SQUATTERS – How to protect your Spanish property

Filed under : Conveyancing & Property Law

Last year a new Protocol was published in Spain by the Secretary of State for Security No. 6/2020 to deal with cases of squatters and illegal occupiers of properties. It is always a shock if squatters or occupiers get into a property in Spain. In particular if you are not able to visit the property regularly.

The new law came into force in 2021. Under the old rules there was a difference between houses which were the sole residence of the owners and second homes or holiday properties.

Now the illegal occupation of a property will apply to a second or holiday home as long as it is classified as a private dwelling – morada. The property must be one which is lived in by its owners even if there are only occasional or holiday visits. A property that is not described as a private dwelling is one which is never used by the owners or one that is available for rent but is not actually rented out.

When people with no legal right to enter a private dwelling have squatted or occupied a property the crime of illegal occupation has been committed in accordance with Article 202 of the Criminal Code. In these cases, once the denuncia – private criminal allegation – has been made the police can enter the property, detain the occupiers and restore the property to the legitimate owners.

If the property appears not to be the private dwelling of the registered owner’s the crime of usurpation under Article 245 of the criminal code may still have been committed. The police will firstly identify the occupiers. If the owners cannot immediately present evidence of their ownership and occupation, even if only occasional occupation, then the occupiers or squatters can seek to show that they are in fact entitled to remain as it is their morada or private dwelling. This can present a real problem for the owners of the legal title as the only way to seek to recover the property is before the Court as only a Judge can then decide if there should be an eviction.

On a practical level this makes it very important for owners to ensure that their legal title is available and can be provided quickly to the police together with evidence of their use of the property. Please contact us if you would like information to be held on file for you so that our specialist lawyers can act quickly.

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