters removed from your property which can be incredibly stressful for owners and have financial implications. 

It’s also important to remember that whilst squatting can be a big cause for concern for many Spanish property owners, it is rare and shouldn’t overshadow all the amazing things on offer when you have a property in Spain. By taking the right precautionary measures, you’ll be able to enjoy your Spanish property worry-free.

 

Note that this article is general and is shared as information. Property, tax, finance and other legal topics are personal and can vary not only from person to person but between the different regions of Spain. We recommend that you seek professional guidance if you need advice on matters covered in this article. 

About the author

Bueno Team

Bueno, we know Spain and how frustrating banking in Spain can be