Whose Rights? Legal owners rights -v- Squatters rights in Spain

A large number of British citizens that own holiday homes in Spain are learning that their properties are being occupied by squatters who are assisted by criminal gangs and change the locks, break in and live in the property and often sell the owners’ possessions,  as reported in the Daily Mail.  There is rising level of homelessness in Spain and the current law in Spain related to squatting leaves British second home owners vulnerable, Giambrone & Partners’ real estate lawyers explain that the police can only evict squatters if discovered by the owner within a small window of time, 48 hours, after which the procedure for removing them is a long and arduous process before the courts.  

The legal position of both the squatters and the home owners differs from that in the United Kingdom, as the provisions of law in Spain related to squatters, If the squatters in question claim to be a homeless family with no alternative accommodation under Article 47 of the Spanish constitution – “all Spaniards have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing.” After the initial 48 hour period squatters that fulfil the criterion of having no alternative housing, gain squatters rights and cannot be evicted without a court order.  

Daniel Sanz, an associate in the Barcelona office, pointed out ”despite the fact that current jurisprudence affirms that the police can evict squatters, when there is a flagrant offence, such as, when the squatters are discovered "in fraganti" entering in a home, the police can only act within the 48 hour period.  However, the likelihood of owners who do not live in Spain being present when the squatters actually move into the property is slender.” Daniel further commented “in certain circumstances the owners may lose possession of their property, under adverse possession, as the longer the squatters reside in a property claiming to have no adequate alternative housing the harder it is to evict them. The legal steps within the first year that you can take if squatters invade your holiday home as the owner allow you to bring an "interdicto posesorio", which is regulated in articles 250.1.4o and 441.1 bis Civil Procedure  Rules. This is considerably quicker, cheaper and more effective than any other judicial procedure or non-conventional solution to evict the squatters.”

If you are facing a situation where squatters have invaded your holiday home in Spain, despite the fact that the squatters have broken into your property and changed the locks you are not permitted to do the same to reclaim your home.  Also, if you attack, threaten or intimidate the illegal occupants or if they leave the house and you block their access, you may be charged under the law.  It is not advised that you arrange for the utilities to be cut off.

Our lawyers suggest that British holiday home owners should keep all evidence of their ownership close at hand so that it can be produced immediately, if needed.  Also, due the short time available for the police to evict squatters, ask your neighbours to let you know straightaway if squatters move into your property as it may be possible for you to get to Spain within the 48 hour timescale for eviction.

The home owners must be able to demonstrate to the court’s satisfaction that they are, in fact, the owners of a property taken over by squatters.  Obviously the legal documentation from the initial purchase should be produced but you can also support this with other evidence such as photographs, airline tickets and the testimony of your neighbours to demonstrate that you do indeed visit and stay in your holiday home.   

If, unfortunately, your home has been squatted for more than a year, you will have to bring ordinary court proceedings, applying for "precautionary measure". This procedure is much slower, leaving you without the advantage of being able to take holidays in Spain.

Giambrone & Partners’ highly experienced real estate lawyers in Spain can assist holiday home owners whose properties have been invaded by squatters at any stage.

Daniel graduated 2020 from Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. with a Master’s Degree in Access to the Legal Profession in 2022 from the  Daniel also completed a course in Prison Law at the Barcelona Bar Association (ICAB).

Daniel has experience in civil law, employment, criminal and compliance law, He focuses on assisting private clients within his areas of expertise.  He is well-regarded by clients for his attention to detail.

Languages: Spanish, Catalan and a working knowledge of English 

If your holiday home has been invaded by squatters and you would like to know more about how to have them removed please contact Daniel’s clerk Helena Balster on HB@giambronelaw.com or please click here





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