Squatters & Illegal occupation of Spanish property

Filed under : Civil Law, Conveyancing & Property Law

The law on illegal occupation of property was changed in 2020 in an effort to give better protection to property owners. Unfortunately, while some of the changes have improved the position, once squatters have been in possession for some time and can prove it is their sole residence, it can still take many months to have them removed.

More recent changes to the law also give additional protection to occupiers where there are children, victims of domestic violence and other vulnerable groups. In these cases the local and regional social services can be involved to protect the occupiers.

The law on the illegal occupation of a property does 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 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 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. Drafting of the rental contract is very important as well as protection of the property with an alarm and proof of ownership to prevent problems arising.

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