According to data from the Ministry of the Interior, between 2015 and 2019 illegal occupations in homes in our country have increased by up to 40%, and currently, the number of occupied properties in Spain is 12,214, with an average of 33 daily cases.
Second residences and bank floors, the properties with the highest occupancy risk
Most occupations occur in vacant buildings or second homes, especially when they are owned by legal entities such as companies, administrations or banks.
The reason is that banks usually take longer to know and notify that one of their houses is “squatted”, giving greater scope for action.
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In addition, in the occupation of this type of property, jurisprudence is slower, both from the civil and criminal point of view: the approval of the so-called ” express eviction law “, approved in 2018, was made only for properties owned by natural persons and for habitual residences.
Eviction lawsuits related to squatting at home or an occupation when owned by banks or businesses can take more than a year to resolve. When the owners are natural persons, on the other hand, the current regulation allows to evict the precarious (person who lives without a contract in a property that does not belong to them) in less than six months, although this period depends on the particular circumstances of each case.
Even so, more and more people are afraid of the occupation of their properties and wonder what to do if they find squatters at home or what kind of legal actions they should take to file a lawsuit for occupation of the property.
The main problem, in all cases, is that many squatters are people in vulnerable situations who turn to the mafias to get a home.
On other occasions, these are large-scale scams: after occupying the house, squatters change the lock and make a false contract with a third party, who supposedly rents the property to them. The result is that people who enter to live in the house paying rent also turn out to be victims of scammers, being totally defenseless before the law.
Squats at home: what to do and how to act in each case
When squatters enter a home and make it their home or habitual abode, the owner can no longer access it due to the principle of inviolability of the home, set forth in article 18.2 of the Spanish Constitution, which recognizes that any home is ” inviolable «.
- Can I access the house when it is already occupied?
Faced with an occupation, a judge must order that the property be returned to its legal owner.
If we decide to enter the occupied dwelling, even if it is ours, we would be committing a crime of trespassing, typified in article 202 of the Penal Code.
- When can the police intervene to evict the squatters?
The police cannot violate the principle of inviolability of homes. Agents can only access an occupied home if they have a court order or if a flagrant crime has been committed, that is, if the occupation has just occurred (or has occurred in the last 24-48 hours) and there are witnesses willing to declare that they have witnessed the usurpation, although such situations are rare.
- How to kick a squatter out of your house to get your property back?
The options we have to get a squatter out of our house are:
- File a civil complaint for occupation of property. A judicial procedure is initiated to claim possession of the house with the services of a specialized lawyer.
- Filing a complaint or a criminal complaint. This type of complaint can be filed with the police or before a court on duty. In this case, it is essential to present to the police all the documentation available, as well as proof that the property is our property (utility receipts, deeds, registration…). It is also recommended to require that precautionary measures be adopted to prevent the crime from continuing.
- Hire the services of a specialized company to vacate the house.
- Can the neighbors report the occupation of the house?
Yes. In fact, when a home is occupied, it is recommended that the owners go to the neighborhood community to file complaints for inconveniences that may speed up the procedure to evict the squatters. In fact, the community itself can file a lawsuit for cessation when the inconvenience generated by the people who occupy the property (tenant, usufructuary, squatter …) are repeated.
- What does the Law say about the eviction of squatters? What penalties do squatters face through criminal and civil means?
The occupation of real estate is included in our jurisprudence, although there is no specific legislation that regulates illegal occupations.
In any case, the occupation of any property is a crime and we can resort to criminal or civil law.
In the case of the occupation of a habitual residence, a crime of trespassing has been committed (article 202 of the Penal Code), with penalties of six months to two years that can be aggravated if the existence of violence or intimidation is proven.
If the occupied property is not the habitual residence where the owner or tenant resides, the illegal occupation can be classified as a crime of usurpation of property (included in article 245 of the Penal Code), where only fines are provided.
To these crimes could be added others such as robbery, theft or material damage.
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Regarding how to evict a squatter from your house by civil means, the most common is to resort to eviction due to precariousness or to verbal judgment, two procedures that have the sole objective of recovering possession of the property as soon as possible.
Tips from us to prevent squatting at home
Given the increasing number of occupations of homes and buildings, real estate companies such as Tajarat properties, we are obliged to give our clients advice to reduce the risk of encountering squatters at home.
Some of these tips are:
- Rent the house. In addition to achieving a financial return, some countries, such as Denmark, fine homeowners who have uninhabited homes.
- Have the help of neighbors. A good option to reduce the risk of property occupancy is to speak with a neighbor to raise or lower the blinds and to collect the mail, so that it appears that people reside in the house to reduce the risk of occupancy.
- Install alarms. Alarms act as a deterrent to entry, preventing break-ins and occupations.
- Putting “anti-squatting” doors. These are steel doors that are placed temporarily and whose locks cannot be changed. The objective is to avoid the assault on the houses while they are empty. Still, remember to protect not only the front door, but also the side doors and windows.
- Have a copy of the documentation of the house. It is always advisable to have a copy of the property deeds, the lease contract, the registration, direct debits, etc. In case they occupy our house, these documents are essential when filing a complaint.
- Make videos of the state of the property. Having videos of our house can be interesting for, when the moment of occupation and the judicial process have started, to be able to check the state of our home or second residence before the occupation to claim damages.
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