By Hind Anaki Charqani
Ed’s note: The author is reporting for Maharlika TV News dateline Spain. This is her first article.
SPAIN — The global Covid-19 pandemic unexpectedly entered our lives and put everything to a halt. It affected the lives of people around the world and all aspects of our lives.
One of these aspects are the Squatters.
The topic of squatters in Spain, or okupas in Spanish, is a controversial problem across the country. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a considerable increase in complaints about squatters from owners of both holiday homes and main residences.
According to data from the Ministry of the Interior, illegal occupation has grown in Spain since 2016 by almost 50% and between 2018 and 2019 it increased by 20%, to 14,394 occupations.
The majority of cases are seen in Barcelona, Madrid and Malaga: in the last year, 61% of empty properties in Spain have had problems with squatters and in Catalonia, this number rises to 88%.
The long period of confinement at home in Spain caused by COVID-19 has been used by squatters to illegally enter and stay in properties that would otherwise be frequently occupied, as the owners may have been forced to leave when the state of alarm was declared.
Spanish legislation, getting one’s home back involves lengthy procedures that until recently could take up to two years. A new law introduced in 2018 seeks to reduce that to 30 days through civil, rather than criminal proceedings. But the long-time frames, suspended procedural time limits and complicated paperwork can take 2 years to get your home back pushes many homeowners to simply pay the squatters to leave.
Other affected turn to a group of companies specialized in taking jobs, with a fixed price guarantee you an effective work in a time that is always much less than the judicial procedure, there is controversy in the legal nature of these companies that gave day after day are expanding throughout Spain.
Experts and lawyers are calling for further changes in the law to be made to speed up evictions. The General Council of Associations of Property Administrators in Spain is calling for the modification of the law that regulates criminal procedures in order to establish specific measures that can be provisionally agreed upon from the beginning of a criminal complaint, so that the police and security forces can intervene from the first moment that an illegal occupation is detected and reported by the owner.
This is in addition to other measures, such as giving more power to town councils so that they can exercise their own powers against the squatters, given that they alter the coexistence in the property and in the neighborhood, as well as provoking social conflict and generating security problems.