A British family with a luxury villa in Javea (Costa Blanca) just found out that squatters are a big problem in Spain

A British family has just had to cancel their summer holiday in Spain after squatters took over their villa in Javea on the Costa Blanca. With the Covid-19 crisis hitting the economy, and the hard-left in power, squatting is a problem that second-home owners need to bear in mind.

The Spanish press reports that a British family with a nice big 12-bedroom villa (pictured) in the upmarket beach resort of Javea (Alicante), on the north Costa Blanca, has just had to cancel their summer holiday in Spain as their villa has been occupied by squatters, known locally as okupas.

second home villa occupied by squatters okupas in Spain
Photo credit: El Español

The family were due to arrive this Saturday to stay in their villa, which they purchased four years ago, but the takeover of their property by squatters means they have had to cancel their flights and stay at home in the UK, no doubt now struggling to understand how they get their property back.

Evelin, the lady employed to look after the property, discovered the squatters last week, when she arrived at the villa to find the locks broken, and washing hanging out to dry. Inside were a couple making themselves at home.

When she took photos of them they called the police and reported her for threatening behaviour. According to the press, police turned up and warned Evelin that the squatters have every right to stay in the property until they are removed by court order, which could take months or years. The fact is that squatters in Spain are indulged by the law, which seems to take more care of them than owners.

Second-home squat in Spain

This case shows that owners of second-homes in Spain need to keep the risk of squatters in mind, and take measures to minimise the risk.

Some friends of mine with a second-home in the countryside of the Empordà, inland from the Costa Brava, recently found their property occupied by squatters, and I know of a flat in Barcelona’s Raval that is also now a squat, so I get the feeling the problem is on the rise.

The economic crisis bearing down on us with Covid-19 is bound to increase the number of people who turn to squatting as a last resort, though much, if not most, of squatting in Spain is said to be organised by mafias and gangs.

Squatters also now have friends in high places. Ada Colau, the Mayoress of Barcelona, is a former squatter activist, and the hard-left Vice President of Spain, Pablo Iglesias has made a big show of sitting down with squatter activist groups to discuss housing policy. Though the Spanish right recently proposed changing the law to clamp down on squatters, as things stand they are treated softly by Spanish law, and that’s unlikely to change whilst the hard-left are in power.

It’s not just second-home owners who need to worry about the risk of squatters. Every year, after the summer, the Spanish press reports sad cases of people who get home from holiday only to find the locks changed and squatters in residence. They are then left homeless whilst they struggle with the time, costs, and anxiety of getting their home back, which can take months.

So, it’s worth taking the risk of squatters in Spain seriously. There are several things you can do to mitigate the risk of seeing your Spanish home taken over by squatters, like install an alarm. I’ll investigate all the options, and report back over the summer. In the meantime, read this excellent article by legal expert Raymundo Larrain Nesbitt how to evict a squatter (okupa) in Spain.

SPI Member Comments (6)

Thoughts on “A British family with a luxury villa in Javea (Costa Blanca) just found out that squatters are a big problem in Spain

  • Chris Nation says:

    Mark, a dreadful outcome for this family.

    I offer comments of my experience of an associated risk – breaking into boats. Most of this is to steal equipment but there are not a few cases of the boat going AWOL. The issues of security do have parallels, though – an unattended ‘residence’.

    One night in high summer 23 boats, 11 on my moorings and 12 on the sailing club moorings adjacent to mine, were broken into. Considering that equipment was stolen that had to be mechanically removed from these boats, this must have taken most of the night by a sizeable gang.

    Some boats had alarms – one chap who was reluctant to take part in the security scheme we put up said, “The alarm in my boat is [colossal volume] decibels” My response was “Who’s listening? And if they hear it, what will they do? And if they call the police, how long will it take for them to arrive?”

    I lived ashore, right opposite the moorings. I didn’t hear a thing.

    My first thought, when reading your piece was – interactive video, the sort that connects to your phone and allows you to speak to the person who has activated it. But, with the law in Spain being what it is, the intruders are going to take no notice at all. Once in, they’re well set.

    The only answer is the presence of a person. In the case of the boatyard and moorings, we hired a night watchman. All he had to do was walk the foreshore all night. We never had another problem for the remaining 3 years I was there.

    This would work in the case of a group of villas. We hired a family member of my staff – totally trustworthy. Everyone grumbled at the additional cost but it worked.

    With isolated proprties the only answer is a house sitter. Friends of mine have a villa in the campo in Catalonia. They have a house sitter. They wouldn’t leave the property without one.

    • Rosalind Beck says:

      But I am wondering if one person in residence would be a deterrent to a gang getting in. They could physically shove the person onto the street or go in when the person has popped to the shops. In fact this could happen with any home-owner. It would be their word against the squatters’ that they had been in the house.
      It will be good to see the legal clarification from Raymundo.
      In the UK I believe it has been the case for decades that squatters cannot break the locks and have to get in through an open window or something in order for it to not be illegal. It is clearly different in Spain.

      • Mark Stücklin says:

        Rosalind, yes it is different in Spain, they can break down the door if they like. But if you report the intrusion to the police within 24 hours it’s treated as a break in and they are turfed out. After that, well, you have a big problem.

    • Mark Stücklin says:

      Chris, your interactive video idea isn’t bad, though it does mean you have to have always on wifi, but that’s quite a small cost. The fact is if you report the problem within 24 hours you can get them out as if it were a break in. After that, you’re in trouble. But it’s not as if the moment they get in they have squatter’s rights. It’s not quite that bad. Best, of all, of course, is a house sitter, assuming they don’t turn into squatters. Has to be someone you can trust. Looking after boats sounds like a nightmare. I had a boat for a while in Formentera. The bills never stopped coming in. If it floats, rent it, unless you have cash to burn, is my advice.

  • grinningdog says:

    We have squatters a few doors down and, although they are pleasant people, it’s irritating that they are paying nothing to live there. Not even council tax I believe. They all know their rights to the letter. One of them told me that they preferred bank-owned property because it normally takes the bank a while to get their backside into gear.

    But – here is a warning. People with dodgy paperwork will really struggle to get squatters out. The house near us has no escritura and the owner hasn’t bother to fix it for 30 years (English). He can’t start legal action because he can’t prove he owns the house.

    Also, a house opposite was broken into. They stole the spare keys from inside and then fixed the damage almost perfectly. It was only vigilant neighbours that stopped squatters moving in… with keys! Therefore even more difficult to remove them.

  • If you have a villa and are too cheap to put an alarm it is your fault. Just don t be cheap, put an alarm about 800 to 1000 euros a year and no more okupas problems. They go for bank properties or properties without alarms and if they break in you have 48 hours to call the police and get them out. Simple.

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