Homeless in Spain because a squatter occupies your home

by Lorraine Williamson
squatter makes homeowner homeless

MADRID – We wrote before about the inverted world that can exist in Spain compared to squatters. Libremercado.es writes about a woman who is now homeless because she cannot get the squatter out of her owner-occupied home. 

‘I can’t believe I’m the one who now has to sleep on the street’, says María Luisa. She spent two years without receiving a single euro from her – then – tenant. Today she sleeps on the porch of her own owner-occupied home. Moreover, it is the squatter in her house who calls the police to force her to leave and be homeless. 

See also: Help my house in Spain has been squatted! What now? 

Living on the street

For 20 years, now 57-year-old María Luisa paid her mortgage. She had never foreseen that she would be homeless and have to live on the street due to a squatter. However, that is the situation where the squatter ended up in her home. It concerns a former tenant who stopped paying the rent two years ago, exactly when the lockdown started. The tenant then refused to leave Maria Luisa’s home. Yet it is the only house that Maria Luisa has. She is now divorced and has a precarious job. 

“The squatter says he is vulnerable, but in the end, I am the vulnerable one,” laments María Luisa, as she folds the sleeping bag at her home in Madrid’s Carabanchel neighbourhood. “When the tenant stopped paying the rent, I had just gotten divorced and the rent was all I had. I worked as a salesperson on the street, but with the lockdown, I was out of work. Since then I slept on the couch with friends but I can’t take it anymore.” I am homeless because of a squatter in my home.

The squatter has had several jobs: “I know because I’ve followed him and seen him work in a shop and a restaurant, but every time I go to court, he stops working.” 

The government’s “social shield” 

As a homeowner, Maria Luisa, like so many others in Spain, is hand-tied as the government has once again extended the suspension of forced evictions (introduced to protect people during the pandemic). “Now I have to wait until October and that suspension will probably be extended again. It must be the only covid measure that is still in force and what they are doing to us with it is outrageous,” says the homeowner indignantly. “They are using us as social shields and I’ve already lost more than 20,000 euros. If they don’t have homes to accommodate the people who need them, have them take them to La Moncloa or Galapagar, but they can’t use our homes as if they are state property”. 

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See also: The number of squatted homes in Spain increased by 18%

María Luisa is also angry that she has not received “a single euro” from the compensation scheme created for these cases. Instead, social services offer her – and not the squatter occupying her house – the only alternative that she has to find a room in a shared house. “It seems like a bad joke, but hey… They tell me they’re helping me find a room that I can afford. Wouldn’t it be more normal for them to look for that room for the squatter?! The one who owns a house is I!” 

Maria Luisa could be charged with harassment 

Only in this “upside-down world” that Maria Luisa describes can she be the one in the crosshairs of Justice. After she settled in front of her own house with her sleeping bag, the squatter called the police on Tuesday evening. “Two riot police officers and two police cars came. I think there were a total of twelve officers. It’s unbelievable that so much is being used against me and other, much more serious cases, none.” Maria Luisa was warned that she could be reported for harassment. 

See also: Home sales including squatters a new trend in the Spanish real estate market 

“I am not doing anything wrong. I am trying to make this problem visible, together with other colleagues from the Platform Victims of Squatters. There are many homeowners in this country in the same situation and it can happen to anyone,” Maria Luisa warns. 

Squatters have rights in Spain 

The phenomenon of squatting has long been causing outrage among Spanish citizens, especially when it comes to people occupying first or second homes. Strangely enough, people who illegally occupy a home also have rights. For example, as a homeowner, you are in violation if you turn off the gas, light, or water when others have squatted your home. 

What to do if your home has been squatted in Spain? 

You can do three things when you find others on your property in Spain. You can call the police, report it immediately or hire a lawyer. The moment you, as the owner, discover that your home has been entered, the first step is to alert the police so that they can act as quickly as possible. Make sure you always have access to the documents that can prove the ownership of the property that has been squatted, including the registrations with the municipality (empadronamiento) and with the land registry. Sometimes squatters come up with false leases. If you then cannot prove that you are the owner of the home, this can slow down the eviction process considerably and also make it more expensive. 

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