Due to the corona crisis, many (holiday) homes in Spain are empty and squatters are aware of that. Reports against squatters have increased significantly in the past year, especially in Catalonia. What should you do and especially not do when your house in Spain is squatted?
Prevention is always best, of course. Make the house look occupied. Ensure someone can empty the letterbox, take care of the garden, turn on a lamp in the house and generally keep an eye on things. You can also think of measures such as an alarm, electronic locks on the door and anti-squat doors and windows. Additionally, you can place cameras that are connected to your mobile phone.
Never leave a set of keys in a flower pot or under a tile and do not report your absence on social media. Make sure you always have access to your ownership documents. Make a scan and save them outside your home, for example on your mobile phone, a laptop or somewhere in a “cloud”. That way you can always prove that the house is your property. It is also a good idea to be able to provide photos or a video showing the condition of the house when it was last officially occupied.
Report it immediately to the police
If you do have squatters in your home, report it to the police immediately. If you do this within 48 hours of your home being squatted, the police can act immediately too. This is only possible when it concerns a home of a “natural person”, a non-profit institution or of a public institution for social housing. This is possible under Ley5 / 2018, the law known in Spain as the “Accelerated Expulsion Law” (ley de desahucio exprés). The squatters are given five days to demonstrate that they are lawfully residing in the home and if they cannot, they will be immediately evicted.
Through the judge
If you make a declaration later than that 48 hour window, you will have to go to court to get your home back. This can be done through civil law and criminal law. The way through criminal law does not always produce the desired result and sometimes takes a long time. Especially now that courts in Spain are so delayed due to the Covid pandemic. The best chance is to go through criminal law when it comes to your own home. However, if the immediate handling of the criminal case is postponed, you can request an expulsion prior to the hearing. Most lawyers, however, advise to immediately opt for civil law. There it takes two to three months to have squatters evicted from your home via a rapid procedure.
What shouldn’t you do?
The law also protects the squatters. It is therefore important not to break the law in your attempt to get squatters out of your home. When squatters have designated the house as their residence, you are not allowed to enter it. Even if it is your own home, at that point the squatters can report you for trespassing. Also, do not turn off the water and electricity and do not change the locks, because that is also punishable. And do not use force against or threaten the squatters. No matter how emotional it is that your house has been squatted: stay calm, go to the police and call in a lawyer.